By Janet Somerville
The candlelit tables in the Brigantine Room, surrounded by hundreds of Lorrie Moore acolytes, had the full-to-bursting space abuzz as Moore read a story from her new collection Bark. Before her reading Moore said, “I always feel so scolding. Feel free to take cell phone calls as I read from ‘Thank You For Having Me,’ which is how I feel about being here.” The audience was rapt in between the swells of laughter in response to lines including: “What a good idea to have the look of Big Pharma at your wedding;” “He would rather look startled and insane than 56;” and “’Marriage is one long conversation,’ wrote Robert Louis Stevenson. Of course, he died when he was 44, so he had no idea how long the conversation could really be.” Great, right?
Moore’s reading was followed by a conversation with The Globe and Mail arts editor, Jared Bland. About her process, Moore said, “Stories begin for me with an interest in a particular feeling or a situation, and, with luck, the story has preserved them. People think writing is about words. But, it begins with a feeling and you’re trying to find the language and dramatic circumstances that will express it.” When asked her if writing was cathartic for her, Moore responded, “I don’t believe in catharsis. It’s cheap and temporary and not a fiction writer’s business. I want people to be in possession of a feeling.” I had never thought about catharsis in that way until Moore articulated it. On finding and using humour in her work, Moore explained, “It’s a great leap of trust to assume that someone else will find it funny and you never really know if the audience does. They could be drunk.”
What I didn’t know about Moore until last night was that she’s as much a fan of The Wire as I am. It is, after all, the best narrative television ever made. Yet, when asked if she’d ever consider writing for TV, Moore was firm: “I don’t have any desire to write for television because it’s collaborative and you don’t get to control everything.”
After the onstage conversation, Moore patiently signed copies of her books for many delighted readers. There’s such a warmth and light that shines from Lorrie Moore. Those of us lucky enough to hear her on her only Canadian stop on the Bark tour basked in her radiance.
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