Birds of America
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Birds of America

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  8,719 ratings  ·  741 reviews
Beginning with a story about a second-rate film actress involved with a mechanic who has not the least idea who she was as an actress or is as a human being, this is a series of portraits of the young, the hip, the lost, the unsettled and the unhinged of modern-day America.
Paperback, 291 pages
Published 1999 by Faber and Faber (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Forrest
Jul 24, 2007 Forrest rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Birds of America is a story collection by one of the most talented (but minimal) writers around, Lorrie Moore. The stories here are not big or grand or epic, but work simply as little one-act plays, exposing the inherent complexities and dramas in the everyday lives we all lead.

Moore's writing style is subtle, and laced with a fantastic sense of wit; witness, for example, her slight mocking of the health fad craze in the names she creates for juice bars; or her sly commentary about the misnomer...more
Liz
I really liked Lorrie Moore's "How To Be an Other Woman" (from the love stories collection I read) but I was not wowed by this book. The stories all seemed very similar - isolated, lonely people (mostly women) dealing with husbands and families and communities. I just looked at the overwhelmingly glowing reviews here on goodreads, and hmm, I just don't get it.

5 stars - "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens"

4 stars - the joke in "Beautiful Grade" about the professor writing Flannery O'Connor art...more
Paul
"The thing to remember about love affairs," says Simone, "is that they are all like having raccoons in your chimney."
"Oh, not the raccoon story," groans Cal.
"Yes! The raccoons!" cries Eugene.
I'm sawing at my duck.
"We have raccoons sometimes in our chimney," explains
Simone.
"Hmmm," I say, not surprised.
"And once we tried to smoke them out. We lit a fire, know-
ing they were there, but we hoped that the smoke would cause
them to scurry out the top and never come back. Instead, they
caught on fire and...more
Sara
Maybe the most perfect short story collection I've read (that wasn't a "collected works" or "best of"). I understand the criticisms of "same-y" characters and too-witty dialogue, but frankly I don't care. Lorrie Moore can wrap me around her little finger any time. Kakutani's back blurb calls the book: "sad, funny, lyrical, and prickly" and that's probably the best way to describe her. She is awash in those kinds of contradictions, but it's what makes her stories a joy to read. You always end up...more
Sergsab
Todo el mundo te habla de lo maravillosa que es esa persona. De cómo será cuando alguien como tú se encuentre con alguien como ella. Todo el mundo habla bien de ella. Y sólo te falta conocerla a ti. Y cuando estáis cara a cara, cuando os miráis y habláis, lo sabéis. Todo el mundo os observa. Por lo que es más incómodo aun. Mierda! No tenéis nada en común, no tenéis ni un puto punto de conexión sobre el que podáis, no ya construir algo, sino sobre el que salir airosos de este primer y último encu...more
Jessica
Sep 30, 2007 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the deserving
Shelves: favorites
One of my main strategies for dealing with life is, "If I don't laugh, I'll cry."

I think Lorrie Moore's strategy is to make me do both.
Miriam
Beautiful stories, obviously. This is also the book that everyone says YOU MUST READ THIS. So, of course I am resistant to it. I did like it, but I also felt like each story hit a similar note...which is probably a good thing for a collection, but is a bad thing for a reader. All of her stories (in here, nowhere else) have this feeling of spending a day in a musty house to me...not sure if that makes sense.
Emalie Soderback
I just remember reading this book in almost one sitting, I think, waiting for my boyfriend to get home from work. It is something that winds tightly around your throat and makes you cry in short hot spurts, like, am I really reading a book right now?. After each story, almost (there are 12), I would have to set the book down and recompose myself. It is a heartbreakingly honest account of different types of loss and growth and so so beautiful.

"Yeah, I like them all right," he said, and she would...more
Laura
I finally gave up reading this book yesterday after getting about 2/3 of the way through it. It is always so hard for me to give up a book -- my ego gets entangled in the idea that I MUST finish reading it... but I realized that I was wasting time with this book that was depressing me instead of filling my life with books that engage and inspire me. Moore's writing is sometimes right on in her descriptions of people. For example, in one story, the sentence "She freezes hams" perfectly encapsulat...more
Antonia Crane
Wildly ambitious and witty and brutal, Moore's stories are ambitious as they are smart. Rob Roberge referred to her stories at Antioch with fondness, and I was required to read "Anagrams" one project period, but I didn't fall in love with her like I did with her collection of short stories: "Birds of America." In "What You Want to Do Fine," she tackles a difficult love between men, war, the draft, lost children, AIDS, blindness and the parade of bones in cemetery visits. She personalizes the hop...more
Jeff
The trouble I have with most short story books is that I tend to forget what the first story was about by the time I get to the last one. In lieu of this trend wherein I do not think I inhabit my oubliette alone, most short story writers attempt to create vignettes (heavy on the French today) that are tiredly unique to each other. Moore, I think, attempts solidarity by thematically and tonally creating stories that are strikingly similar. Dare I say that each narrator has the same Mooreish wit a...more
Billy

First of all, with Lorrie Moore: Oh, the puns!


