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In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted write In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted writer.


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In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted write In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted writer.

30 review for Self-Help

  1. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Pick up this book. Worry that people who see you on your lunch break will think you're actually reading a self help book. Become instantly enamoured with the first story, How to be an Other Woman. Understand completely why David Sedaris drops everything for Lorrie Moore like a giggling fan-boy. Wish you'd written these stories first. Cry at the second story, What is Seized. Be reminded of Billy Collins' poem "The Lanyard", except without the humour. Listen to Billy Collins read "The Lanyard" for Pick up this book. Worry that people who see you on your lunch break will think you're actually reading a self help book. Become instantly enamoured with the first story, How to be an Other Woman. Understand completely why David Sedaris drops everything for Lorrie Moore like a giggling fan-boy. Wish you'd written these stories first. Cry at the second story, What is Seized. Be reminded of Billy Collins' poem "The Lanyard", except without the humour. Listen to Billy Collins read "The Lanyard" for the fiftieth time, on youtube, to recover from the heartbreak of What is Seized. Feel slightly 'meh' about the use of the imperative in stories 3 and 4. Suspect that Moore might be overusing it. While it was brilliant in the first story, hope that this isn't the theme of the entire book. Allow yourself to be completely destroyed by Go Like This. Marvel at the psychological range of the stories. Marvel at the fact that you've never read Lorrie Moore before. Cry. The imperative is back in How to Talk to your Mother, but don't be bothered, because it's so good. Be impressed by the backwards chronology and the way the story invites you in, then slits your throat, and makes you love it anyway. Story 7 sparkles with so many extraordinary, bejewelled sentences, mark up the pages like a maniac. Delight in how she describes her cat as a "whore", a "gorgeous nomad", an "unfriend", an "intent ballerina in a hairy body stocking". Laugh, wildly, as you read How to Become a Writer. Remember all the heartless criticisms you received in a shitty undergraduate creative writing seminar from an asshole named Tavish. Feel a tiny, battered seed of hope stir in your heart. Think about the blank stares you receive when you share with friends that you are writing/have written a novel. Laugh some more. Read the last story when you are really supposed to be working. Feel a terrible ache of understanding which is also sweet because you are reading the words of a totally unique and undeniable talent. Acknowledge that perhaps the imperative might have been used a few times too many, thus diluting the original zing, but feel ultimately unable to award this wonderful collection with anything less than 5 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I can't remember which of her books it is, I think it's this one, in which a character observes: "This Danish is too Sweetish for me to Finnish!" If you don't like that, you probably wouldn't like Lorrie Moore much. And if you don't like Lorrie Moore, I probably wouldn't really like you. I can't remember which of her books it is, I think it's this one, in which a character observes: "This Danish is too Sweetish for me to Finnish!" If you don't like that, you probably wouldn't like Lorrie Moore much. And if you don't like Lorrie Moore, I probably wouldn't really like you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Roy

    This book is so beautiful I can't even stand it. Choice quotes: "Cold men destroy women," my mother wrote me years later. "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes--you hea This book is so beautiful I can't even stand it. Choice quotes: "Cold men destroy women," my mother wrote me years later. "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes--you hear all you have sacrificed, all you have given, landing with a loud clunk. They lock the greenhouse and you are as tiny as a figure in an architect's drawing, a faceless splotch, a blur of stick limbs abandoned in some voluminous desert of stone." - Page 30 "Your numbness," my mother cries softly, "is something perhaps you cannot help. It is what the world has done to you. But your coldness. That is what you do to the world."- Page 36 "You love once, I told you. Even when you love over and over again it is the same once, the same one."- Page 134 "When you were six you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet."- Page 5

  4. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Empathetic and clever, Self-Help muses about broken pasts and turbulent presents. In her 1985 debut short story collection Moore lends a compelling voice to the frustrations and hopes of an eclectic bunch of women living in New York. Common themes (divorce, illness, affairs, motherhood) link together the nine tales, which collectively draw an impressionistic sketch of bourgeois life in the city on the eve of Manhattan's rapid gentrification. Favorites include "How to Be an Other Woman," "Go Like Empathetic and clever, Self-Help muses about broken pasts and turbulent presents. In her 1985 debut short story collection Moore lends a compelling voice to the frustrations and hopes of an eclectic bunch of women living in New York. Common themes (divorce, illness, affairs, motherhood) link together the nine tales, which collectively draw an impressionistic sketch of bourgeois life in the city on the eve of Manhattan's rapid gentrification. Favorites include "How to Be an Other Woman," "Go Like This," and "How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: To think, she was twenty five.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jodi

