I don’t think I should know everything. But sometimes I’m surprised, and humbled, by the gaping holes in my general knowledge. I have a treasure chest of facts about the human body, European cities, Madonna’s early works, winds of the world including Queensland cyclones of the 1970s, and dogs. Some dogs. But until this year I hadn’t read The Bell Jar (yes, I’d heard of it, but didn’t know first-hand how good it is), needed Harper’s to tell me about Pamela Fox and the Banff Centre to alert me to Margaret Laurence. I love to read. How could I not know these important things? Seriously. I buy Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books. I talk to people.
My latest discovery is American author Lorrie Moore. This week I finished reading Anagrams and I can’t recall the last time I enjoyed a book this much. Moore is smart, witty, and she rolls words around like they’re beads in a kaleidoscope. She does insanely clever things with structure and rhythm. I thought I’d discovered a fresh new talent but Moore has been writing for 35 years. She’s published three books of short stories, four novels, and a children’s book. She’s won awards. Her writing has been published in many magazines, among them The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books.
I know excerpts don’t always sing when they’re printed out of context but I think this is a wonderful piece of writing, and I hope it inspires you to read the whole book. This is from the section titled ‘Yard Sale’ in Anagrams:
‘Sure I’ll take a check,’ Eleanor says. ‘Are you kidding?’ Miraculously, someone is buying Thoroughly Modern Millie. A man with a swollen belly and a checkbook but no shirt. The hair on his chest is like Gerard’s: a land very different from his face, something exotic and borrowed, as if for Halloween. He picks up the wine decanter. It’s ugly, a hopeful gift, expensive and wrong, from my lonely and overweight brother. ‘You can have it for a dollar,’ I say. Once I found a fairly new book of poems in a used bookstore, and on the inside cover someone had written, ‘For Sandra, the only woman I’ve ever loved.’ I blushed. I blushed for the bitch Sandra. Betrayals, even your own, can take you by surprise.
The photograph was taken by Linda Nylind.