Second of all, she doesn't really do men. There's one story in here that takes a male character's perspective, and it's one of the weakest. It's a good faith effort, but the shortcoming seems to stem from a genuine befuddlement as to how men might dwell in themselves, how they might carry themselves from one moment to the next. That's not to say she is limited as writing from a specifically gendered perspective, or that she reads like a feminine "typ

...more
Saxon
Lorrie Moore has really only one story. It usually has something to do with a mild tragedy back-dropped by a modern life that is so cluttered and unexplainable that no one really can see or pinpoint what the fuss is all about. As she works through each story, the main character(usually a woman) is slightly neurotic, says (or thinks) colorless, off-handed things that seem entirely inappropriate considering the circumstances and yet, seem entirely true to life as well. And, of course, like life (a...more
Farren
Lots of heart-tugging, gut-wrenching stuff, lots of original observations about humans and the planet on this sweet kind of micro-level. Lots of quotable stuff, plotted and paced masterfully.

And yet--

Maybe it's just because everyone LOOOOOOOOOVES Lorrie Moore, but I found it a little contrived? No one is that naive, and wide eyed and simultaneously tired and sad all the time. Ever. You know? It felt like a gimmick. Because it was deployed in every story--because it is, in fact, Lorrie Moore's i...more
Terri Jacobson
An excellent collection of short stories. Very well-written. Some of my favorite quotes:

"But too often she lay awake, wondering. There was something missing. Something wasn't happening to her, or was it to him? All through the summer, the thunderstorms set the sky on fire while she lay there, listening for the train sound of a tornado, which never came--though the lightning ripped open the night and lit the trees like things too suddenly remembered, then left them indecipherable again in the dar...more
Therese
I feel like kind of a jerk reviewing this lowly. I mean, it was...it was nice. They're sweet, funny-ish, lovely-written. Just loses it's charm after five or six stories where.... "I hold an odd job and had a funny thought today and then my friend said, 'oh not that again' and I drove to a tree I like and thought, 'ah yes, this again'. Ta-da!"
Patricia Murphy
I've already expressed my admiration for Moore in several other posts so I won't go after it again here. But I do want to give a few lines that are good examples of the verbal flourish I'm so addicted to in her work (it's something I like in DFW and also that I will also speak about soon in the work of Alissa Nutting).

