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A welcome surprise: more than fifty prose pieces, gathered together for the first time, by one of America's most revered and admired novelists and short-story writers, whose articles, essays, and cultural commentary--appearing in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere--have A welcome surprise: more than fifty prose pieces, gathered together for the first time, by one of America's most revered and admired novelists and short-story writers, whose articles, essays, and cultural commentary--appearing in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere--have been parsing the political, artistic, and media idiom for the last three decades. From Lorrie Moore's earliest reviews of novels by Margaret Atwood and Nora Ephron, to an essay on Ezra Edelman's 2016 O.J. Simpson documentary, and in between: Moore on the writing of fiction (the work of V. S. Pritchett, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Stanley Elkin, Dawn Powell, Nicholson Baker, et al.) . . . on the continuing unequal state of race in America . . . on the shock of the shocking GOP . . . on the dangers (and cruel truths) of celebrity marriages and love affairs . . . on the wilds of television (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Into the Abyss, Girls, Homeland, True Detective, Making a Murderer) . . . on the (d)evolving environment . . . on terrorism, the historical imagination, and the world's newest form of novelist . . . on the lesser (and larger) lives of biography and the midwifery between art and life (Ana�s Nin, Marilyn Monroe, John Cheever, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, among others) . . . and on the high art of being Helen Gurley Brown . . . and much, much more. "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 to be alive in our time as that of Lorrie Moore" (Harper's Magazine).


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A welcome surprise: more than fifty prose pieces, gathered together for the first time, by one of America's most revered and admired novelists and short-story writers, whose articles, essays, and cultural commentary--appearing in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere--have A welcome surprise: more than fifty prose pieces, gathered together for the first time, by one of America's most revered and admired novelists and short-story writers, whose articles, essays, and cultural commentary--appearing in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere--have been parsing the political, artistic, and media idiom for the last three decades. From Lorrie Moore's earliest reviews of novels by Margaret Atwood and Nora Ephron, to an essay on Ezra Edelman's 2016 O.J. Simpson documentary, and in between: Moore on the writing of fiction (the work of V. S. Pritchett, Don DeLillo, Philip Roth, Joyce Carol Oates, Alice Munro, Stanley Elkin, Dawn Powell, Nicholson Baker, et al.) . . . on the continuing unequal state of race in America . . . on the shock of the shocking GOP . . . on the dangers (and cruel truths) of celebrity marriages and love affairs . . . on the wilds of television (The Wire, Friday Night Lights, Into the Abyss, Girls, Homeland, True Detective, Making a Murderer) . . . on the (d)evolving environment . . . on terrorism, the historical imagination, and the world's newest form of novelist . . . on the lesser (and larger) lives of biography and the midwifery between art and life (Ana�s Nin, Marilyn Monroe, John Cheever, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Bernard Malamud, among others) . . . and on the high art of being Helen Gurley Brown . . . and much, much more. "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 to be alive in our time as that of Lorrie Moore" (Harper's Magazine).

30 review for See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary

  1. 4 out of 5

    da AL

    Beautifully written essays - many were commentaries on books, events, and people. My faves were the ones that were her most personal, such as the one on her first marriage.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lori

