Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Anagrams” as Want to Read:
Blank 133x176
Lorrie Moore
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  3,116 Ratings  ·  345 Reviews
"An extraordinary, often hilarious novel." --The New York Times
A revelatory tale of love gained and lost, from a master of contemporary American fiction.
Gerard sits, fully clothed, in his empty bathtub and pines for Benna. Neighbors in the same apartment building, they share a wall and Gerard listens for the sound of her toilet flushing. Gerard loves Benna. And then Benn
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 6th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Anagrams, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Anagrams

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
K.D. Absolutely
Jun 01, 2010 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core
an•a•gram ( n -gr m ) 1. A word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase, such as satin to stain.
However, here in her first novel, short story writer Lorrie Moore (born 1957), reordered not letters but the different scenes in order for her reader to choose the one that he or she likes best. I have seen this approached in a couple of movies but my first time for a novel. Moore’s contemporary and humorous prose makes this approach not only crisp in its freshness but al
Glenn Sumi
Wanted More from Moore

Lorrie Moore’s short first novel feels more like an amusing, extended exercise – a gimmick – rather than a full novel. Like letters in an anagram, Moore switches characters, professions and relationships.

In the first section, for instance, Benna is a lounge singer and Gerard teaches aerobics to children. In the second, Benna teaches aerobics to seniors, while Gerard is working on a rock version of a Baroque opera. In another, Gerard is a lounge singer who wants to become a
Paul Bryant
Jan 20, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned, novels
Today I thought I'd lost my copy of Anagrams and a little voice asked me if that would be so bad a thing to happen. As I said in my update, I was getting the idea that Moore is less. (Er, is that still funny?)

Sorry Lorrie. I am the swine before which you cast your pearl. Oink.

Anagram : List your novel really though quite Christmas and smirky monotonously please so aggravating make mine a Harvey Wallbanger

is an anagram of

I thought your novel was monotonously smirky and quite aggravating but I
Aug 18, 2011 Madeline rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: the-list
Margaret Atwood has a great short story called "Happy Endings" that I kept thinking about as I read this book. Read it here and then continue with the review.

Did you read it? Seriously guys, it'll take you like two minutes. I'll wait.

Okay, good. So I don't know which came first, "Happy Endings" or Anagrams, but I feel almost sure that one of them had to influence the other. Anagrams is about two people, Benna and Gerard, who are in love - sort of. When we first meet them, they are living in ad
Erika Jo
Apr 07, 2008 Erika Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was devastating – devastatingly funny, devastatingly honest. And its denouement, or the final unraveling of plot complexities, is devastatingly sad.

Let me back up for a minute. "Anagrams" rearranges and frames three characters dynamically against each other, first in a sequence of short scenes, then in a longer sustained story. So the key characters – like letters in an anagrammatic word – function differently, contribute to a separate-though-equally-plausible reality, when located in
Oct 09, 2010 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jim by: Stephanie's review
Shelves: fiction, 1001-books
An extremely well-written, provocative, witty, and thought-provoking novel about the vagaries of modern life. I couldn't write like this even in my dreams. The fact that anyone can is a marvel to me.

I am indebted to Stephanie for her insightful review of this book, without which I would not have known about the magical prose of Lorrie Moore. I will certainly read more of her work in the near future.

Here she paints a complex, layered picture of the real and not-so-real aspects of three lives. In
Sep 08, 2008 Edan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Firstly, I am biased not only because I love Lorrie Moore but also because my first name is an anagram (I am named after my Grandmother, whose name was Edna).


This book is strange without being alienating, and while I was nervous that the "anagramming" of characters would annoy me, I actually got into the rearranging of facts and desires that Moore plays with--it reminded me very much of the process of writing, of those moments when your character can do this or this or this, and you have to
Sep 11, 2007 Natalie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"life is sad. here is someone."