    You pick up Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories called Self-Help because you’ve always admired her writing. Plus, your own writing is often compared to hers. Not because you are a master of the form, like Moore, but more because your short stories are peppered with a sort of sad and self-deprecating humor. What you love about reading short story collections over short story anthologies is that you can pick up the threads that move throughout the stories. Moore has a thing for opera singers You pick up Lorrie Moore’s collection of short stories called Self-Help because you’ve always admired her writing. Plus, your own writing is often compared to hers. Not because you are a master of the form, like Moore, but more because your short stories are peppered with a sort of sad and self-deprecating humor. What you love about reading short story collections over short story anthologies is that you can pick up the threads that move throughout the stories. Moore has a thing for opera singers and women who work in retail, women with cheating men and weird moms. You enjoy the collection because you enjoy Moore’s writing, however you are a little put off by the choice of the second person in so many of the stories. You wonder what it is about the second person that you don’t like. Perhaps it’s the presumptuousness of what “you” would do. It immediately puts you on the defensive and the whole time you are reading a story you can’t help but think, “I would never do that.” read the rest.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Sun

    “Meet in expensive raincoats, on a pea-soupy night.” So begins the first story of Lorrie Moore’s first book, most of which she wrote as an M.F.A. student at Cornell University. Eight words, none of which would tax the vocabulary of a fifth-grader, and yet all of the signature elements that Moore built her award-winning career on are there: the fledgling attempts at urbanity so fragile they must be spelled out (“expensive raincoats”), the perfectly failed eloquence (“pea-soupy”), and the self- “Meet in expensive raincoats, on a pea-soupy night.” So begins the first story of Lorrie Moore’s first book, most of which she wrote as an M.F.A. student at Cornell University. Eight words, none of which would tax the vocabulary of a fifth-grader, and yet all of the signature elements that Moore built her award-winning career on are there: the fledgling attempts at urbanity so fragile they must be spelled out (“expensive raincoats”), the perfectly failed eloquence (“pea-soupy”), and the self-canceling main character, all grounded in a mood as specific and dense as bourbon. I’m not here, Moore seems to say, but this is exactly where I might be if I were. “Last night in bed you said, ‘...I usually don’t like discussing sex, but—’ And he said, ‘I don’t like disgusting sex either.’” Moore’s writing can seem second-rate even to sympathetic readers. She is clever but not an analytical powerhouse, peppers her dialogue with some really bad puns, and cheerfully practices ignorance of any traditional notions about plot. In short, Moore embraces many of the worst tendencies of M.F.A. fiction and then seems to double down on them. “‘But does it work?’ ... ‘Have you earned this cliché?’” And yet, the accumulated effect of these stories is that of a romantic temperament that has been profoundly disappointed, and who can’t relate to that? We are all former children, after all. As funny as she can be, Moore’s vision is fundamentally tragic. It is the great ur-pun of Moore’s oeuvre that the wisecracks that she loves so much are not cracks of wisdom so much as cracks in the wisdom that her generation received from generations previous. It’s worth noting that the third dictionary definition for “joke” (after “a thing that someone says to cause amusement or laughter” and “a trick played on someone for fun”) is “a person or thing that is ridiculously inadequate.” “Understand that your cat is a whore and can’t help you.” The step-by-step life instructions peddled by the self-help industry to the disappointed romantics that make up 100% of the American adult population are probably most readily classifiable as the third kind of joke, but, as long as you’re reading these stories, they can very nearly almost feel like one of the other two.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Carmel Hanes

    This is not your usual short story collection, beginning with the prose style chosen in several of the stories (use of imperative sentences). While effective at creating an interesting narrative, the result was a group of stories that kept me at an emotional distance. If you like to sink your teeth and heart into characters, this might not be a style that appeals to you. The stories using a more traditional style were more enjoyable to me. That said, the stories did offer much food for thought an This is not your usual short story collection, beginning with the prose style chosen in several of the stories (use of imperative sentences). While effective at creating an interesting narrative, the result was a group of stories that kept me at an emotional distance. If you like to sink your teeth and heart into characters, this might not be a style that appeals to you. The stories using a more traditional style were more enjoyable to me. That said, the stories did offer much food for thought and appreciation for an unusual read on common human states of being--dissolving relationships, anxiety/paranoia, childhood versus adult views of our parents, divorcing parents. falling in and out of love, contemplating ending a life due to illness, trying to become a writer. These are heady themes and this could sound like a real downer of a book. But Moore keeps the tone light, despite the content, often in ironic or downright amusing ways. She nails a concept with the precision of a dart: "Cold men destroy women." "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greennness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorably arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes..." Or divorce: "When your parents divide, you, too, bifurcate. You cleave and bubble and break in two, live two lives, half of you crying every morning on the dock at sunrise, black hair fading to dusky gray, part of you traveling off to some other town...." Or, regarding a needed discussion: "But we didn't. Not really. Oh, it drifted piecemeal into subsequent dialogues like a body tossed out to sea and washed days later back into shore, a shoe there, a finger here, a breastbone in weed tide-bumping against the sand. But we never truly discussed it, never truly. Instead, allusions, suggestions, clues, silent but palpable, crawled out of the night ocean, as in a science fiction movie: black and slow they moved in and arranged themselves around the apartment like precocious, breathing houseplants, like scavengers." These are not quick or frivolous reads. They are stories dense with meaning and packaged in boxes within boxes. I enjoyed some more than others, with my personal favorite being How to Become a Writer, which was both witty and skeweringly apropos. "Begin to wonder what you do write about. Or if you have anything to say. Or if there even is such a thing as a thing to say. Limit these thoughts to no more than ten minutes a day: like sit-ups, they can make you thin." An interesting collection that reads like a blend of story-essay. Moore does have a unique voice and astute powers of observation on the human condition.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa

    This was my first Lorrie Moore collection, and I really truly enjoyed it. However, I wasn't expecting the stories to be so brutally depressing - although there was a great amount of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout the collection (Moore has a truly biting wit), the subjects of the stories in question are not ideal for picking up if you are in a tired or low headspace. Moore's writing is jaunty and staccato, her prose biting, and she covers a myriad of topics in this collection - everything from This was my first Lorrie Moore collection, and I really truly enjoyed it. However, I wasn't expecting the stories to be so brutally depressing - although there was a great amount of tongue-in-cheek humour throughout the collection (Moore has a truly biting wit), the subjects of the stories in question are not ideal for picking up if you are in a tired or low headspace. Moore's writing is jaunty and staccato, her prose biting, and she covers a myriad of topics in this collection - everything from adultery and illness to suicide, motherhood, and more. Each story is told from a female perspective, but I don't necessarily think that this limits the collection to being accessed by men as well - the stories are told well enough, and for the most part the images are generally universal enough to appeal not only to women. However, some of the stories are considerably longer than others, and there were points during the last story in particular in this collection that I found my attention waning... until that ending. That ending. Overall I'm so happy that I finally got to this book, and I'm also happy that I unintentionally started with Lorrie Moore's first collection - I will for sure be picking up more of her work.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tristan Yi

    This book was a lyrical masterpiece of interconnecting words, meanings, and emotions. It was the cat's pajamas--that is, if the cat had just broken up with her boyfriend and stayed at home watching old Ingrid Bergman movies, getting over it by darkly observing the world and making the saddest jokes a cat will ever meow. That is an example of an overextended metaphor and is not that accurate in describing the amazing, heartbreaking soulfulness that is this book. It's funny, sad, dark, and upliftin This book was a lyrical masterpiece of interconnecting words, meanings, and emotions. It was the cat's pajamas--that is, if the cat had just broken up with her boyfriend and stayed at home watching old Ingrid Bergman movies, getting over it by darkly observing the world and making the saddest jokes a cat will ever meow. That is an example of an overextended metaphor and is not that accurate in describing the amazing, heartbreaking soulfulness that is this book. It's funny, sad, dark, and uplifting. Read it. You will not regret it, although you will regret that you will never be able to read it for the first time ever again. So there's that.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kristopher Jansma

    Years ago I read Lorrie Moore's excellent Who Will Run the Frog Hospital for a grad school class (on memoirs?) and I have been a fan ever since. Every so often I will run across one of her essays or stories and find myself in stitches, although her humor almost always comes with a healthy dose of irony or solemnity to keep it from being a pure laugh fest. This semester I began my Creative Writing course with an out loud, round-the-class, reading of an essay (which turns out to be from Self-Help) Years ago I read Lorrie Moore's excellent Who Will Run the Frog Hospital for a grad school class (on memoirs?) and I have been a fan ever since. Every so often I will run across one of her essays or stories and find myself in stitches, although her humor almost always comes with a healthy dose of irony or solemnity to keep it from being a pure laugh fest. This semester I began my Creative Writing course with an out loud, round-the-class, reading of an essay (which turns out to be from Self-Help) called "How to Become a Writer Or, Have You Earned This Cliché?" Another teacher I know (recommender of David Schickler from last week) does the same thing and it turned out to be a hit for us both. I picked up Self-Help after reading another flat-out amazing Moore story (this time in a Paris Review Collection) called "Terrific Mother," which so far ranks in my top ten short stories of all time. Self-Help turns out to contain some more definite Moore gems, though not quite so many as I was hoping for. In my Moore-zeal I also bought Anagrams (fine, I stole it from my fiance's parents) and Birds of America, which contains "Terrific Mother" as well. It also turns out that Moore may be best enjoyed in smaller doses - so it may take me a little while to get around to those other ones. The best stories in Self-Help follow the same model that "How to Become a Writer..." does, addressing the reader in short instructive sentences... the first story, "How to be an Other Woman," opens with the sage advice to, "Meet in expensive beige raincoats on a pea-soupy night..." The advice is always fun and specific, and as the piece progresses it becomes clear that this is not a general outline for readers hoping to sleep with married men, but really a story about the instructor's affair with one, particular man. Stories in similar form, like "A Kid's Guide to Divorce", "How", "Go Like This", and "How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes)" are all great. It made me wonder why she didn't stick with it throughout, because the random, more traditional stories like "What is Seized" end up feeling oddly lacking. Luckily, these are in the minority. Still, by the end of the collection I found I was laughing less, cringing more, and generally having had enough angst for one week. I attempted to segue right into Birds of America, thinking ambitiously that I'd do a double-post this time, but this was not to be. Self-Help was thoroughly enjoyable, very original, and often very poignant, but as I said earlier, I've hit my Moore-limit for the moment. To be fair, I don't know of any short story writers that could make me want to read two collections back-to-back... as I said last week, I hardly ever finish the ones I start. More next week...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica Draper