    Essay/criticism collections like this -- when they're written by someone who is already a favorite writer -- serve two happy purposes: they allow you to revisit and enjoy books you've already read (or movies you've seen, etc) through new eyes, and they introduce you to new stuff (books, movies, writers, etc) that you'll likely enjoy. And when the writer of the essays has a really wonderful voice of her own, a voice you relish and adore, then it's a home run. I read all the essays about stuff I'd Essay/criticism collections like this -- when they're written by someone who is already a favorite writer -- serve two happy purposes: they allow you to revisit and enjoy books you've already read (or movies you've seen, etc) through new eyes, and they introduce you to new stuff (books, movies, writers, etc) that you'll likely enjoy. And when the writer of the essays has a really wonderful voice of her own, a voice you relish and adore, then it's a home run. I read all the essays about stuff I'd already consumed, first -- books read, authors familiar, movies and television and cultural stuff experienced -- so I could double my pleasure. After that I read all the essays about the unfamiliar-to-me, a reading experience that's always a little bit less fun, at least at the beginning of each essay....until I'm pulled in. This is true for me no matter who the essayist is (I'm thinking about John Jeremiah Sullivan's collection, Pulphead, for example). If I resonated in at least some way with the reviews and critiques of the familiar, then I relax and trust the views of the unfamiliar. Anyway, lots of fun, this collection. Lorrie Moore's own voice shines more in some pieces than others, but the tingle is always there.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    The title of this book – See What Can Be Done – is not a boast but an instruction. I received it with almost every note I got from Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books. He would propose I consider writing about something – he usually just FedExed a book to my door – and then he would offer a polite enquiry as to my interest: perhaps I'd like to take a look at such and such. “See what can be done,” he'd invariably close. “My best, Bob.” It was a magical request, and it suggested The title of this book – See What Can Be Done – is not a boast but an instruction. I received it with almost every note I got from Robert Silvers, editor of The New York Review of Books. He would propose I consider writing about something – he usually just FedExed a book to my door – and then he would offer a polite enquiry as to my interest: perhaps I'd like to take a look at such and such. “See what can be done,” he'd invariably close. “My best, Bob.” It was a magical request, and it suggested that one might like to surprise oneself. Perhaps a door would open and you would step through it, though he would be the one to have put it there in the first place. With See What Can Be Done, Lorrie Moore has assembled more than fifty previously published prose pieces – “Essays, Criticism, and Commentary”, as per the subtitle – which involve not just book reviews, but overviews of several TV series (The Wire, Homeland, True Detective, etc), some in-the-moment political musings (from the Starr-Clinton-Lewinsky affair to the attempted recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker), and spanning from pieces written in 1983 to 2017, it represents the author's impressions of much of American cultural life (both high and low) throughout those years. In her short stories, I think that Lorrie Moore is imaginative and engaging, but in these critical essays, she's a little dull – they often follow a fixed formula (a long intro that gives a general impression of an author/director and his or her work, followed by an in-depth plot outline of what is specifically being reviewed), and not one of these pieces made me think, “Ooh, I should read or watch that”. There's value in collecting Moore's criticism in one place, but in the end, this is a bit of a slog to get through. (Usual caveat: I read an ARC and quotes may not be in their final forms.) Literature, when it is occurring, is the correspondence of two agoraphobics. It is lonely and waited for, brilliant and pure and frightened, a marriage of birds, a conversation of the blind. When biography intrudes upon this act between reader and author, it may do so in the smallest of vehicles – photographs, book jacket copy, rumors – parked quietly outside. In its more researched and critical form– the biography – it may nose into the house proper. I love that line (literature “is the correspondence of two agoraphobics”), and while I tend to agree with Moore that an author's biography isn't necessary to understand that author's work, I do like to read biographies anyway. Biographies reviewed here cover everyone from cultural phenomena, like Marilyn Monroe and JonBenét Ramsey, to literary heavyweights, such as John Cheever and Eudora Welty. In Moore's hands, these reviews simply outline (in detail) the facts contained in the books, and as she reveals little of her personal impressions of these books (she does not believe that the word “enjoy” has a place in book reviews), I found them all a little cold and dull. On the other hand, when reviewing fiction, Moore isn't shy about making broad pronouncements. On John Updike: It is quite possible that by dint of both quality and quantity he is American literature's greatest short-story writer, and arguably our greatest writer without a single great novel. On Alice Munro (who has three short story collections reviewed here): For the storyteller, the failure of love is irresistible in its drama, as is its brief, happy madness, its comforts and vain griefs. And no one has brought greater depth of concentration and notice to the subject than Munro. No one has saturated her work with such startling physical observation and psychological insight. Moore notes that as a Creative Writing professor, every year she teaches a new cohort of “brilliant university students” whose “desert island books” are invariably one of the Harry Potter series. And from this she has concluded that J. K. Rowling just may have written, with her focus on a battle between clearly defined forces of good and evil, the definitive book of 9/11 and its political and cultural fallout: J. K. Rowling, showing up at her desk in the aftermath, feeling a generation's bolt-of-lightning scar, and imagining a long battle laced with fantasy, may have outwritten everyone. In particular, I found the writing about television series to be dull – Moore does a fine job of making connections to the larger culture, but she goes into far too much episode-by-episode depth for my liking (these pieces shouldn't be read by anyone afraid of spoilers). I was amused by Moore's evolution of thought on Hillary Clinton (which must be a common phenomenon for many American women who lived through these years): from not respecting Clinton's stand-by-her-man act in the 1990s, to Moore explaining why she could never vote for Clinton in 2008, to why she couldn't have voted for anyone else in 2016 (despite Moore herself, as a Midwesterner, having felt herself lumped in with Clinton's “basket of deplorables”). I recently read Zadie Smith's Feel Free (another collection of essays by a leading cultural commentator), and I noted at the time that Smith's collection felt weakest in its book reviews; those pieces that were obviously written for an audience other than herself. See What Can Be Done suffers from the same problem – but unfortunately, it affects the entire collection by design; I can't say that I enjoyed it. It deserves more than two stars, but just barely.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Hibah Kamal-Grayson

