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Sunday April 20, 2014
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Lorrie Moore

 

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way to meet guys," says one. Yet Moore's people are surprisingly likable and completely recognizable. Most of them could fit in quite easily in Ann Arbor.

Moore's success lies in her ability to draw us into what are — for the most part — the minor dramas that transform these lives. She finds mystery in the mundane and convinces us of its importance. As one of her characters says to his writer wife, "This is the kind of thing that fiction is: it's the unlivable life, the strange room tacked onto the house, the extra moon that is circling the earth unbeknownst to science."

That exchange appears in what might be Lorrie Moore's masterpiece, "People like That Are the Only People Here: Canonical Babbling in Peed Onk" (from her most recent collection, Birds in America). It's an emotionally wrenching long story about a young child undergoing surgery for kidney cancer. "Peed Onk" is a typical Moore move; it is the parents' slangy shorthand for pediatric oncology. The slang might suggest a certain distance, but the story and the illness of a very young child — barely a toddler just discovering his first words — change everything. The focus of the story is always on "the Mother." We never learn her name; in the intensity of this situation, she becomes her maternal role:

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