Don't let this book fool you. You might pick it up and be humored by intellectual puns and clever turns of phrase before you realize you are reading what appears to be the highly conventional story of a woman in an unfortunate relationship. Like Todd Solondz's film Storytelling this novel plays with notions of fact and fiction. It isn't as simple as having a reliable or unreliable narrator, it's that everything said can mean something else, and perhaps even people
Oct 19, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
I struggled with this book a lot. The beginning was good but then around the middle it got really confusing to me. What was real, what wasn't? I'm still confused, actually, about when Gerard was her teaching assistant? I don't know. But, in the end it really all paid off for me. At first I gave it 3 stars, then it crept up to 4, and now I'm putting it at 5 because it just keeps growing in my mind, even several days later. I do think the beginning and middle parts function more/better as short st ...more
Aug 28, 2010 Misha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thirteen years ago, the dean of my law school gave a speech on our orientation day about how what good lawyers do is to “turn the crystal” on the law – look at it from different angles, bend the light a little differently and see how a whole new world of ideas can open up just by virtue of a different perspective. I often thought of that long-ago lecture while reading this book, as I watched Moore turn the crystal on three people and how their lives intertwine under different sets of circumstanc ...more
Oct 04, 2015 Sophia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm now at a point where I have so much love for Lorrie Moore that I'm not entirely sure that I'm able to review her that incisively now. Anagrams is an early novel/linked short stories and it definitely has a less polished feel to her more recent collections of short stories, which I find hard to fault. This lack of polish and sense of trying things out is perhaps why it has slightly mixed reviews. And I would agree that the concept of Anagrams - looking at roughly the same character, Benna, fr ...more
Oct 03, 2007 Shaindel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, anyone...
I seriously think if I could choose to write like *anyone*, it would be Lorrie Moore.

Moore does something amazing in the beginning of this book; she rearranges the characters' lives over and over in various short stories--hence the name Anagrams. Then, the last piece in the book is a novella using the same characters. Like all of Moore, it is by turns laugh out loud funny and heartbreaking.

My only fear in recommending this book to students is that they will think I'm the main character in the no
The concept of this book is intriguing and for the most part well executed. The relationship between a woman, Benna, and a man, Gerard, is described in six different "possible lives" or what Moore calls anagrams: jumbled up versions of the same people and ingredients, rearranged into six different plot lines. The last one is the longest -- maybe it is the "true" one, maybe it isn't, but it is unequivocally the saddest. I was just going along with this book for a while, enjoying the humor, and th ...more
Caitlin Mccaskey
I realize I've been giving so many books all five stars, but really, they are all five-star books. This one was just beautiful. Lorrie Moore's work is indescribable and all the more powerful for it.
Courtney Gustafson
This is the Lorrie Moore I love. There is essentially nothing wrong with this book. You couldn't find a flaw if you tried.

Anagrams follows the stories of Benna and Gerard, who, in a strange mash-up of scenarios, are poetry teachers, lounge singers, piano players, neighbors, parents, friends, lovers. In love and not in love. Together and then alone. The book plots the course of their relationship as it might take place if Gerard was in love with Benna, fully-clothed in his bathtub and listening f
Debbie Reschke Schug
It was my stint reading all the Nick Hornby novels I could find that started me reading Lorrie Moore books. I think she’s more of a short story writer, which I guess why this novel reads more like four separate pieces rather than a cohesive one.
“Anagrams” is a concept novel where the characters in the story stay basically the same, but are rearranged a little each instance a slice of time gets retold. What remains constant is the two main characters, Gerard and Benna, are in love with each othe
Manik Sukoco
Dec 24, 2015 Manik Sukoco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'Anagrams' serves to bemuse, amuse and ultimately touch the heart of single status daydreamer. Its brilliant observations of life, no longer as a spring chicken, are only bettered by its moving discussions on love desired, lost and ignored. Bella's comical imagination allows her to overcome loneliness by creating friends and daughters in a manner that is not disturbing. Even if things are going from bad to worse, socially, romantically and financially, life isn't that bad. And I am glad there ar ...more
Dec 22, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Life is sad. Here is someone."--Anagrams