    The blurbs and reviews on this one praised its author's sense of humor and great writing style, but I should've paid more attention to the mentions of her ability to pick out the poignant, heartbreaking moments we all share--apparently, that means parents' divorce, bad relationships, and general inability to make good choices. Yes, she's very good at description, and can turn a nice phrase. "How to Be an Other Woman" caught me with evocative imagery and a cynical but true take on what it's like The blurbs and reviews on this one praised its author's sense of humor and great writing style, but I should've paid more attention to the mentions of her ability to pick out the poignant, heartbreaking moments we all share--apparently, that means parents' divorce, bad relationships, and general inability to make good choices. Yes, she's very good at description, and can turn a nice phrase. "How to Be an Other Woman" caught me with evocative imagery and a cynical but true take on what it's like to have an affair with a married (and separated, and multiply-cheating) man, but it wasn't funny enough to make up for the fact that at the end, the narrator hasn't realized her mistake isn't just falling for that guy, but for having a completely screwed up internal morality. The other stories continue in the same, blinkered, Cheryl-Crow vein, all about people who can't seem to understand the relationship between action and consequence, or to experience honestly caring relationships. A well-written and occasionally amusing downer.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    BA from Lawrence College MFA from Cornell University At the time of this book she was probably an Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1976 she was awarded first prize in the Seventeen magazine short story contest (she was ~19 at the time). In review of two books of hers including Self-Help Vince Passaro says this in Harper's (August 1999): Two particular features...make her stories fundamentally different from the mainstream books of short fiction then being published: her c BA from Lawrence College MFA from Cornell University At the time of this book she was probably an Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1976 she was awarded first prize in the Seventeen magazine short story contest (she was ~19 at the time). In review of two books of hers including Self-Help Vince Passaro says this in Harper's (August 1999): Two particular features...make her stories fundamentally different from the mainstream books of short fiction then being published: her caustic humor, which almost none of her contemporaries shared, and her book's central, structural conceit-that this was a self-help book. The first story in the volume, "How to Be an Other Woman," stands as a clear example. He gives a quote from that short story and I am reminded of why I liked her so much!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Misha

    I'm having a hard time finding something to say about this collection except that I loved it. I'll soon be picking up Like Life, I think, as well as trying to learn more about Moore herself. I'm curious to know how autobiographical her writing is, because the emotions in each story just ring so true. Of course, that's what a good writer does -- taps into the commonality of human experience and shows us that we are not alone. I really enjoyed the way Moore played with tense and point of view to t I'm having a hard time finding something to say about this collection except that I loved it. I'll soon be picking up Like Life, I think, as well as trying to learn more about Moore herself. I'm curious to know how autobiographical her writing is, because the emotions in each story just ring so true. Of course, that's what a good writer does -- taps into the commonality of human experience and shows us that we are not alone. I really enjoyed the way Moore played with tense and point of view to tell stories, switching between past and present tense, first and second POV. And, of course, the puns. These stories are packed tightly with wit and sentiment and tenderness and tragedy and pathos and just about everything that I love in literature. --- Sept. 21, 2009. Today is the kind of day that I needed a break from the office by lunchtime, so I wandered to my usual bookstore before grabbing Chinese at the restaurant around the corner from there. The waitress kept calling me Angel. "Here you go, Angel," she said as she handed me a plate of cashew chicken. It netted her a $2 tip on a $5 lunch. While waiting, I read "How to Talk to Your Mother," chosen not at random but because I had one of those obligatory phone conversations with my mother yesterday after more than a year of contact only through e-mail and the occasional message. I try to call. She isn't home. I leave a message. Maybe she responds, maybe she doesn't. This is how we passed Thanksgiving, my birthday, Christmas, mother's day, her birthday. I got a check in the mail around Dec. 20 — no card, just "Merry Christmas" written on the memo line. It isn't so much that we have a contentious relationship as a non-existent one, but I don't think she's aware there's a problem, and any attempts in the past on my part to discuss things has resulted in my mother breaking down into hysterical tears and accusing me of accusing her of being a bad mother. So yesterday I finally caught up with her on the phone, doing my duty as a good daughter to at least try to keep lines of communication open. It went as our conversations nearly always do — she talks about her job, her house, her latest online boyfriend (she now has one who has moved in and sounds rather shiftless). She makes a pretense of asking about my life, but when I try to tell her, I'm met with an absent-minded "Uh huh" before the moves on to tell me some pointless anecdote about one of her co-workers. This time I actually got in a good minute of talking about my own plans before she interjected with "Why don't you just come home. I want you home." To which I simply couldn't think of anything to say, or at least nothing diplomatic. It occurred to me to ask "Why?" or to tell her "Ohio isn't home. It's just where I'm from." Or to say I didn't feel like moving back 2,300 miles to make our relationship more convenient, when she doesn't even try to stay in touch with me here. I think I said something vague like, "We'll have to see how things go." Which has nothing at all to do with Moore's story, which recounts the life of a mother and daughter in a series of quick flashes, each representing a year counted down in reverse to the daughter's birth. It's a rich story for its compactness, but then parent-child relationships are never simple things.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    Lorrie Moore has a talent with words and poetic images, but the stories in this collection were so depressing. I only loved the first one, about the woman who becomes a mistress, I found it beautifully done and deserving a high rating, but the others weren’t my cup of tea. My 2 stars rating is the inadequate but necessary average.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Amber

