Lori's Reviews > Birds of America

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
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Jun 08, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: short-stories, absolute-favorites
Read from June 05 to 08, 2012

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. I really love this book and am glad I finally read Lorrie Moore; I'd resisted for too long for the stupidest reason imaginable (she spells her name differently than I do....see?). Finally I quit being stupid, and I'm so glad I did. READ THESE STORIES!!

Some of my favorite bits:

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 seam, lived with the same, lived with all that mixed-up nature swirling inside, every bit. There was nothing as complex in the world—no flower or stone—as a single hello from a human being.

Her mother was always searching for country music, songs with the words devil woman. She loved those.

In an attempt at extroversion, she had worn a tunic with large slices of watermelon depicted on the front. What had she been thinking of?

Through college she had been a feminist—basically: she shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say.
He had never acquired the look of maturity anchored in sorrow that burnished so many men’s faces. His own sadness in life—a childhood of beatings, a dying mother—was like quicksand, and he had to stay away from it entirely. He permitted no unhappy memories spoken aloud. He stuck with the same mild cheerfulness he’d honed successfully as a boy.

Mack has moved so much in his life that every phone number he comes across seems to him to be one he’s had before. “I swear this used to be my number,” he says, putting the car into park and pointing at the guidebook: 923-7368. The built-in cadence of a phone number always hits him the same personal way: like something familiar but lost, something momentous yet insignificant.

“I would be a genius now,” Quilty has said three times already, “if only I’d memorized Shakespeare instead of Lulu.” “If only,” says Mack. Mack himself would be a genius now if only he had been born a completely different person. But what could you do? He’d read in a magazine once that geniuses were born only to women over thirty; his own mother had been twenty-nine. Damn! So fucking close!

Quilty grimaces. “I don’t like what comes after ‘dicker.’” “What is that?” Quilty sighs. “Dickest. I mean, really: it’s not a contest!”

In general, people were not road maps. People were not hieroglyphs or books. They were not stories.

A person was a collection of accidents. A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath.

At all the funerals for love, love had its neat trick of making you mourn it so much, it reappeared. Popped right up from the casket.

Marriage, she felt, was a fine arrangement generally, except that one never got it generally. One got it very, very specifically.

The quarry was a spot that Terence had recommended as “a beautiful seclusion, a rodent Eden, a hillside of oaks above a running brook.” Such poetry: probably he’d gotten laid there once. Talk about your rodent Eden! In actuality, the place was a depressing little gravel gully, with a trickle of brown water running through it, a tiny crew of scrub oaks manning the nearby incline. It was the kind of place where the squirrel mafia would have dumped their offed squirrels.
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Quotes Lori Liked

Lorrie Moore
“in an attempt at extroversion, she had worn a tunic with large slices of watermelon depicted on the front. What had she been thinking of?”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America

Lorrie Moore
“Through college she had been a feminist—basically: she shaved her legs, but just not often enough, she liked to say.”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America

Lorrie Moore
“I would be a genius now,” Quilty has said three times already, “if only I’d memorized Shakespeare instead of Lulu.” “If only,” says Mack. Mack himself would be a genius now if only he had been born a completely different person. But what could you do? He’d read in a magazine once that geniuses were born only to women over thirty; his own mother had been twenty-nine. Damn! So fucking close!”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America
tags: genius

Lorrie Moore
“Quilty grimaces. “I don’t like what comes after ‘dicker.’ ” “What is that?” Quilty sighs. “Dickest. I mean, really: it’s not a contest!”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America
tags: dick

Lorrie Moore
“Marriage, she felt, was a fine arrangement generally, except that one never got it generally. One got it very, very specifically.”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America

Lorrie Moore
“In general, people were not road maps. People were not hieroglyphs or books. They were not stories. A person was a collection of accidents. A person was an infinite pile of rocks with things growing underneath.”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America

Lorrie Moore
“How can it be described? How can any of it be described? The trip and the story of the trip are always two different things. The narrator is the one who has stayed home, but then, afterward, presses her mouth upon the traveler’s mouth, in order to make the mouth work, to make the mouth say, say, say. One cannot go to a place and speak of it; one cannot both see and say, not really. One can go, and upon returning make a lot of hand motions and indications with the arms. The mouth itself, working at the speed of light, at the eye’s instructions, is necessarily struck still; so fast, so much to report, it hangs open and dumb as a gutted bell. All that unsayable life! That’s where the narrator comes in. The narrator comes with her kisses and mimicry and tidying up. The narrator comes and makes a slow, fake song of the mouth’s eager devastation.”
Lorrie Moore, Birds of America
tags: life, story


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