Saturday, January 1, 2011

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

I never was much of a short story person until I came across "Birds of America" by Lorrie Moore several years back and now I love short stories. I re-read "Birds of America" annually and got it down today and decided to share a few of my favorite quotes. This passage from the story "Terrific Mother" cracks me up every time I read it:

"You're not a poetess, I hope," said the English geologist next to her. "We had a poetess here last month, and things got a bit dodgy here for the rest of us."

"Really." After the soup, there was risotto with squid ink.

"Yes. She kept referring to insects as 'God's typos' and then she kept us all after dinner one evening so she could read from her poems, which seemed to consist primarily of the repeating line, 'the hairy kiwi of his balls.'

Ms. Moore converted me lock, stock and barrel with the story, "Four Calling Birds, Three French Hens" in which Aileen's cat, Bert, dies and she can't seem to get over it and seeks psychiatric help. The story begins,

"When the cat died on Veteran's Day, his ashes then packed into a cheesy pink-posied tin and placed high upon the mantel, the house seemed lonely and Aileen began to drink..."

She muses: "She had already---carefully, obediently---stepped through all the stages of bereavement: anger, denial, bargaining, Haagen-Dazs, rage. Anger to rage---who said she wasn't making progress? She made a fist but hid it."...

Her husband suggests that she see someone, so she searches the phone book for a psychiatrist:

"She got recommendations, made lists and appointments, conducted interviews...."I have a death of a pet situation," she said. "How long does it take for you to do those?"

"I beg your pardon."

"How long will it take you to get me over the death of my cat, and how much do you charge for it?"

Each of the psychiatrists, in turn, with their slightly different outfits, and slightly different potted plants, looked shocked.

"Look," Aileen said. "Forget Prozac. Forget Freud's abandonment of the seduction theory. Forget Jeffrey Masson---or is it Jackie Mason? The only thing that's going to revolutionize this profession is Bidding the Job!"

She does manage to find a psychotherapist who guarantees to have her 'cured' by Christmas or the last visit is free. What a story! My own cat of 20 years had just died when I read this and still I laughed my ass off at her sharp wit. I can't even recall how many times I've read this book. Ms. Moore's imagination and lyrical prose is amazing.

My Beloved Ramone, my very own 'Bert', may he rest in peace in Cat Heaven.

And a Happy New Year's Day! I'm cooking my black-eyed peas and cabbage, an annual tradition here in the deep South. The peas are for luck and the cabbage for financial success in the coming year.




Woman in a Window said...

The book sounds like a winner, Marion. I was captivated by just the bits you included here. Think I'm going to the library to search it out. Seems I can't read novels anymore. I've given up. Poetry, I can manage. Perhaps a short story?

Happy New Years to you!

love erin

Kelly said...

Awww... I like the photo.

I don't read short stories often, but always enjoy them when I do.

No cabbage (that's for St. Patty's Day around my house), but we had our black-eyed peas!

Hope your new year is off to a good start!

Wine and Words said...

"the hairy kiwi of his balls"? :) Several passages captured had me grinnin'. Thanks Marion. I really need to read more.

Love you

quid said...

A lovely post to start the new year! I loved the story. I'm so sorry about Ramone, Marion. What a good life he led!