    Every single short story I wrote in my undergrad creative writing workshops was a ripoff of Lorrie Moore in some way. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Every single short story I wrote in my undergrad creative writing workshops was a ripoff of Lorrie Moore in some way. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joan Winnek

    With much respect for Moore's compelling writing, I have found these stories difficult. I guess I am psychologically too vulnerable. With much respect for Moore's compelling writing, I have found these stories difficult. I guess I am psychologically too vulnerable.

  18. 5 out of 5

    gwayle

    A quick read. I liked the first few stories best, but it may be because the later ones seemed to reiterate the early ones: there is not a lot of range in this collection, and the tone and style got old. There are some gems in here, though: reading "How," a story about a woman falling out of love, was an uncomfortable and devastatingly familiar experience. The following passage slayed me: Pace around the kitchen and say that you are unhappy. But I love you, he will say in his soft, bewildered way, A quick read. I liked the first few stories best, but it may be because the later ones seemed to reiterate the early ones: there is not a lot of range in this collection, and the tone and style got old. There are some gems in here, though: reading "How," a story about a woman falling out of love, was an uncomfortable and devastatingly familiar experience. The following passage slayed me: Pace around the kitchen and say that you are unhappy. But I love you, he will say in his soft, bewildered way, stirring the spaghetti sauce but not you, staring into the pan as if waiting for something, a magic fish, to rise from it and say: That is always enough, why is that not always enough? Many of the stories are written in that self-help style. These aren't stories with fairytale endings or melodramatic plot devices, and that's refreshing. Most are from the point of view of twenty- or thirty-something women. Apart from sporadic, brutally honest passages (like the one quoted above), though, I feel sort of "eh" about the collection. I don't feel much urgency to read more Moore(!), but I'm curious about how her other collections compare; I know she has quite a following.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    4.5 rounded up

  20. 5 out of 5

    Leo Robertson

    I was getting worried that my reading pace dropped to only 3 books a week!!! Because I'm reading the collected stories of Ms Moore for one, along with a number of other tomes, but I read this book within that book so it defo counts!! (Man, now that the winter's over, I took an Easter break and haven't had alcohol since Xmas, my motivation and productivity are through the roof! Who knew that if you looked after yourself, your mental health would improve? I also have totally embraced my own self/st I was getting worried that my reading pace dropped to only 3 books a week!!! Because I'm reading the collected stories of Ms Moore for one, along with a number of other tomes, but I read this book within that book so it defo counts!! (Man, now that the winter's over, I took an Easter break and haven't had alcohol since Xmas, my motivation and productivity are through the roof! Who knew that if you looked after yourself, your mental health would improve? I also have totally embraced my own self/style. I, like you maybe, was waiting for the day when I'd stop digressing, pseudo-spiritually rambling and take myself out of the equation of book reviews etc, and narrow my interests to a particular genre or subset thereof for marketing/signal-boosting purposes. But my soul won't have it. Case in point!) These stories are very witty and sad and filled with empathy. A real healing melancholy to Moore's style. My first book of hers was "Like Life" and I still remember reading it when I was super anxious and feeling so soothed by it that I took a nap. (When at the time my mind was like, "YOU WILL BE DEAD TOMORROW SO DO NOT MISS A SECOND OF HATING LIFE." The power of literature, man!) I will say that the story "To Fill" just went on endlessly and I couldn't understand its point. I took as long on it as the rest of the book, even after I decided to skim. But I'm sure if Ms Moore herself were to look at it again she'd rewrite the hell out of it. Holds up! Give it a look. "Like Life" still my favourite because it was the first I found. I'm sure "Birds of America" would've been my favourite if that was the first exposure. Not how it works though :P

  21. 5 out of 5

    Derek

    I discovered Lorrie Moore only recently in fact, but I'm certain the timing is just right, any younger I wouldn't have really 'got' her. It's like reading Scott Adams' God's Debris when you're sixteen, or something comparable to that. I discovered Lorrie Moore while listening to the audio book of The Best American Short Stories Of The Century edited by John Updike. She was reading her story, You're Ugly Too. I was immediately sold. Now comes the hard part: I'm not so good at reviewing books that I discovered Lorrie Moore only recently in fact, but I'm certain the timing is just right, any younger I wouldn't have really 'got' her. It's like reading Scott Adams' God's Debris when you're sixteen, or something comparable to that. I discovered Lorrie Moore while listening to the audio book of The Best American Short Stories Of The Century edited by John Updike. She was reading her story, You're Ugly Too. I was immediately sold. Now comes the hard part: I'm not so good at reviewing books that blow me away. I like to think their merits speak for themselves. This is one of those books. Self-Help is a literary masterpiece, simple as that. Smart, funny, articulate about subjects like suicide, divorce, relationships and love. Lorrie Moore's command of humour is unrivalled, she does it so masterfully, it doesn't feel like she's dumbing down just for the sake of it or throwing jokes around just for the sake of being funny. The stories in this collection are both tragic and comic, poignant and wholesome, and it's very hard to pick out favourites as you'd traditional do when reviewing any anthology. All the stories here are gems in their own right and collectively, the aesthetic feel of the book is flawless.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Leesa