    Reading this book feels like hanging out with a hilarious, brilliant friend with whom you disagree violently ~10% percent of the time. It's all here: Lorrie Moore's thoughts on everything from Donald Barthelme to Nora Ephron. I really don't understand how she's able to be so crisp, precise, and hilarious ALL THE TIME, but she is, so that's that. My only nit is that she seems, to me, to hold back at times. For such an astute critic, she hesitates to really and truly CRITICIZE. Some essays, like t Reading this book feels like hanging out with a hilarious, brilliant friend with whom you disagree violently ~10% percent of the time. It's all here: Lorrie Moore's thoughts on everything from Donald Barthelme to Nora Ephron. I really don't understand how she's able to be so crisp, precise, and hilarious ALL THE TIME, but she is, so that's that. My only nit is that she seems, to me, to hold back at times. For such an astute critic, she hesitates to really and truly CRITICIZE. Some essays, like the ones on V.S. Naipaul and Lena Dunham, acknowledge the more problematic aspects of their subjects. But then they backpedal and sort of offer up these half-assed apologies/explanations. It's all very confusing and the end result is like a bowl of room temperature oatmeal. Tepid, gloopy. But those essays are the exception, not the rule! And then again, I have MAJOR beef with both V.S. Naipaul and Lena Dunham. So maybe that's on me. Definitely worth a read, esp. for all of you lit crit fans.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    DNF. I made it about halfway through this book of book reviews before I gave up. The subtitle of the book indicates that the book contains "essays, criticism, and commentary" but it is almost completely composed of book reviews that were published by the various publications the author has worked for. While I generally enjoy literary criticism, these reviews were made for quick public consumption, which means they are too brief to delve very deep into thematic critiques or anything beyond "here' DNF. I made it about halfway through this book of book reviews before I gave up. The subtitle of the book indicates that the book contains "essays, criticism, and commentary" but it is almost completely composed of book reviews that were published by the various publications the author has worked for. While I generally enjoy literary criticism, these reviews were made for quick public consumption, which means they are too brief to delve very deep into thematic critiques or anything beyond "here's the plot, here's how it compares to the author's other works, here's how I felt about it." While I enjoy writing these reviews (and I hope people enjoy reading them) I won't fool myself into thinking anyone would be interested in reading an entire collection of them, no matter how famous I ever became. This collection honestly felt like an exercise in self-indulgence, and I could only read so many of these two or three page "essays" before I was bored to tears. I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John

    I discovered this writer through a brief review in the New Yorker and decided to purchase from Barnes & Noble and download to my Nook. These are relatively short prose pieces collected over a 35 year period. Some have the immediate effect of being stale, given they were written over thirty years ago. Overall, I was not particularly impressed with the writing or the content. The reviews of literary biographies of John Cheever and Eudora Welty did nothing to further my understanding of each writer I discovered this writer through a brief review in the New Yorker and decided to purchase from Barnes & Noble and download to my Nook. These are relatively short prose pieces collected over a 35 year period. Some have the immediate effect of being stale, given they were written over thirty years ago. Overall, I was not particularly impressed with the writing or the content. The reviews of literary biographies of John Cheever and Eudora Welty did nothing to further my understanding of each writer. I guess I am to believe that she was not impressed with the particular biographies and therefore do not read them? The topical pieces about political matters were a little bit more interesting, as was the fine piece about musician Stephen Stills. Yet still, no partial pun intended, I did not find these pieces to stack up to the general exaltation of the writer that I read in reviews of the work. A "so-so" book in which I can only give two stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Not what I was expecting, really. "Criticism" here just means book reviews -- lots and lots of book reviews, stretching back to the late 80s, of books I haven't read and likely won't ever read. The non-reviews are short things, not particularly distinctive or insightful. I ended up skimming most of this, looking for a place to land. I adore Moore's fiction, though, so I'll stick with that. Not what I was expecting, really. "Criticism" here just means book reviews -- lots and lots of book reviews, stretching back to the late 80s, of books I haven't read and likely won't ever read. The non-reviews are short things, not particularly distinctive or insightful. I ended up skimming most of this, looking for a place to land. I adore Moore's fiction, though, so I'll stick with that.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Keen

