Birds of America: Stories

by Lorrie Moore

Hardcover, 1998

Call number




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


Fiction. Literature. Short Stories. HTML:??Fluid, cracked, mordant, colloquial?. Stand[s] by itself as one of our funniest, most telling anatomies of human love and vulnerability.? ??The New York Times Book Review The celebrated collection of twelve stories from one of the finest authors at work today. A New York Times Book of the Year  A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist Winner of the Salon Book Award A Village Voice Book of the Year ??A marvelous collection?. Her stories are tough, lean, funny, and metaphysical?. Birds of America has about it a wild beauty that simply makes one feel more connected to life.? ??The Boston Globe   ??At once sad, funny, lyrical and prickly, Birds of America attests to the deepening emotional chiaroscuro of her wise and beguiling work.? ??The New York Times   ??Stunning?. There??s really no one like Moore; in a perfect marriage of art form and mind, she has made the short story her own.? ??Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   ??Birds of America stands as a major work of American short fiction?. Absolutely mastered.? ??Elle   ??Wonderful?. These stories impart such terrifying truths.? ??Philadelphia Inquirer   ??Lorrie Moore soars with Birds of America.... A marvelous, fiercely funny book.? ??Newsweek   ??Fifty years from now, it may well turn out that the work of very few American writers has as much to say about what it means t… (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
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intrigue of reading about characters you desperately hope you don't end up like, but overall it's a very frustrating and uninspiring read.
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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
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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 abirdman
My all time favorite book of stories, hands down. Graceful, gently feminine, honest, and very strong.
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
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looking at the world that is keenly inventive yet totally unerring. I looked forward to laundry night and that's weird. -Amy Louise
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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 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
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here, nowhere else) have this feeling of spending a day in a musty house to me...not sure if that makes sense.
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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 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
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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 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
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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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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
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an easier path ahead for anyone.
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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 lindap69
insightful, sometimes darkly humorous stories about the lost and unhinged in America - masterful use of language
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 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
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"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 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 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
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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
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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.
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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 --
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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 pegmcdaniel
The first book I read by Lorrie Moore was A Gate at the Stairs which I liked a lot. I looked forward to this book which is a collection of 12 short stories mostly about various aspects of living your life, i.e., love, fear, being lonely, and relationships. The stories are all similar and deal with
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situations about sadness, illness, or disability. There is dark humor which helped me wade through all the sorrow.

When I saw the title of this book, I assumed it would be about birds in some way. Well, some kind of bird or fowl was slightly mentioned in each story but that was it. Leaves me wondering why it's called Birds of America.

These short stories are well written but the plots were just not that interesting to me.
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LibraryThing member stravinsky
casual heartbreak




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