Summary and book reviews of Bark by Lorrie Moore

Bark

Stories

By Lorrie Moore

Bark
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  • Hardcover: Feb 2014,
    208 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Sharry Wright

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Book Summary

These eight masterly stories reveal Lorrie Moore at her most mature and in a perfect configuration of craft, mind, and bewitched spirit, as she explores the passage of time and summons up its inevitable sorrows and hilarious pitfalls to reveal her own exquisite, singular wisdom.

In "Debarking," a newly divorced man tries to keep his wits about him as the United States prepares to invade Iraq, and against this ominous moment, we see - in all its irresistible wit and darkness - the perils of divorce and what can follow in its wake.

In "Foes," a political argument goes grotesquely awry as the events of 9/11 unexpectedly manifest themselves at a fund-raising dinner in Georgetown ... In "The Juniper Tree," a teacher visited by the ghost of her recently deceased friend is forced to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in a kind of nightmare reunion ... And in "Wings," we watch the inevitable unraveling of two once-hopeful musicians, neither of whom held fast to their dreams nor struck out along other paths, as Moore deftly depicts the intricacies of dead-ends-ville and the workings of regret…

Here are people beset, burdened, buoyed; protected by raising teenage children; dating after divorce; facing the serious illness of a longtime friend; setting forth on a romantic assignation abroad, having it interrupted mid-trip, and coming to understand the larger ramifications and the impossibility of the connection... stories that show people coping with large dislocation in their lives, with risking a new path to answer the desire to be in relation - to someone...

Gimlet-eyed social observation, the public and private absurdities of American life, dramatic irony, and enduring half-cracked love wend their way through each of these narratives in a heartrending mash-up of the tragic and the laugh-out-loud - the hallmark of life in Lorrie-Moore-land.

From "Thank You for Having Me"

The day following Michael Jackson's death, I was constructing my own memorial for him. I played his videos on YouTube and sat in the kitchen at night, with the iPod light at the table's center the only source of illumination. I listened to "Man in the Mirror" and "Ben," my favorite, even if it was about a killer rat. I tried not to think about its being about a rat, as it was also the name of an old beau, who had e-mailed me from Istanbul upon hearing of Jackson's death. Apparently there was no one in Turkey to talk about it with. "When I heard the news of MJackson's death I thought of you," the ex-beau had written, "and that sweet, loose-limbed dance you used to do to one of his up-tempo numbers."

I tried to think positively. "Well, at least Whitney Houston didn't die," I said to someone on the phone. Every minute that ticked by in life contained very little information, until suddenly it contained too much.

"Mom, what are you ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What is the metaphor of the title? How do the epigraphs help to set it up?

  2. The stories share several themes, among them aging and the passage of time, parents and children, divorce and separation. What would you say is the primary theme of the collection?

  3. Several of the story titles have multiple meanings. How does Moore's wordplay keep the reader guessing?

  4. The dialogue in Moore's stories is often funny. Would you call the stories themselves humorous?

  5. Real-life current events cast shadows over several of the stories. How does Moore use them to shape a deeper meaning?

  6. In "Debarking," when Zora tells Ira, "Every family is a family of alligators," (p. 15), how does this foreshadow what's to come?

  7. Ira reads a poem in ...
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Reviews

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The fact that characters can suffer so much and survive with a sense of humor is a lot more reassuring than it might seem. But the real hope lies in the truth of the negative—that the loss of love makes us so miserable, is a reminder that it is love that makes us happy, gives us joy, makes us whole. I would recommend Bark to anyone who enjoys contemporary short stories that plumb the depths of human emotion while giving the reader breathing space to laugh out loud and cope with the ride.   (Reviewed by Sharry Wright).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. There are eight stories in Moore's latest collection, and, like her previous work (Birds of America), these stories are laugh-out-loud funny, as well as full of pithy commentary on contemporary life and politics.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Smart, funny, and overlaid with surprising metaphor, these stories depict absurd situations that are at the same time strikingly familiar. There are no happy endings, but we cannot help laughing. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. One of the best short story writers in America resumes her remarkable balancing act with a collection that is both hilarious and heartbreaking, sometimes in the same paragraph.

Booklist

Starred Review. A major ingredient of Moore’s tales of troubled lives is an abiding humor, which serves to protect her characters, in all their frailties, from grating on the reader as too pathetic.

Reader Reviews
Diane S.

Bark
A wonderful grouping of eight short stories, the first by this author in many years. I liked all of them, I really do not have a favorite, don't think that has happened before. They are all such a mixture of social and political commentary, many with...   Read More

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Take A Book, Leave A Book—The Little Free Library Movement

In Lorrie Moore's story "Wings," the main character K.C. goes for a walk and meets an elderly man building what looks like a little bird feeder at the end of his driveway. He tells her it's a Book Nook, that he's going to put books inside for people to take, like a little library. A little free library.

These Little Free Libraries are part of a grassroots movement started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin. In honor of his mother, who had been a school teacher and loved reading, Todd built the first one in the shape of a one-room school house, filled it with books and put it in his front yard with a sign that read "Free Books." After building several more and giving them away to be put to similar use, he met and partnered with Rick...

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