    1.5 Stars! ACHTUNG! If you have never read Lorrie Moore before DO NOT start here. Do you remember Jack Nicholson in the film adaptation of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”? His personality for most of the film is huge, magnetic, and mischievous with a delicious edge of danger and the unpredictable about it. It could be said that this is similar to what Moore’s fiction is like, whereas this book is like Nicholson in the same film after the lobotomy. As we know the publishing world is awash with mu 1.5 Stars! ACHTUNG! If you have never read Lorrie Moore before DO NOT start here. Do you remember Jack Nicholson in the film adaptation of “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”? His personality for most of the film is huge, magnetic, and mischievous with a delicious edge of danger and the unpredictable about it. It could be said that this is similar to what Moore’s fiction is like, whereas this book is like Nicholson in the same film after the lobotomy. As we know the publishing world is awash with much pretentious BS, and this book is a good example of that, it says Essays, Criticism and Commentary, but what it really is over 400 pages of reprinted book reviews, with other bits and bobs thrown in. I really enjoy Moore’s work but from reading this it doesn’t appear that book reviewing is her strong point at all, all of the quirk and craft of her fiction is missing and instead what we are left with is a stiff, diluted version of an otherwise great writer This may sound naïve or silly but something I have really started to notice over the last few years is the surprising numbers of established authors who are really not that great at turning their hand to other examples of the written form, which I suppose just goes to show that there is a lot more to it. Of course there are plenty of people out there who can move comfortably enough between two or more disciplines, whether they are essays, articles or reviews. People like Zadie Smith, Martin Amis, Nicholson Baker and Geoff Dyer to name but only a handful. But they are far outnumbered by those who can’t and believe that their name alone is enough to get away with otherwise mediocre or poor work. There were times when this was a pleasure to read, but far too many times when I was struggling to engage with it and I really lost interest early on. I had to read at least six other books in between battling through this. It was a shame as some of the more interesting essays finished far too soon, and many of the reviews just went on and on. Strangely enough some of the brighter moments are in the TV reviews, even if they are plagued with one spoiler after another. I just didn’t see anything about her style of reviewing that was particularly distinctive or memorable to recommend. Her natural talents have been shackled, due to who was paying her and the nature of book reviewing for publications, many, like “The New Yorker” which take themselves immensely seriously, even though they are filled with unreadable, pretentious, self-indulgent crap. There were some good pieces and moments where her talents come through. I particularly enjoyed the reviews of John Updike, Nicholson Baker and “The Wire”. But there is no getting away from it, for every decent one there were at least two or three stinkers. In many ways it’s hard to believe that this anthology was written by the same woman who gave us “Anagrams” and “Birds of America”. Too often it just suffers from so many things that her fiction does not, far too much of it was dry, tedious and just long-winded, seemingly staggering about with no clear purpose. For me getting Moore to write these types of reviews without allowing her the creative freedom she expresses in her fiction is almost like getting someone like Paul McCartney to join your band and have them playing the tambourine. A huge disappointment.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    It’s the strangest thing: this is 400+ pages, mostly of books I haven’t read, and often am not really interested in reading. And yet, I couldn’t put this down. I think it’s partly Moore’s writing style, the looping syntax. Always elegant, even when you get a little lost in the sentences. Also, her persona has a certain open mindedness, a certain generosity of spirit: she seems so interested in everything around her that the reader can’t help sharing the feeling.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Surprisingly I didn't feel like any of these essays made me want to go out and read any of the books she reviews, really, even if I did start watching Friday Night Lights on her recommendation. It's still refreshing to read her work and I hope she comes out with more soon! Surprisingly I didn't feel like any of these essays made me want to go out and read any of the books she reviews, really, even if I did start watching Friday Night Lights on her recommendation. It's still refreshing to read her work and I hope she comes out with more soon!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Patricia Murphy

    Hilarious. I listened on audio. I was grateful for the table Of contents. I went back to listen to several pieces many times. I think titanic is my favorite.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Great writer, wonderful essays and book reviews, but way too much for me. Read about half of it.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Susie Anderson

    who else can bring together Homeland and Clarice Lispector? a master

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kit

    This was such a struggle to get through. It was mostly fine, with some interesting essays, but then there would be odd phrasings and bits of ableism or racism that, mostly, thankfully, trailed off as the collection went on. The last essay was also oddly placed. I know it was chronological but it felt strange to have the Hilary Clinton essay feel so concluding, and then another one about Stephen Stills? Just weird. Anyway, I don't recommend this. This was such a struggle to get through. It was mostly fine, with some interesting essays, but then there would be odd phrasings and bits of ableism or racism that, mostly, thankfully, trailed off as the collection went on. The last essay was also oddly placed. I know it was chronological but it felt strange to have the Hilary Clinton essay feel so concluding, and then another one about Stephen Stills? Just weird. Anyway, I don't recommend this.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Amy McLay Paterson

