MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Writer Lorrie Moore is known for her clever word play and incisive wit. Now, she's out with a new collection of short stories, her first in 16 years. It's called "Bark." Alan Cheuse has our review.
ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Maybe I was so dazzled by the brilliance and power of the two longest stories in this collection that I couldn't read the other pieces, which I found a little off-kilter or too subtly played, without feeling a certain amount of loss. But these two long stories, they show off a true advance of Lorrie Moore's powers and offers some first-rate reading pleasure.
In "Debarking," the over 40-page long lead story, it takes only a page or two before Moore has begun to strip clean an ordinary Midwestern, recently divorced Jewish guy named Ira. By the time the story is over, he's just about stripped to his core, alone in a crowd at a local bar barking, barking, barking until someone among the boozers wants to slap him down.
In the near-novella length piece called "Wings," we get a bravura performance, this time with a woman at the center, KC, as she's known, the female singer in a not very successful musical duo. The other performer being a loutish, not very terrific musician, a moocher named Dench with whom she's been living for a long time, too long. KC is turning slowly to face the recognitions of middle age, something not easy for her to gaze upon. The gardenia in her throat, Lorrie Moore writes, the flower that was her singing voice, its brown wilt would have to be painstakingly slowed through the years, had already begun its rapid degeneration into simple crocus. She'd been given something perfect, youth, and done imperfect things with it.
This one shows us the writer putting her sly satirical trademark style to one side. It packs a real punch. The rest of the shorter pieces in this collection, as good as they are, wilt by comparison.
BLOCK: The new collection of short stories from Lorrie Moore is titled the "Bark." Alan Cheuse had our review. His next story collection out in April is called "An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.