Women Writers Reading Challenge #61: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

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Some books have a reputation that precedes them. People talk about them with reverence as if they are a gift given down from the writing gods. I’m usually a bit cautious about these books because there are quite a number of brilliant writers that I’m not all that enthusiastic about. Hemingway comes immediately  to mind. In college, I kept an ongoing list to which I would add books or films that professors mentioned that sounded interesting or particularly important. I’ve read and I’ve scratched off some of those books, but this one has been on it for a while. When it came up on several must-read lists, I knew I could ignore it no longer.

And it turns out, in a bizarre twist, that this book is everything it’s cracked up to be. Moore writes about her characters with sympathy, but she doesn’t let them get away with very much. If they’re capable, they have to face reality. But though it’s often a harsh, disappointing reality, Moore writes with humor and enough compassion for humanity that the stories don’t feel bitter or cynical. It seems that if she could, she would really like to help her characters even if the biggest take away from the book is the only people who can help us are ourselves, and often times we’re unable to do just that. This is a monumental book by a great writer, and if you’re interested in short stories at all, your education will not be complete until you read this book.

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