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Bark: Stories

by Lorrie Moore

Publishers Weekly There are eight stories in Moore's latest collection, and, like her previous work (Birds of America), these stories are laugh-out-loud funny, as well as full of pithy commentary on contemporary life and politics. In much of Moore's earlier fiction, the protagonists are young girls or mothers of small children. Here, they are all divorcees. They have teenagers. They've variously tried and failed at dating, holding down jobs, being kind, or being sane. Perhaps that accounts for the ever-present sting of sadness in the book: relationships don't fare well (with one slightly desperate exception), and the sly wisdom of Moore's meditations on time will get under your skin like a splinter. "Referential," a wry updating of Nabokov's "Signs and Symbols," is a fascinating look at what happens when the mind of one writer collides with the mind of another. In the final story, "Thank You For Having Me," the narrator stops her teenager daughter's onslaught of scorn by undressing, mortifying her into silence. Moore's final note is one of hope and even love-not the romantic kind, but the kind that sees the whole world, flaws and all, and embraces it anyway. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Moore's first collection of short stories, the uncommonly perceptive and energetically articulate Birds of America (1998), established her prominent place in the renaissance of the American short story that made itself heard with great innovation in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then, she has alternated between story collections and novels, and now a new compilation of stories will add support to the widely held opinion that the short form is her true forte. Her talent is best exhibited in the collection's longest stories (each around 40 pages); her comfort with that length is indicated by her careful avoidance of overplotting, which, of course, dulls the effect of an expansive short story, and by not allowing the stories to seem like the outlines of novels that never got developed. These two examples of her proficiency shine: Debarking is about a divorced man who enters the dating scene only to experience complications with the is-she-crazy woman he starts dating and also within himself, as intimacy seems the natural antidote to global craziness ; Wings concerns husband-and-wife musicians whose dreams haven't panned out. A major ingredient of Moore's tales of troubled lives is an abiding humor, which serves to protect her characters, in all their frailties, from grating on the reader as too pathetic. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: An extensive author tour will attract many Moore enthusiasts and generate both publicity and sales.--Hooper, Brad Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal In this slim volume of stories, obliquely titled Bark (referencing the protective covering of a tree, what a dog says, or a boat on which one "embarks"-all seem to apply), Moore once again brings her acute intelligence and wit to play. These sharply observed stories are filled with characters whose sense of irony keeps them at an uncomfortable emotional distance from one another and from the world they inhabit. In one story, a recently divorced father out on a date notices the walls in the restaurant, "like love, were trompe l'oeil.painted like viewful windows though only a fool wouldn't know they were walls." Also like love is the menu, "full of delicate, gruesome things-cheeks, tongues, thymus glands." Clearly, this nascent romance is likewise filled with menace, but the language around it has a fizzy rhythm that will have the reader turning the pages. VERDICT Smart, funny, and overlaid with surprising metaphor, these stories depict absurd situations that are at the same time strikingly familiar. There are no happy endings, but we cannot help laughing. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]-Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.