Moore is a master of the short story and it has been sixteen years since her last short story collection (Birds of America) was published. A lot can happen in sixteen years. In 1998, no one had heard of Barack Obama or Facebook, the economic downturn had not yet taken its toll, and the events of September 11, 2001 could hardly have been imagined.
The stories in Bark, which have appeared individually in various magazines and are now collected into a whole, show just how much the world has changed. In “Subject to Search,” you will find allusions to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. “Foes” revolves around the polarizing politics of 21st century America. In “Thank You for Having Me,” a character, saddened by the death of Michael Jackson says, “I tried to think positively. ‘Well, at least Whitney Houston didn’t die,’ I said to someone on the the phone.” And yet, those concrete examples of the date and time, or the passage of time as it were, are only part of the issue. Lorrie Moore’s wonderfully-written dialogue simply wouldn’t sound right in a story from another time. There is something intangible yet undeniably effective in the way Moore portrays us.
It is us, after all, that she’s writing about. We’re there, in her words. Her characters struggle through dating after divorce, marriage before divorce, and parenting alone. One of my favorite stories in the collection is “Wings,” which speaks so much to the discrimination one generation uses on another and the undesired aimlessness of modern youth.
As I said to start, Lorrie Moore is my favorite writer. At least once in every story, I’ll come to a line that makes me stop and read it again over and over. Bark is another master work by one of America’s greatest living writers.