Daniel D'Addario of Salon reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
Here's the problem with having a lot of loyal fans: they're going to compare your new work endlessly to what came before.
"Bark" is Lorrie Moore's fourth story collection, and her first since 1998, but the author, who's well-known for her way with a pun, gives in to political anger in her new collection. It's the book we'll refer back to in 50 years to understand what life was like in the 2000s.
"Bark" is political and visceral. The first story, "Debarking," sets the tone, setting a man's attempt to rebuild his life in an ill-fated relationship against the run-up to the Iraq War. The military buildup is surreal and dystopian. It feels exactly like 2003, a deeply unpleasant memory I'd thought we all agreed to suppress.
But "Bark" isn't unpleasant. In fact, it's invigorating to read, a welcome reminder that the recent past isn't past at all. Characters are re-adjusting to adult disappointments, and to life in a militarized America. In "Paper Losses," she introduces a couple who've moved on from love in the nebulously defined "peace movement" toward a rebuke of their past: "Now they wanted to kill each other. They had become, also, a little pro-nuke." There’s no such thing as neutrality in Moore's America: You're a pacifist, or you want to blow everything up.
The scorched-earth mentality sometimes falls flat. The book's weakest story features a 9/11 victim lecturing other characters about Barack Obama's birth certificate, a reminder of the recent past that serves little real purpose. But with a book as well-done as "Bark," I was willing to take the less-good with the great.
The timeline of Moore's career has coincided with her aging into a period of national uncertainty, and that's one of the only things about the 2000s about which we can unequivocally feel glad.
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