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Birds of America: Stories (1998)

by Lorrie Moore

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2,213435,390 (3.97)81
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)
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» See also 81 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Depressing but beautifully written. A little heavy on the loquacious words. Not about anything actually that heavy (for the most part) but just about the general depressing-ness that is life. Read with caution as that will hit you hardest.
Off to read a YA book or something. ( )
  mayalekach | Sep 25, 2021 |
Moore's writing style is on point. That is: She serves almost every story on a needlepoint, with puns and jokes so barbed and twisted, and a sense of tragedy so mundanely wrought and heinous in its pedestrianism, that you can't help but feel like a thread being spun and strapped into her characters' lives. Her voice seems to present a defeated outrage at the meaninglessness of the world; her characters -- mostly sad women overcoming personal traumas and long stretches of mediocrity -- go through life with observations and feelings you can't help but understand in your gut.

Of course, that is only Moore at her best. While the majority of stories prod and needle you along, some stories are pointless. What seems like an extraordinarily powerful writing style in some parts -- an absurd, seemingly almost arbitrary choice of words and lines that chisel away at profound insights -- can feel deafening and, worse, exhaustingly lifeless at other parts. I had to skip the majority of one story here that I wasn't really feeling.

But hers is such a unique style that I can't say that I didn't deeply enjoy this book. This is the second time reading "People Like This," and it only got better the second time. Other stories are less memorable, but still powerful in the same sort of stinging, incisive way. ( )
  Gadi_Cohen | Sep 22, 2021 |
Video forthcoming on Leaf by Leaf. ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 29, 2021 |
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 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. ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Oct 11, 2020 |
"Willing" (1998): 8.25
- Seems in some sense to be an inverted "Sarah Cole: A Type of Love Story," in which now the obviously "better" woman dates "below" herself on account of some inexplicable dissatisfaction, some longing for self-abnegation, oblivion. Unlike Banks, however, Moore deepens our understanding of that aimlessness, filling in intriguingly our backstory of the disappointed and aging actress, too over LA and too above Chicago. Unfortunately that's the most interesting part and nonetheless the lesser dealt with, as Walter's basically a dud, even as (or especially as) someone supposed to be one. Did have some appealing lightness and perceptiveness in the prose, complemented by humor (the pumpkin reminding her of a basketball and the "big game"), although this gets a bit muddy when drug through the longue-duree trajectory of their relationship.
  Ebenmaessiger | Oct 10, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
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This book is for my sister and for my parents and for Benjamin
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In her last picture, the camera had lingered at the hip, the naked hip, and even though it wasn't her hip, she acquired a reputation for being willing.
Quotations
The stages of bereavement: anger, denial, bargaining, Haagen-Dazs, rage. (four calling birds, three french hens)
"Life is a long journey across a wide country," he said. "Sometimes the weather's good. Sometimes it's bad. Sometimes it's so bad, your car goes off the road." (four calling birds, three french hens)
"It's a myth, the high suicide rates around Christmas. It's the homicide rate that's high. Holiday homicide. All that time the family suddenly gets to spend together, and then bam, that eggnog." (four calling birds, three french hens)
"He had limited notes to communicate his needs," she said. "He had his 'food' mew, and I'd follow him to his dish. He had his 'out' mew, and I'd follow him to the door. He had his 'brush' mew, and I'd go with him to the cupboard where his brush was kept. And then he had his existential mew, where I'd follow him vaguely around the house as he wandered in and out of rooms, not knowing exactly what or why." (four calling birds, three french hens)
What was Christmas if not a giant mixed metaphor? What was it about if not the mysteries of interspecies love--God's for man! Love had sought a chasm to leap across and landed itself right here: the Holy Ghost among the barn animals, the teacher's pet sent to be adored and then to die. (four calling birds, three french hens)
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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...

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