A long-awaited collection of stories--twelve in all--by one of the most exciting writers at work today, the acclaimed author of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? and Self-Help. Stories remarkable in their range, emotional force, and dark laughter, and in the sheer beauty and power of their language. From the opening story, "Willing"--about a second-rate movie actress in her thirties who has moved back to Chicago, where she makes a seedy motel room her home and becomes involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea of who she is as a human being--Birds of America unfolds a startlingly brilliant series of portraits of the unhinged, the lost, the unsettled of our America. In the story "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People" ("There is nothing as complex in the world--no flower or stone--as a single hello from a human being"), a woman newly separated from her husband is on a long-planned trip through Ireland with her mother...
My favorite story was "Which Is More Than I Can Say About Some People", about a grown daughter who books a flight to Ireland as an escape from her problems, only to find that her mother decides to go too.
For sheer poignancy, perhaps, “People Like That Are the Only People Here” stands out. An infant boy is diagnosed with a Wilms’ tumor and we follow the distraught parents from diagnosis to operation to exit from the paediatric oncology ward of the hospital. What might be mere heart-tugging emotion is transformed by Moore into a study of regard, self-regard, otherness and narrative involvement. Astounding.
It is, however, “Dance in America” that is by far the most impressive story here. An aging dancer transitioning from performance to dance education visits an old college friend, whom she has not seen in twelve years, when she is asked to give some educational workshops in the town where he lives. She is life-weary, disappointed in herself and others, and uncertain about the worth of her new endeavours. Her friend and his wife have a young son, Eugene, who is suffering from cystic fibrosis. Eugene is vibrant, creative, funny and full of life, though without sufficient breath to fully partake. The interactions between the four characters are subtle and gentle and don’t amount to much. But by the end, both the protagonist and the reader are challenged to shake their hands at fate, at the universe, at whatever, and defiantly shout, “This is it!” It is a remarkable short story. One of the best I’ve ever read.
There are many other stories here worth mentioning. Instead, I’ll just note that Moore’s linguistic wit abounds across these tales. That has the effect of making the stories seem lighter, even less substantial, than they are. Don’t be fooled. This is the real thing. Highly recommended.
I am looking forward to picking up some of her other books.
not a fan of the beginning stories, but I'm starting to like it a lot more
some of the descriptions fall flat but some are wonderful like this one from "Beautiful Grade": "...her eyes bare and round as lightbulbs"
June 30: finally finished. My favorites were "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens", "What You want to do Fine" and "People Like That are the Only People Here". There are many beautifully written passages, I'm torn about the dialogue (which often times feels unnatural). I'm over white women and their problems though.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars
"Four Calling Birds..." -
Aileen mourns the death of her cat, Bert. She has him cremated and sees a therapist to get over his passing. It just goes to show you how much like a family member a pet can be. The very last scene is the best part.
"People Like That..." -
Despite the fact everyone in this story is nameless, this one is even sadder than "Four Calling Birds". "Peed Onk" is actually "pediatric oncology." Parents of a baby boy are faced with his cancer diagnosis. A child having such a serious illness seems unfathomable.
I find Moore to be a clever writer, and I appreciated her cleverness much more in these short stories than I did in her longer work.
So far, this is my favorite collection. Moore is funny and witty, and still serious and real. Most "literary" fiction is deathly serious, usually killing off a character. This collection shows that stories can have impact and meaning without pulling out the cancer or the gun. I look forward to reading more of her work.