    I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and they took forever to ship it to me, so I don’t mind terribly that I took forever to review it. Like many compilations, I wish that the author had been (much) more selective in choosing pieces to include. As printed, the subtitle “Essays, criticism, and commentary” is a blatant exaggeration of the content, which is mostly reviews—competently written, but rarely worth reading outside their original context. I came away from See What Can Be Done with a cou I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and they took forever to ship it to me, so I don’t mind terribly that I took forever to review it. Like many compilations, I wish that the author had been (much) more selective in choosing pieces to include. As printed, the subtitle “Essays, criticism, and commentary” is a blatant exaggeration of the content, which is mostly reviews—competently written, but rarely worth reading outside their original context. I came away from See What Can Be Done with a couple of new titles for my TBR, but even though the bulk of the reviews were of titles I had not read, I was not overly compelled to seek anything out. There’s a thread of coldness running through the book—most strikingly in the offputting commentary on JonBenet Ramsay. There’s a lot of very competent writing here, but very little of it is worth reading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Hans

    There were three new essay collections that I considered reading this spring. Lorrie Moore's collection hit my library first, so Marilynne Robinson and Zadie Smith may or may not eventually end up on my bedside table. I generally have a few books going at a time and can manage this as long as they are different things: a novel, poetry collection, and short pieces (essays, short stories, or back issues of The Believer or Lucky Peach). Moore's collection took me a very long time to move through be There were three new essay collections that I considered reading this spring. Lorrie Moore's collection hit my library first, so Marilynne Robinson and Zadie Smith may or may not eventually end up on my bedside table. I generally have a few books going at a time and can manage this as long as they are different things: a novel, poetry collection, and short pieces (essays, short stories, or back issues of The Believer or Lucky Peach). Moore's collection took me a very long time to move through because it was a new book from the library and I could not renew it--at least for the first time. But, I also have too many of the short pieces going (Moore's book, 2 magazines, Clarice Lispector short stories, and a collection from one of my high school teachers), so I've made very slow progress on every single volume of shorter pieces, while I have been buzzing through the novels. (I know you don't really care about this...but these notes are first and foremost for me to remember things.) Moore's collection is an interesting animal because it is collecting things that were really written for another place...and sometimes another specific moment in life. So we have a series of short pieces (book reviews, personal essays, commentary on television and politics) set between 1983 and 2017. These 66 essays are a record on Moore's public thoughts over 30+ years. And this respectably hefty volume of 407 pages acknowledges a "ghost volume" that is at least one hundred times larger. The first essay is Moore's 3-page encapsulation of a 180-page book by Nora Ephron. Other essays tackle a single work too, but then there are Moore's essays where the "ghost volume" is almost incalculable. A good example of this is the essay about the biography by Nancy Milford about the life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. This essay covers the actual autobiography, the published works of Edna St. Vincent Millay, plus other tossed in bits like Edna St. Vincent Millay reading "all of Tennyson, Milton, Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Shakespeare." So an 11-page stretch relies on a "ghost volume" with an expanse of (at least) thousands of pages. It's strange to read a book like this when I have not consumed (read, watched, lived through) the subjects of the essays. Sometimes it is a reminder (e.g. Enough already. Yet again one more person telling me I should watch Friday Lights.). In most cases the essay subjects were something I probably won't read--primarily because I realize I will die before I read *all* the books. In a few cases it was a belated book club of two where I heard Moore's take on a book that I also read. Bottom line was that I spent parts of the last 6 months reading about what Lorrie Moore has been thinking about in the past 30 years. I could grab the spring 2018 essays from Robinson or Smith...but I won't. I won't grab those because Lorrie Moore gently reminded me that the giant volume of Clarice Lispector stories is sitting on my bedside table and I really should work on that book now.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Writing is both the excursion into and the excursion out of one's life. That is the queasy paradox of the artistic life. It is the thing that, like love, removes one both painfully and deliciously from the ordinary shape of existence. It joins another queasy paradox: that life is an amazing, hilarious, blessed gift and that it is also intolerable. 59 One Hot Summer, or a Brief History of Time I had always had a little trouble with anything called an institution. I was thirty-four, and had been see Writing is both the excursion into and the excursion out of one's life. That is the queasy paradox of the artistic life. It is the thing that, like love, removes one both painfully and deliciously from the ordinary shape of existence. It joins another queasy paradox: that life is an amazing, hilarious, blessed gift and that it is also intolerable. 59 One Hot Summer, or a Brief History of Time I had always had a little trouble with anything called an institution. I was thirty-four, and had been seeing the same man for four consecutive years and living with him for two--not a record for anyone (except for him). We spent the spring fretting: Should we get married? He felt we should, in this moving-through-life way. It was what came next. (Which would in turn, of course, quickly introduce the idea of divorce; we are all fiends for narrative, plot, rising action.) I wondered whether our marrying should really be this notch in the belt of time. Shouldn't it be, rather, an emotional and spiritual referendum on us? If we needed an event, we could, say, break up. Get married or break up: that's pretty much what it came down to. Love? Love went without saying, so we didn't say it. Perhaps we were a little bored. Something, we both seemed to agree, should probably occur. Though, looking back, I'm not sure why. It was just motion. Momentum. ... We both understood I would not change my name to his ... I suspected, quite correctly I think now, that those women who changed their names to match their husbands' understood something about marriage that I was in the dark about. 221 When I think about his returning to his empty office and just sitting there, I like to imagine that it was not out of some heartbreakingly robotic sense of duty that might run in our family but, instead, due to the universal human desire to return to the fictional normal; the normal and the everyday are often amazingly unstoppable, and what is unimaginable is the cessation of them. The world is resilient, and no matter what interruptions occur, people so badly want to return to their lives and get on with them. A veneer of civilization descends quickly, like a shining rain. Dust is settled. 291 Like much of July's work it is about the nature of time, which finally, sadly, is no one's friend; nor does it provide enough of itself: so terrible and cruel and its portions so small, as the old joke goes. 346