    I love so many things about Lorrie Moore (one of them being her unique, wry sense of humor), but I think my favorite thing is her ability to take me so deeply into a metaphor, I almost forget what we were talking abt. Almost. She is my favorite metaphorist. Her books are like textbooks to me. One of my faves from this collection: "Cold men destroy women," my mother wrote me years later. "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a I love so many things about Lorrie Moore (one of them being her unique, wry sense of humor), but I think my favorite thing is her ability to take me so deeply into a metaphor, I almost forget what we were talking abt. Almost. She is my favorite metaphorist. Her books are like textbooks to me. One of my faves from this collection: "Cold men destroy women," my mother wrote me years later. "They woo them with something personable that they bring out for show, something annexed to their souls like a fake greenhouse, lead you in, and you think you see life and vitality and sun and greenness, and then when you love them, they lead you out into their real soul, a drafty, cavernous, empty ballroom, inexorable arched and vaulted and mocking you with its echoes -- you hear all you have sacrificed all you have given, landing with a loud clunk. They lock the greenhouse and you are as tiny as a figure in an architect's drawing, a faceless splotch, a blur of stick limbs abandoned in some voluminous desert of stone."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Felicia Edens

    The title of Lorrie Moore’s book of short stories, Self-Help, is especially striking today when being happy and carefree is pretty much “advertised” to us, not only by self-help books but by a constant flow of signage posted on social media (particularly motivational quotes), also as images of normalcy are shown to us as those being full of smiles and radiating positivity (shown especially by magazines and on television). There is also the influx of artwork with inspirational sayings on them pla The title of Lorrie Moore’s book of short stories, Self-Help, is especially striking today when being happy and carefree is pretty much “advertised” to us, not only by self-help books but by a constant flow of signage posted on social media (particularly motivational quotes), also as images of normalcy are shown to us as those being full of smiles and radiating positivity (shown especially by magazines and on television). There is also the influx of artwork with inspirational sayings on them plastered all over our walls. Restaurants and dance clubs have wanted us to “drink and be merry” for ages. Though I’m pointing this out, I’m not saying I’m exempt from this at all; I post “motivational” quotes on my Facebook page all the time and have a piece of fake ancient stone nailed to my bathroom wall that reads: “Faith is the essence of all things, Hope reflects our inner courage, Love conquers all”. (But does this ever turn you off? Don’t you sometimes want to be OK with being sad or angry or psychotic? Cynical? They will tell you “it’s OK to be sad or angry or psychotic”. Do we really *need* these reminders? Can we do without them, figure things out by experience?) What Moore’s Self-Help does is reveal what’s underneath all of this – which I don’t think can be called a façade – but underneath this struggle to attain a particular kind of peace within ourselves – what *is* it that happens on the way? The world keeps filling us in on what a happy life entails, but what this book does is an act of subversion. Moore tells stories of characters that try to control themselves and their gut instincts and then fail, or else characters that throw away the act of controlling their inner emotions and desires completely and delve headlong into life as it comes to them, reacting and adapting to environments in ways that destroy themselves and sometimes the people surrounding them. This is important: the failure of the act of trying to be a certain way always leaves room for a bit of knowledge that this specific person/character truthfully lived *their* life and also found an intangible piece of themselves along the way. Moore’s book is a reinvention of self-help through well-crafted fiction. That being said, Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help is tragically funny. The book is comprised of nine short stories. The first is about a young girl experiencing an affair with a married man and the banality of the experience, as well as the very real attempt of the young girl to remain indifferent to the situation, while still holding her lover’s interest. The result of this: awkward moments. Moore’s description in one scene: “When he is fast asleep upon you, in the middle of the night, send your left arm out slowly toward the nightstand like a mechanical limb programmed for a secret intelligence mission, and bring the ski garb picture back close to your face in the dark and try to study the features [of his wife] over his shoulder… slip carefully out, like a shoe horn… and go to the closet… stare at the clothes… look at the shoes… they are like small cruise missiles.” In the second, Moore tells the story of a another young girl’s experience during the events leading up to her parent’s split; how she once saw her father as this perfect human being, so talented and so funny, and then that perception slowly changing over time, as her father, for whatever reason/s, loses his fondness for her mother (perhaps she becomes less interesting to him because of his artistic endeavors). Her mother starts to lose her mind. Moore writes of this: “When your parents divide, you, too, bifurcate. You cleave and bubble and break in two, live two lives, half of you crying every morning on the dock at sunrise, black hair fading to dusky gray, part of you travelling to some other town where you teach school and tell jokes in an Italian accent in a bar and make people laugh.” “The Kid’s Guide To Divorce” is the perfect follow-up to the previous story. At only two pages, this story offers the alternative reaction to parents going their separate ways. A little girl entertains herself and her mother as they watch movies and shows on television. She feels cozy, she can be goofy. She is safe and secure. Her mother is her best friend. But what after this evening of R&R with mother? Moore lets us think on that by capturing the scene so perfectly and ending with a goodnight. “How” means: how is it that you leave your lover who you have loved? Especially someone who adores you? The time it takes to finally do it is forever. A sadness lingering before the urgency to do it becomes a reality. Imagination takes hold. Moore writes: “Dream about rainbows, about escapes, about wizards. Your past will fly by you, event after event, like Dorothy’s tornadoed neighborhood, past the blown-out window. Airborne… wave hello, good-bye…”. So *that* is how. Each story is as good or even better than the previous. One about a woman’s planned suicide after she discovers she has cancer. There are voices of acceptance as well as of dissent. What does she do? Another story is a timeline of events concerning specific experiences with *your* mother, going backward from after she has already died. Moore writes as if these were universal, and adds actual happenings like “The Dead Sea Scrolls are discovered” (1947). Then Moore writes a story about another separation of lovers, a completely different story, with completely different sentiments and hurdles. The second to last is a story of not wanting to become a writer but then doing it because it’s enjoyable, even if others don’t get it. You move onward. The last: an overweight mother deals with a cheating husband by stealing money from her company and then doing something unimaginable. But, before this: her escape into nature without a care in the world, and at the end, the best present. These stories are astonishingly real. Sometimes we are alone in our minds and Self-Help is an exercise in sharing different fears. Lorrie Moore is a powerfully personal writer, and by the end you should be able to smile at the world with a sense of connection.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Garlan ✌

