Last night, I went to a reading by Lorrie Moore at Butler University. The venue was changed from the Clowes Hall Krannert Room to the Atherton Union Reilly Room. It was a good thing as the crowd was far bigger than the Krannert Room would have held. Luckily, we got there in plenty of time to get across campus. Originally from upstate New York, Moore now lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is the Delmore Schwartz Professor in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin. She had just recently arrived from Madison after being caught behind a horrible crash.
As is typical at Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series events, the author was introduced by a student from the English department. In this case, it was Chris, and MFA graduate student.
Ms. Moore read an "autumnal" passage from her most recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs, which featured the lead character and her father but no spoilers. There were humorous moments in the passage.
One had to get on with life, out of good manners if nothing else. My dad and I would strike up a random conversation. "Seahorses give birth," I would begin. "But they're male. Why do we even call them male, if they give birth?"
And my dad would be silent, driving, considering. Then he would speak. "Because they insist on it. They don't want what happened to ladybugs to happen to them. These ladybugs have masculinity issues to beat the band!" [p. 304]Ah, awkward and silly conversations with our fathers...
Then she read a story titled "Foes," which has never been published in the United States. It was published in The Guardian on November 1, 2008, just before the election of President Obama. Again, I was struck by the humor in Moore's writing. She seems to mix emotionally difficult subjects with comic moments.
During the question and answer period, Moore talked about her realization that what adults accidentally do to children is a running theme in her work. She also tends to use a sister as her narrator. Moore herself has two brothers and thinks this may have something to do with that choice.
The subject of author rights came up in the context of her name being used as the author of a book blurb on the HBO series In Treatment as well as the proliferation of copyrighted information being "reprinted" on the internet. HBO didn't ask for permission to use her name, and Moore laughingly said she thought she should at least get free HBO out of it.
Following the Q & A, Lorrie Moore signed books. She denied our request to take a picture, so here's a photo of my signed book instead.
Event photo courtesy of Samantha, the Occasional Reader.