  18. 5 out of 5

    Cathryn Conroy

    From Shakespeare to Stephen Sondheim and Amos Oz to Joyce Carol Oates, this scholarly collection of more than 50 essays, mostly erudite literary criticism, is at times a delight to read and at other times a real slog. Author Lorrie Moore has assembled essays in chronological order that she previously published from 1983 to 2017 in such prestigious publications as the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine and more. In addition to From Shakespeare to Stephen Sondheim and Amos Oz to Joyce Carol Oates, this scholarly collection of more than 50 essays, mostly erudite literary criticism, is at times a delight to read and at other times a real slog. Author Lorrie Moore has assembled essays in chronological order that she previously published from 1983 to 2017 in such prestigious publications as the New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine and more. In addition to literary criticism, Moore opines on such varied subjects as the movie "Titanic," Barack Obama, her first job, the best love song of the millennium, the O.J. Simpson trial, Monica Lewinsky, the TV series "The Wire" and 9/11 ten years later. Moore has a formidable intellect and an astonishing bucket of knowledge stored in her brain. Here is one of just MANY examples: When discussing the theme of water in Alice Munro's short story collection "Runaway," she compares and contrasts it with the ancient Roman poet, Ovid: "…in Ovid water fuses a couple's sexuality; in Munro it distinguishes and separates." This is not a fact that one can easily Google. Lorrie Moore just knows it, gleaning it from her prodigious literary background, education and admirable memory (she's 61!). Her depth and breadth of knowledge is truly admirable and something of which I am, quite frankly, in awe. Still, while most of the essays are fascinating and truly inspired me to read (and buy) the books, some are so highbrow and cluttered with intellectual--and at times perplexing--drivel they are difficult to comprehend and a chore to finish. Bottom line: If you enjoy reading scholarly literary criticism, this book is for you. If you would rather just read the novel or short story collection, skip this.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Max Urai

    For someone who is really a Lorrie Moore fanboy, this felt a little meagre at the start. It sure doesn't rank among her best works. But it's still Moore, and damn it if she didn't have at least one fresh thing to say about everything she touches! Two observations. First: it's interesting to see that most of the longer and more in-depth pieces in the book are pretty recent, which is also the time where Moore's fiction output has slowed down. She also became a more sprawling essayist in that time: For someone who is really a Lorrie Moore fanboy, this felt a little meagre at the start. It sure doesn't rank among her best works. But it's still Moore, and damn it if she didn't have at least one fresh thing to say about everything she touches! Two observations. First: it's interesting to see that most of the longer and more in-depth pieces in the book are pretty recent, which is also the time where Moore's fiction output has slowed down. She also became a more sprawling essayist in that time: in the early book reviews, she is being nice and sticking to a single point, but by the time she arrives at Titanic (the movie), her writing is much more free-form and you never quite know where she's going. I preferred those pieces. They seemed more suited to bookreading. Second: in the first half of the book, Moore mostly writes about novels, but in the second half, there's a wave of movies and television reviews. They are quite good, mostly. I wonder if that's a sign 'o the times or if Moore just wanted to zone out and watch Netfli like everyone else. She's earned it, of course, but still. O: Moore is one of those reviewers who is more interested in associating on art then on really thoroughly judging it. There are no smackdowns here, which was half-surprising to me: she has been known for quite the pithy bitchslaps through the years. I wouldn't want to read a whole book of negative reviews by any author (maybe Roger Ebert), but she does come across as mildly toothless here & there. Moore the critic seems to cherish art more than she wants to correct it, which is fair, I think. Or maybe she has gotten a bit more mellow.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Eileen

