As any true short story junkie knows, you cannot go wrong with Lorrie Moore. Beginning with her first collection, SELF-HELP (published in 1985), she established herself as a deft musician with words, and she has rarely hit a wrong note. BARK is no exception. From the first story, “Debarking,” which grabs us by the shoulder with “Ira had been divorced six months and still couldn’t get his wedding ring off,” she makes us care about characters who are often—let’s face it—helplessly lost and flailing around, trying to make sense of their lives.
Even her tales of the most mundane dysfunction—broken marriages—sparkle with a humorous sheen. “Paper Losses,” for example, begins: “Although Kit and Rafe had met in the peace movement, making no nukes signs, now they wanted to kill each other. They had become, also, a little pro-nuke.” It could be the start of a Garrison Keillor novel except that the characters become darker and more obsessed with power struggles: “Divorce, she could see, would be like marriage: a power grab, as in who would be the dog and who would be the owner of the dog?”
I read BARK quickly, but it has stayed with me. The sign of a good book.