    A mind like a saber, razor sharp and sure. In these nine stories, Lorrie Moore chronicles the off kilter relations between men and women, using wit and cynicism to dissect their day to day lives. She commands a wonderful use of the language that reflects her unique understanding of the human condition. This is a small collection of great stories. In “How to Be an Other Woman” the protagonist reflects on her relationship with a married man - “When you were six you thought mistress meant to put yo A mind like a saber, razor sharp and sure. In these nine stories, Lorrie Moore chronicles the off kilter relations between men and women, using wit and cynicism to dissect their day to day lives. She commands a wonderful use of the language that reflects her unique understanding of the human condition. This is a small collection of great stories. In “How to Be an Other Woman” the protagonist reflects on her relationship with a married man - “When you were six you thought mistress meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet.” In “How” a young woman slowly falls out of love with her boyfriend - “Apartments can shrink inward like drying ponds. (You) say: I am going for a walk. When he follows you to the door, buzzing at your side like a fly..., you add: Alone.” In “Go Like This” a woman with cancer plans her suicide. “My death flashes across my afternoon like a nun in white, hurrying, evanescing, apparitional as the rise of heat off the boulevards... I have not yet seen the face, it is hooded, perhaps wrapped, but I know the flow, the cloth of her, moving always in diagonals, in waves toward me..” In “What is seized” a young girls recalls her childhood, using her mother as the focal point - “In the wedding photos.. they are thin and elegant. They have placid smiles. I don't know who took these pictures. I suppose they are lies of sorts, revealing by omission, by indirection, by clues such as shoes and clouds. But they tell a truth, the only way lies can. The way only lies can.” Every story is filled with these little gems, at times poignant and sad, but told with such a dry humor and crackling wit that one has to sit back and admire the artistry. This was Moore's first published collection (1985), and as such, is a little less polished than her later books. All in all though, a very good read. Highly recommended.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Oni

    How to write a stunning collection of short stories that turns the self-help genre on its head, exposing the delusions and vacuity of easy self-improvement strategies while simultaneously capturing deeply human fears and longings: 1) Be a writer named Lorrie Moore. Write nine short stories and group them in a collection called Self-Help. Publish it as your debut in 1985. 2) Parody the tactics of self-help manuals and be inspired by the precepts of Oulipo literature, finding freedom and a breath of How to write a stunning collection of short stories that turns the self-help genre on its head, exposing the delusions and vacuity of easy self-improvement strategies while simultaneously capturing deeply human fears and longings: 1) Be a writer named Lorrie Moore. Write nine short stories and group them in a collection called Self-Help. Publish it as your debut in 1985. 2) Parody the tactics of self-help manuals and be inspired by the precepts of Oulipo literature, finding freedom and a breath of fresh air in self-imposed formal constraints. Let one of those constraints be writing in the second person. Use the imperative! 3) Forget about plot. Instead, focus on your witty female protagonists having a tendency for self-sabotage and an ear that's finely tuned to wordplay and clever puns, often embraced as a form of self-defense. 4) Be interested in the fall. Capture your protagonists on their road towards - not triumph, no! - but rather a massive brick wall. Observe their mistakes, their disarray, their failing. Note down carefully the directions towards that wall, but also capture the tiny, razor-thin, meaningful moments experienced on the way before the collision. 5) Let said massive brick wall be shape-shifting. A romantic relationship doomed from the onset, for instance. Or a complex mother-daughter relationship. Or a soul-crushing job. Or writing ambitions with nothing to show for. Or unhealthy attempts to fill an undisclosed void probably caused by one or a blend of the aforementioned massive brick walls. 6) Write irreverently. But not with cynicism. Write with dark humour, but devoid of bitterness. Write with honesty. And energy and playfulness. Take pleasure in your writing and infuse it with your deep love for language. Be ironic and self-ironic. Make your readers laugh until they can laugh no more. Until they ache. Until laughing and aching are one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Haley