    Lorrie Moore is a brilliantly wondeful and often funny writer. The book compiles some of the essays she's written over the past 35 years or so, including from her college years. From 'On Writing' "Writing is both the excursion into and the excursion out of one's life. That is the queasy paradox of the artistic life. It is the thing that, like love, removes one both painfully and deliciously from the ordinary shape of existence. It joins another quesy paradox: that life is an amazing, hilarious, b Lorrie Moore is a brilliantly wondeful and often funny writer. The book compiles some of the essays she's written over the past 35 years or so, including from her college years. From 'On Writing' "Writing is both the excursion into and the excursion out of one's life. That is the queasy paradox of the artistic life. It is the thing that, like love, removes one both painfully and deliciously from the ordinary shape of existence. It joins another quesy paradox: that life is an amazing, hilarious, blessed gift and that it is also intolerable." From 'Don DeLillo's Mao II" (1991) " If terrorists have seized control of the world narrative, if they have captured the historical imagination, have they become, in effect, the world's new novelists?" From 'Friday Night Lights' "The same cannot be said of the grim movie off which the series is spun...Billy Bob Thornton as the real-life Coach Gaines appears pale and grisly, beet-hued lips and star, hollowing cheekbones. And although Connie Britton here also plays the coach's wife, with her permed 1980s hair and constantly startled expression, she and Thornton look like characters who have wandered off the set of an inexpensive horror film"

  21. 4 out of 5

    David Holoman

    So happy to have found my book reviewing mentor after all this time. The introduction to this book alone is worth the price. Let's talk about raising the bar: When she reviews a book, she is as likely as not to compare its themes, voice, and so on, to a half dozen other works by the same author, or failing that, works of the the same genre. The things that catch her attention are a full three or so levels deeper than the things I might pick up on. There is a lot of this book, could be daunting for So happy to have found my book reviewing mentor after all this time. The introduction to this book alone is worth the price. Let's talk about raising the bar: When she reviews a book, she is as likely as not to compare its themes, voice, and so on, to a half dozen other works by the same author, or failing that, works of the the same genre. The things that catch her attention are a full three or so levels deeper than the things I might pick up on. There is a lot of this book, could be daunting for some, but I will be using it to inform my reading for the next few years. I don't think she is quite as strong when reviewing video, but still very strong. When she takes up pen to discuss politics, the product is standard-issue mainstream media liberalism. That's is to be expected, I suppose, but certainly doesn't offer anything in the way of freshness, with two exceptions. Exception one is her nuanced take on Ms. Clinton, a little surprising for a person who otherwise seems to have put down stakes in the wary feminist camp. Exception two is that she seems to think that OJ Simpson isn't guilty guilty guilty, and that puts her in pretty rarefied air if I understand that data. Really recommended for bibliophiles.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    The self figured and multiplied is death. Likeness is the canvas of farewell. There is nothing more autobiographical than a book review. “It is impossible to experience one’s own death objectively and still carry a tune.” –WA “After high school in America, everything’s posthumous.” –JCO “Life would be grand if it weren’t for the people.” –AM This is what makes marriage possible: no one actually getting up and running away. Geniuses can be the first to recognize one another and just as often the last The self figured and multiplied is death. Likeness is the canvas of farewell. There is nothing more autobiographical than a book review. “It is impossible to experience one’s own death objectively and still carry a tune.” –WA “After high school in America, everything’s posthumous.” –JCO “Life would be grand if it weren’t for the people.” –AM This is what makes marriage possible: no one actually getting up and running away. Geniuses can be the first to recognize one another and just as often the last. “The chicken exists so that the egg may traverse the ages.” –CL “Death and the sun are not to be looked at steadily.” –FR “Composition is the arrangement of unequal things.” –RF “Everyone should film a raunchy sex scene for their movie and then delete it,” –MJ “Was I like honey thinking it’s a small bear, not realizing the bear is just the shape of its bottle?” –MJ Reality was ostensible, continually represented as something up for grabs.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    An interesting grab bag of Moore’s nonfiction prose. There are over 60 essays, mostly book, television, and film reviews, but also some appreciations of authors, a few political pieces, and even a few personal reminisces. Her enthusiasms are contagious and even when one disagrees—she likes the movie of Titanic way more than I do—her reasons are worth engaging with. She describes her writing as “ little light, a little wonder, some skepticism, some awe, some squinting, some je ne said quoi.” This An interesting grab bag of Moore’s nonfiction prose. There are over 60 essays, mostly book, television, and film reviews, but also some appreciations of authors, a few political pieces, and even a few personal reminisces. Her enthusiasms are contagious and even when one disagrees—she likes the movie of Titanic way more than I do—her reasons are worth engaging with. She describes her writing as “ little light, a little wonder, some skepticism, some awe, some squinting, some je ne said quoi.” This sums up her writing style wonderfully. I’ve read all of her writing this summer in preparation for a short scholarly essay, a sort of independent study on Lorrie Moore, and have gotten to know her through her writing. My sister was a friend of hers from grade school through high school so seeing Lorrie through her writing rather than the girl I remember was intriguing.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla

    This is a collection of mostly reviews (books, television series, movies) and some essays that Moore wrote primarily for the New York Review of Books over twenty years. Her reviews are refreshing and even-handed, never becoming too academic or obscure in their references. However, because they were reviews written for a publication, they are also largely impersonal. While her always quick, intelligent wit is present, if you're wishing for essays or reviews about her favorite books or her primary This is a collection of mostly reviews (books, television series, movies) and some essays that Moore wrote primarily for the New York Review of Books over twenty years. Her reviews are refreshing and even-handed, never becoming too academic or obscure in their references. However, because they were reviews written for a publication, they are also largely impersonal. While her always quick, intelligent wit is present, if you're wishing for essays or reviews about her favorite books or her primary influences as a writer, you won't find those here.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    The subtitle of the book denotes that the book contains "essays, criticism, and commentary" but it is virtually a book composed of reviews that were published by the various publications the author has worked for. The author wrote this” “While I enjoy writing these reviews (and I hope people enjoy reading them) I won't fool myself into thinking anyone would be interested in reading an entire collection of them, no matter how famous I ever became. “She was right! It is not something I wanted to r The subtitle of the book denotes that the book contains "essays, criticism, and commentary" but it is virtually a book composed of reviews that were published by the various publications the author has worked for. The author wrote this” “While I enjoy writing these reviews (and I hope people enjoy reading them) I won't fool myself into thinking anyone would be interested in reading an entire collection of them, no matter how famous I ever became. “She was right! It is not something I wanted to read from cover to cover. After a reading a few I was not particularly impressed with the writing, I will give her credit for diverse range of topics. It has a great table of contents so you can pick and choose what you want to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Amber Daugherty

    Have not been reading as much as I'd like because of school so this book has been the perfect companion - super easy to pick up, read an essay and put down. Lorrie Moore is an incredible writer with an amazing talent for finding the details that make or break shows, movies, books and events. This is a compilation of some of her published pieces on everything from Titianic to Margaret Atwood to Girls and 9/11. After reading it, I've added a number of books and authors to my #toread list. Would re Have not been reading as much as I'd like because of school so this book has been the perfect companion - super easy to pick up, read an essay and put down. Lorrie Moore is an incredible writer with an amazing talent for finding the details that make or break shows, movies, books and events. This is a compilation of some of her published pieces on everything from Titianic to Margaret Atwood to Girls and 9/11. After reading it, I've added a number of books and authors to my #toread list. Would recommend for casual flipping and some interesting insight.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    A collections of essays and reviews that have been printed in the New Yorker and many other fine outlets. The essays that interested me most were book reviews and essays about authors, and also those on tv series- The Wire, True Detective, etc. Moore captures the essence of popular culture, and I truly appreciate her writing.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    I got this pretty spontaneously after learning that it had an essay about Titanic in it and then was a little dismayed when I saw how huge it was. Her essays are simple, but insightful and she has a lot of passion for a diverse range of topics. I enjoyed it but, had it not been a library book, would have spaced out my reading over a longer time.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    I'm a big fan of Lorrie Moore's writing. My interest in this collection of her reviews, essays, comments is more like a reference on other writers: "...wonder what she thought about this writer or that book. . ." It is not something I would read from cover to cover. So after a few, on the shelf it goes. I'm a big fan of Lorrie Moore's writing. My interest in this collection of her reviews, essays, comments is more like a reference on other writers: "...wonder what she thought about this writer or that book. . ." It is not something I would read from cover to cover. So after a few, on the shelf it goes.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    2 stars. I received this book through a Goodreads giveaway. I agree with other reviewers who have said many of these pieces are hard to relate to if you have not read the original work. I see this book as only for devoted fans of the author, not the average or casual reader.

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