It's the polite put-down, the one-offed comment that is deeply personal and that seems almost to implicate the author and the reader. It's such a light touch, and seems to me to i...more
Derek
In Birds of America, Lorrie Moore is doing so many things exceptionally that it seems like folly to criticize the rare thing that might not be working. The characters are unique and finely drawn. The plots of the stories don't fall into the trap of being just academic-y or literary fiction-y (she's even willing to wander into the potentially maudlin/saccharine Dying Kid Territory, a place in which she happens to fluorish). The dialog is snappy and, at times, funny. The stories have a point. So w...more
Vikki
i picked this book up after not having read any of lorrie moore's work since grad school. she's rightly regarded as one of the premier contemporary american writers, and her short stories are beautiful, perceptive investigations of human behavior and the small moments in people's lives. the only story i'd read before was "people like that are the only people here," which remains in my opinion one of the best titles in the short story canon. my first reading, more than ten years ago, was before i...more
Lauren
I don't get Loorie Moore. I read her novel A gate at the whatever...the first thing that I read by her. I'd heard it lauded as one of the greatest books of the year, which it was not. So I decided that I would try at one of her more famous books of short stories. I heard about how great it was, how it was a must read when it comes to the form. I hated it almost as much as the novel. Her characters are dispassionate, the stories about pretty much the same thing. It's a trying book to get through....more
Elaine
A must-read for any short story lover.
Every story in this collection is strong, but there are a few that were simply stunning -- "People Like Them Are The Only People Here", "Terrific Mother", "Community Life", "What You Want to Do Fine". Moore is this curious blend of very dry irony, black humor and sad pathos. In "People Like Them Are the Only People Here", a child of two is diagnosed with cancer. Lorrie Moore walks us through this grim play-by-play of a child undergoing a nephrectomy, the mot...more
Steve
Lorrie “Morbid” Moore’s book of stories were bleak and foreboding, but they appealed to me more than I’d have thought. She is a very talented writer. It’s always appreciated when you can go deep into the heads of characters to discover those remote yet recognizable elements of the way we humans can be. It’s not like the stories are relentlessly dark. There’s even some humor at times – good, sharply observed stuff. It’s just drearier in tone than I’m used to enjoying, so it surprised me when I di...more
Karen
Lorrie Moore is very, very good. Each story seems to start off as a tight little exercise in cleverness - Moore's prose sometimes "sparkles" so brightly it makes my head hurt - but by the end she always manages, through a perfect turn of phrase or a well-placed image, to show how profoundly, irrevocably lonely her characters are. Each story is like a carefully aimed punch in the gut, and she got me every time.
Angie
So, yeah, the writing is fabulous - beautiful, in fact; at times I heard Sylvia Plath in the prose, her dark twists. I liked the humor of "Real Estate." But I just can't read any more of the bleak stuff... the babies, the ennui. I get the literary value, the repetitive themes, but please, dear God, please, someone help me out of it. Gimme something good, something that won't make me cry for its depth OR for its shallowness, something that gives me a little hope for the world and isn't drilling t...more
William
Reading the first few stories, I liked this book, but by the end I loved it. Moore has a quirky writing style (and I mean that in a very positive sense) which can combine wit, deep emotion and a vague sadness in a single paragraph.

There is a sense of Raymond Carver here and there in the bleakness of the largely (entirely?) Midwestern settings, but also something reminiscent of the zaniness of Donald Barthelme. There is almost always a sense of people reaching to connect and not quite making it,...more
Kerfe
I liked most of these stories--or at least parts of them--a lot. Just not as much as I thought I should have.

Some have intriguing but underdeveloped possibilities that peter out without direction or point. Some have a good story that doesn't seem to belong in the story where it appears. Some start out well but then veer off, crossing a line that deflates the magic. Some just meander about a bit too long.

"Four Calling Birds", "Which is More Than I Can Say About Some People", and "Terrific Mother"...more
Laura
“Staring out through the window, off into the horizon, Abby began to think that all the beauty and ugliness and turbulence one found scattered through nature, one could also find in people themselves, all collected there, all together in a single place. No matter what terror or loveliness the earth could produce — winds, seas — a person could produce the same, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world — no flowe...more
Lori
Every story in this collection is an utter delight of one form or another -- lonely, funny, touching, bottom-dropping-out, familiar. I nearly decided to stop highlighting sentences and passages that I loved because there were so many, but I couldn't stop. Moore has such a great way of dropping in a moment of hilarity at just the right moment, or of slipping in such a giant truth it makes you gasp. Her characters are honest and I was so surprised by how often they had a subversive kind of humor....more
Scott Rhee
Lorrie Moore may be the best short story writer in America. She has the uncanny ability to find humor in tragedy and tragedy in humorous situations, without lessening the emotional impact of the story. In reading a Lorrie Moore story it is not uncommon to laugh out loud only seconds after reading a heart-rending scene that brings tears to your eyes. That is the joy of reading a Lorrie Moore story. "Birds in America" is a collection of short stories (published in 1998), which, like her previous c...more
Sasha Martinez
It pains me to say that these stories, though masterful, did not fascinate me the way her stories in Self-Help did. Yes, I recognize how well-written the stories are, how precise Moore’s observations can be, how she has retained her ability to charge a single phrase with so much meaning. The stories in this collection are great stories, created by a writer who knows her way around the craft, has mastered it.

But these stories, they aren’t magical—not for me. I was not compelled to go on a little...more
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  • The Collected Stories
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Lorrie Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York in 1957. She attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where she tutored on an Indian reservation, and was editor of the university literary magazine and, at age 19, won Seventeen Magazine’s Fiction Contest. After graduating summa cum laude, she worked in New York for two years before going on to received a Masters in Fine Arts from Cornel...more
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“When she packed up to leave, she knew that she was saying goodbye to something important, which was not that bad, in a way, because it meant that at least you had said hello to it to begin with...” 82 likes
“Every arrangement in life carried with it the sadness, the sentimental shadow, of its not being something else, but only itself. ” 43 likes
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