    I absolutely loved the first story, which felt perfectly executed, though I think some of the features that so won me over with this first story - the focus on wordplay, the interesting use of the imperative/second person point of view, the polished integration of recurring elements - felt less fresh/noteworthy when it appeared in other stories. Moore has a powerful, engaged wit, which she lends to her protagonists (generally women of dubious mental health or women who are in compromising circum I absolutely loved the first story, which felt perfectly executed, though I think some of the features that so won me over with this first story - the focus on wordplay, the interesting use of the imperative/second person point of view, the polished integration of recurring elements - felt less fresh/noteworthy when it appeared in other stories. Moore has a powerful, engaged wit, which she lends to her protagonists (generally women of dubious mental health or women who are in compromising circumstances). The stories focus around relationships - familial and romantic (overall, I strongly preferred the romantic variety in this collection). My favorites were “How to Be an Other Woman,” about a woman having an affair with a married man; “How,” about a woman who is dissatisfied in her relationship; “Go Like This,” about a woman with cancer who is planning her suicide, and “How to Become a Writer,” (self-explanatory). If you Google “Lorrie Moore How to Be an Other Woman” a pdf of the story comes up (I’m not going to link it here as it’s likely not in accordance with copyright law) BUT it’s a really good taster for the rest of the collection (and a great story in and of itself) if you’re interested.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    I just really like Lorrie Moore. I think there's tons of valid criticism to be made about this book, and even she herself has called the stories "chock full of mistakes of judgement and taste and sensibility," but I admire this collection. It's bold— in style, in presentation, in form. The three longest stories are in the 1st or 3rd person, but the rest are all in the 2nd person, which I tend to disagree means "instructive you," even if the titles begin with "How to..." There's something to be s I just really like Lorrie Moore. I think there's tons of valid criticism to be made about this book, and even she herself has called the stories "chock full of mistakes of judgement and taste and sensibility," but I admire this collection. It's bold— in style, in presentation, in form. The three longest stories are in the 1st or 3rd person, but the rest are all in the 2nd person, which I tend to disagree means "instructive you," even if the titles begin with "How to..." There's something to be said about the title when it comes to that matter- Self-Help. So good. I enjoy all of the stories, but my favorites are "Go Like This" and "To Fill." Both are worth reading over and over again. The latter is her longest [at 25-ish pages] but I went right back to the first line after finishing the last—the literary equivalent of dragging the needle back to let the record play again. Inventive. Innovative. Playful. Fucking funny a lot of the time, too. An important short story collection.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    This collection still seems as innovative and inventive as it did when I first read it in ’85. Her “How to…” stories had such a spark of originality about them that stylistically they couldn’t be copied. Second person point of view feels fresh again. Of course it’s not just the POV. She combines that with a unique syntax that makes ordinary words fresh. And the ironic and sarcastic humor, a loose mask for an incredible bitterness, a bitterness that really only comes out in the humor. In her late This collection still seems as innovative and inventive as it did when I first read it in ’85. Her “How to…” stories had such a spark of originality about them that stylistically they couldn’t be copied. Second person point of view feels fresh again. Of course it’s not just the POV. She combines that with a unique syntax that makes ordinary words fresh. And the ironic and sarcastic humor, a loose mask for an incredible bitterness, a bitterness that really only comes out in the humor. In her later work, Moore writes better stories, but I prefer this collection because of its raw originality.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lindsay Andros

    Compelling and often heart-wrenching stories that work together perfectly as a collection, with characters and scenarios popping up in one story that were mentioned briefly previously. These stories were written thirty years ago, but were still powerful enough to make me want to call my mother and tell her I love her. Though they are typical in their topics, they are very atypical in their telling: second-person, how-to-style manuals. Very intriguing and unique.

  30. 5 out of 5

    G L

    This collection of short stories is like having a hug from your best friend when you're crying then suddenly it's a slap and she's telling you to 'stop being a whiny little shit'. In the best possible way. It's like Lorrie Moore has lived a thousand different lives as a thousand different women, its tender and cathartic and cold and shrewd. I love it. This collection of short stories is like having a hug from your best friend when you're crying then suddenly it's a slap and she's telling you to 'stop being a whiny little shit'. In the best possible way. It's like Lorrie Moore has lived a thousand different lives as a thousand different women, its tender and cathartic and cold and shrewd. I love it.

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