30
Aug 03

Lorrie Moore – Anagrams

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 364 views

I’d heard glowing recommendations from a couple of friends, so had to try Lorrie Moore. It’s a long time since I’ve read a novel so satisfying on every scale and level.

Her use of words is bright and playful, her sentences sharp and sweet and often very funny, the ideas they make up are original and full of intelligence and feeling, an all too rare mix of qualities. She combines sharp wit with genuine emotion, mostly understated and often ironically or obliquely expressed, but still unmistakeably deep. The way she can write something that makes you sad and makes you laugh, not in separate sections but at the very same instant, is a particularly rare skill, needing the finest control and judgement – this reminded me a little of the undervalued (too popular, I think) Larry McMurtry, an old favourite.

I guess most of my favourite contemporary novelists are Postmodernists, especially those playing with form and notions of realism. This novel starts with four chapters, taking up a quarter of the book, that put a few characters through four permutations, shuffling and remixing their lives and relationships and jobs. The rest is one more mix – my guess (supported by the text to some extent, but never stated outright) is that this longer section is the novel’s ‘reality’, and the others are fantasies, thought-experiment life-anagrams composed by the protagonist Benna, often for comfort and consolation. This is a daring and fresh way of getting at the hopes and dreams and fears of your character, a way into her character that is incisive and new, an exciting and disorienting conceit.

Thrillingly, a quick bit of googling suggests that this, her first novel, which I found remaindered just a couple of weeks ago here in London, is far less well regarded than any of her other books. The others must be astonishing…

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