Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

I thought it was me.

In light of the events of the past few weeks I forgot that I started a book club eight years ago.  This, of course, was the book of the month which I then read in one rushed sitting in the final days before we met.

Which is not the way short stories are meant to be read.

So I thought it was me.

But then I went to book club…

Would I recommend it? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t just me who enjoyed the occasional humor but missed any greater sense of purpose behind the stories…

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4 comments on “Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

  1. Jessie, I recently finished reading “Bark” and liked it a great deal. In fact, I was just looking on the Internet to see who else read it recently. I’m a fan of Moore’s, and I can see by your response that perhaps everyone in your book club rushed through the stories as you might a novel bought at an airport stand. Short stories generally are richer. They leave little clues along the way, and, if they work well, leave you feeling there’s more there. You’ll find more on a second reading. It’s hard to talk about short stories without asking questions as you read.

    One place to start is what does the title “Bark” mean? I’m hoping your club brought it up. I don’t have an easy answer, but I’ll suggest a few clues and possibilities. Before the stories start, there are three epigrams at the front, the first to do with a tree (the bark of a tree) and the other two to do with dogs. I sensed the first short epigram had to do with essentially growing a thick skin, and the other two were about fighting for something i.e. fighting for a dog or fighting for what falls on the floor. Within the stories of the book, some characters have a thick skin, and certainly plenty of the characters fight for things.

    As you probably noticed, the first story is titled “debarking,” which should get you asking for a connection right away to the title. To “debark” is to unload from a ship or airplane i.e. disembark. The protagonist, Ira, has just debarked from his marriage, and he’s fighting to find his claim in the world. He’s awkward with both with his his daughter Bekka and his potential girlfriend, Zora.

    You could probably spend a good chunk of your book club talking about this story alone. The title is referenced in the story when Ira recalls his former wife saying he was too hard on people, adding, “You bark at them.” In this story, he’s trying to be less hard on people i.e. he’s debarking.

    Later on, after he and Zora have their first lovemaking, she asked him if he “got off.” He recalls being asked the same thing once when he’d once stopped in a jetway “to tie his shoe after debarking from a plane.” Thus leaving a plane is now connected to leaving coitus. So much in Moore’s stories have these connections and reconnections, which shows she has purpose. Still, you need to see in any of these tales how they might tie into life as you see it.

    I’m probably not going to convince you it’s a good book or she’s a great writer, but perhaps you’ll reread whatever your favorite story was and see new things. My favorite was “Wings” about a woman named KC whose boyfriend, Dench, is either a loser or a grand manipulator. When KC meets an elderly neighbor who needs help with things, her life starts changing.

    –Christopher Meeks

    • Jessie says:

      Christopher, thanks for your thoughtful reply I can see we needed you chatting with us at book club that night! 🙂

      I can’t speak for the others but I completely agree that I rushed through the stories much faster than anyone *should* read short stories and I know that detracted from my experience. However even when I did have time later I didn’t feel interested enough to go back and re-read any (although “Wings” was far and away my favorite) of the stories even though I normally would at least skim back through a short story. I never felt drawn into the characters worlds enough to care. Does that make sense?

      So while it’s true that you haven’t convinced me it was a good book, you have convinced me not to skim past Lorrie Moore’s name next time I see it on a spine. And having sent your comment off to my club I suspect you may have even sparked a little post book club discussion!

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, I hope others will read it too so they can get a different perspective on the book. My favorite part of posting on books is hearing other peoples reactions whether they agreed with me or not!

      • Jessie, thanks for your wonderful reply. That’s one of the great things about reading–and about book clubs–is that you get to connect with other people’s experiences of it. I got to experience a book club last month as the visiting author. The club discussed my book “Blood Drama”–which was designed for a sustained, fast-paced reading. (It’s about a graduated student in theatre who’s abducted in a bank robbery gone awry and does all he can to stay alive.) Still, I layered in extra meaning to make it special, at least to me.

        Next time you’re at a library, consider checking out Lorrie Moore’s previous collection, “Birds of America.” I think you’ll have a far different view of her with that collection. The majority of the stories draw you into her characters. Specifically, try her stories “Terrific Mother” and “People Like That Are the Only People Here.” Both are funny and both will have you glued to the main characters. I won’t tell you more because they are a treat. “Bark” has a more sharper edge to it, I’ll grant you. They remind me of Willy Loman, lost in the promise of the American Dream.

        –Christopher

  2. […] stories that have at least two more tomes waiting in the wings. Conversations I had after reading a book of short stories that I didn’t care for almost got me thinking that I just don’t like any short […]

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