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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  3,828 ratings  ·  425 reviews
Disillusioned and loveless, a chain-smoking art history professor who spends her spare time singing in nightclubs and tending to her young daughter finds herself pursued by an erratic, would-be librettist.
Paperback, 228 pages
Published August 31st 1997 by Warner Books (NY) (first published 1986)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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 ·  3,828 ratings  ·  425 reviews

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K.D. Absolutely
Jun 01, 2010 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
Erika Jo
Apr 07, 2008 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
Glenn Sumi
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, abandoned
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 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 28, 2010 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
Sep 08, 2008 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 rated it it was amazing
"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 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
Oct 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 08, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Joan Winnek
Feb 20, 2010 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.
Kirk Johnson
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not only does Moore have the rare talent of being able to pull off a long series of puns with panache and grace, but she's pulled off a structural coup that has crushed my heart. This book, a blend of impeccable comic timing and sadness that loops back and references itself repeatedly, and a net of repeated phrases that build on themselves Vonnegut-style, merits a one-sitting read to catch all the nuances.
May 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There are many funny bits in this comic multi-plot relationship diatribe, but make no mistake. This is a confusing read unless someone tells you what to expect...
a do it yourself construction/deconstruction. Perhaps this would work better reading it with a group? I couldn't like it as a novel. I would include some of the funnier lines, but then it could mislead.
Apr 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lorrie Moore’s Anagrams is nothing short of a masterpiece––the perfect book to save me from of a recent string of novels that didn’t cut the mustard. A befitting analysis would require a high degree of literary scrutiny, something I am probably too many years removed from my college days to muster. But I will trot out what I can.

As one might expect from the title, Anagrams is a hard book to pin down. In its simplest form, it is a novel about love and loss, and how those things are just as much i
Stephanie Sun
Nov 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: dead-tree, reagan
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
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 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
Emi Bevacqua
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, humor
Lorrie Moore is a rollicking genius, of lightning quick and quirky brilliance; but reading Anagrams is exhausting, just trying to keep up or follow. I've never read a book like this before, I can't tell if it's a non-linear novel or a series of similar short stories based on the same 3 main characters: Benna, a performer or poet or professor in her early 30s; Gerard her slightly younger musical friend or lover; and their mutual friend and co-triangulator Eleanor. All three of them quip at a Will ...more
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Emma Bolden
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Life is sad. Here is someone.”
Dec 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
An entertaining, humorous, clever word play, sad novel about relationships and loneliness. The first four short stories are different lives of Benna. Benna is a nightclub singer in one story, an unemployed aerobic instructor in another and an art history professor in yet another story. In the fifth story (of novella length), Benna is a literature/poetry teacher at a college. It is in this story that her relationship with her friend Gerard is developed. We learn about Benna who is in her mid 30s. ...more
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Weird, sharp, funny, and totally improbable--this novel is my fifth Moore, and though I've jumped all around her timeline her voice and style are strong and consistent.
At first I was a bit confused about the different lives Benna makes up for herself, about the line between imagination and reality, but I realized that's probably where I was meant to rest: right on the line. I'll admit that I think she's a lot stronger overall in short stories and that's probably why this novel feels like a coll
Feb 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
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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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