This is Moore's first novel and the tone often feels overly clever. There are a lot of jokes and high stakes in charisma. The end brought everything home, though. The main character's sadness and devastation felt particularly real in the last scenes with her brother. Moore is really talented at capturing loneliness despite the cleverness or as a respite from the cleverness. Looking at her entire career, that's kind of what Lorrie Moore does best, keeping
Apr 27, 2012 anaïs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You know the simultaneous feeling of sad and happy that an airport gives you? That's this book in a nutshell. It reflects the weary while making you laugh harder than you expect to. It's ideal for lovers of language and puns, for those who prefer to deal with words and invent entire worlds in their head than deal with the inevitably disappointing reality of everyday life.
Joan Winnek
Feb 20, 2010 Joan Winnek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I laughed out loud so many times while reading Anagrams that my sister became curious and I had to read passages to her. But in the end it much more than comedy, a deep and moving experience. I am still puzzled by the way the book is structured, but I wouldn't want to lose any part of it, so I guess it worked well.
Emma Bolden
Jun 12, 2012 Emma Bolden rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is both the best and saddest book I've ever read. Actually, I'm not sure why we aren't all spending all of our time reading this book forever. I can't say why because, well, pretty much anything I'd say would be a spoiler, and this book is too good to spoil. Seriously, this book is so good that I might get a Lorrie Moore-themed tattoo.
Aug 07, 2011 Zara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm kind of in love with Lorrie Moore. She is so funny and devastating and her women are weird as hell... which is why they're so wonderful. This is one of those books that makes me hate taking things out of the library because I can't underline all of my favorite lines. I feel kind of wrecked now that it's all over, which I wasn't expecting at all.
Feb 04, 2017 Sally rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A funny and sad book, all at the same time. There are four short stories and one novella, which together make a somewhat postmodernist novel. Benna and Gerard are the main characters, sort of, but in each story they have a different relationship to each other and their characters are someone different, as though in each story, they, and other characters, are anagrams of the stories that went before. There are themes that tie them together as well--music, aerobics, teaching, childlessness--and lo ...more
EB Fitzsimons
Jan 17, 2017 EB Fitzsimons rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: funny
I thought this was terrific. I always find Moore so absolutely funny, but she gets me in the end. She has this way of juxtaposing humor with being very depressing. I liked the short stories at the beginning, too, especially the first from Gerard's point of view. It really affected the novella, having separated realities.
Stephanie Sun
Anagrams is arguably the most adult of Moore’s three novels, although some library systems do not categorize it as a novel at all because its structure is so strange. A character named Gerard and a character named Benna appear in each of the five sections, but their relationship and history is different in each one. The first four sections are each short story length, altogether totaling fifty-nine pages. The last section, “The Nun of That,” at 163 pages, is a novella.

The experiments in form don
Jan 07, 2012 Tfitoby rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Well. It was certainly better than recent Nick Hornby novels. But is that the best thing I can say about my first Laurie Moore experience?

She writes beautiful things, possesses a wonderful turn of phrase, uses the English language to create incredible images BUT I just couldn't relate to this story, didn't find myself absorbed in the multiple potentialities posited by the coming together of these two soul mates and I was left underwhelmed by the narrative.

Many questions have formed in my mind fr
Jul 22, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The three characters in Anagrams arrange and rearrange, shifting and coming together and moving apart, crossing then parting, or moving in parallel without ever meeting at all. The anagram provides the story's structure, but it's also one of the Big (Heavy) Things at the heart of so much of Lorrie Moore's work: how impossible improbable it is for us to understand each other, to be really together and not alone, to be in the same place at the same time when change and movement are so constant. "L ...more
If Margaret Atwood had decided to be just a little more of a bummer, she could have been Lorrie Moore, and she might have written Anagrams.

It was a good book. I liked the play on narrative structure, going from each different incarnation of Benna, Gerald, and Eleanor. It was something that only someone as skilled at short story writing as Moore could have really pulled off and made feel cohesive.

Not that anything is really accomplished in the end or even happens. It is a study with a fine toot
Dec 24, 2014 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been following Lorrie Moore for 25 years at least. Her collection, Like Life was on my MFA exams. It was such an important book to me, in fact, that I ended up inexplicably trashing it. A month or so ago, I slid Anagrams (a novel Moore published when I was an undergrad) from my bookshelf during a recent kind of brutal life period. Moore's story of Benna Carpenter is a typical Moore story--a single woman, neurotic about aging and wryly self-deprecating, her perpetual aloneness punctuated wit ...more
Dane Haiken
This is an innovative and exciting way to tell a story, or more specifically a series of short stories: by creating anagrams out of the same two people's lives, Lorrie Moore tinkers with all the possible ways a relationship, career, and life trajectory can play out, through tones of disappointment, longing, happiness, or boredom - all presented in the same vessels that are Benna and Gerard. Plus, it's all delivered in Moore's prose, which is possibly the best prose out there. The only problem is ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
theme 1 4 Apr 28, 2015 02:28PM  
  • Asphodel
  • Reasons to Live
  • The End of the Story
  • A Day Off
  • Honored Guest
  • S.
  • Everything You Need
  • The Birds Fall Down
  • Through the Safety Net: Stories
  • Creatures of Habit
  • Chilly Scenes of Winter
  • Instant Love: Fiction
  • Desperate Characters
  • Back
  • Amateurs
  • The Golden Spur
  • Red Doc>
  • Nowhere Man
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
More about Lorrie Moore...

Share This Book

“All the world's a stage we're going through.” 1112 likes
“I count too heavily on birthdays, though I know I shouldn't. Inevitably I begin to assess my life by them, figure out how I'm doing by how many people remember; it's like the old fantasy of attending your own funeral: You get to see who your friends are, get to see who shows up. ” 101 likes
More quotes…