Birds of America: Stories

by Lorrie Moore

Hardcover, 1998

Collection

Genres

Publication

Knopf (1998), Edition: 1st, 304 pages

Description

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...… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member stephxsu
My writing professor says that Moore is one of today's best short story writers, but I don't see it. Nearly all of her characters are interchangeable between stories, nothing ever happens, and the characters are unlikable. I admit, of course, to occasional brilliant descriptive writing and the intrigue of reading about characters you desperately hope you don't end up like, but overall it's a very frustrating and uninspiring read.… (more)
LibraryThing member miriamparker
Beautiful stories, obviously. This is also the book that everyone says YOU MUST READ THIS. So, of course I am resistant to it. I did like it, but I also felt like each story hit a similar note...which is probably a good thing for a collection, but is a bad thing for a reader. All of her stories (in here, nowhere else) have this feeling of spending a day in a musty house to me...not sure if that makes sense.… (more)
LibraryThing member accidentally
lorrie moore may be the funniest, sharpest writer today, and she's at her best with short stories. these blindside you with an amazing tenderness. i especially love 'willing'.
LibraryThing member skylightbooks
I put this book in the bag where I keep my laundry soap and quarters. Once a week, it came with me to the laundromat and I read it as my clothes swirled and soaped themselves to cleanliness. These stories are funny and gorgeous, filled with curious and fascinating characters. Moore has a way of looking at the world that is keenly inventive yet totally unerring. I looked forward to laundry night and that's weird. -Amy Louise… (more)
LibraryThing member tap_aparecium
How did I not know about Lorrie Moore before? She gets down to the bones of the human condition. The very core of calcium, phosphorus and sodium. This book definitely spoke to me.
LibraryThing member abirdman
My all time favorite book of stories, hands down. Graceful, gently feminine, honest, and very strong.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
Lovely short stories. "Which is More Than I Can Say For Some People" is a great title, and a great story.
LibraryThing member tandah
So bleak, and for me ultimately unremarkable. Bad things happen to most of the characters and if not they're crippled with some emotional problems. Undoubtedly well written, but for me that's not enough - whilst there are glimpses of new understanding there's not a hint of redemption or a sensw of an easier path ahead for anyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member mstrust
I've been meaning to read Moore for a couple of years now, as I enjoy short story collections and her name always comes up. And, finally, I find that it's well-deserved praise. These stories are character studies. Sometimes the character is an unusual personality, but mostly the stories are about people who are just getting by, but regardless, I have to know what's going to happen to them. Nothing good in most cases, but when the author is this good, I don't care.

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.
Very recommended.
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LibraryThing member tonidew
As fine a collection of vignettes of dysfunction, and melancholy humour as I've ever read. I love Moore's voice. Very Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member sturlington
This collection of short stories is very well written with wonderfully subtle, finally drawn characters that will remind you of yourself, but really, so many of the stories are just so sad.
LibraryThing member deweydui
Lorrie Moore is one of the funniest, most profound authors writing today. She mainly writes about women who are existentially stuck, but this volume also throws in an aging lothario and a gay couple for good measure. But really, it's all about her women. And did I mention she's hilarious?
LibraryThing member lindap69
insightful, sometimes darkly humorous stories about the lost and unhinged in America - masterful use of language
LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Amongst the twelve stories in this collection are, arguably, a few of the finest examples of what is possible with the short story form. The others are just very good. These might be construed as middle-period Moore. Less arch, less achingly funny, less theoretical, perhaps, than her first collection, Self-Help. More anguished, less certain, more grounded, but less willing to accept the status quo.

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.
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LibraryThing member dtn620
This book was great, in fact it may be one of my favorite collections of short-stories. The language was wonderful, the stories meaningful and it was hard to put it down. The story People like that are the only people here was crushing in it's portrayal of a child with cancer.

I am looking forward to picking up some of her other books.… (more)
LibraryThing member mahallett
best by far was people like that about a baby with cancer. i remember it from the new yorker
LibraryThing member mahallett
best by far was people like that about a baby with cancer. i remember it from the new yorker
LibraryThing member megantron
June 19: only a few more stories to go.
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
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LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
The two short stories I read are "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens" (p 111) and the incredibly sad "People Like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" (p 212).

"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.
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LibraryThing member albertgoldfain
A broad variety of characters with a fairly unified perspective. Overall a very readable collection. Almost any of these could be expanded into a novella, but they all work as potent short stories.
LibraryThing member larryerick
I can't recall the last time, if ever, I read a book and told myself I really liked the author. Not the author's writing. The author. There was something that came through the writing that told me I would really like this person. Early on in this collection of stories I thought this person doesn't like men much, but that rather quickly was dispelled. She's just quick to assess "bad character". There's a particular level and style of humor throughout nearly all the stories (even though I would not call these humorous stories.) For instance, in a story about a woman and her mother on a trip, she has the woman recall a childhood event with her father. "On one of the family road trips thirty years ago, when she and Theda had had to go to the bathroom, their father had stopped the car and told them to 'go to the bathroom in the woods.' They had wandered through the woods for twenty minutes, looking for the bathroom, before they came back out to tell him they hadn't been able to find it." In another story, she offhandedly points out, "Every third Monday, he conducted the monthly departmental meeting -- aptly named, Agnes liked to joke, since she did indeed depart mental." Yet, later in a story of a woman whose cat died, "She had already -- carefully, obediently -- stepped through all the stages of bereavement: anger, denial, bargaining, Häagen-Dazs, rage." This is just a sprinkling, and it doesn't even touch the occasional humorous banter between characters. There's always a certain level of serious truth to her humor. And yet, this author is capable of a story about a child with cancer that seems only possible coming from someone that has lived every single painful moment of it. Despite my emphasis on the humor, there is a great deal of human insight and emotional depth and breadth to these stories. If I have any complaint, it is only that on rare occasion, her characters' own confusion bleeds over to the writing.… (more)
LibraryThing member deldevries
first half was more enjoyable and interesting than the last half.
LibraryThing member amerynth
Lorrie Moore's short story collection "Birds of America" is generally pretty strong. There were a few weak stories, but even the stories I didn't like as much had interesting bits in them. Frankly, this was totally worth a read for Moore's metaphor indicating that love is raccoons in a chimney -- which is delightful, garish, absurd and accurate -- all that love should be. That metaphor will likely stick with me for a long time.

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.
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LibraryThing member BobNolin
Just recently began to explore short stories, as part of my learning to be a writer. In the past, I didn't really like the form: the stories were short and unmemorable, for the most part. Also, I liked a long read, something to dig into for a week or so, not just an hour. My self-taught writing course (lots of books on writing) has helped me appreciate the form--and novels--much more. I read them slower, now, and observe how the writer compresses so much into such a tiny space, compared to the novel.

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.
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Pages

304

ISBN

0679445978 / 9780679445975
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