Lisa Moore’s Something for Everyone (2018)

One remarkable feature of Lisa Moore’s short story writing is her versatility.

Sometimes her vocabulary is elevated (consider: koan, ferric, sculpin, recalcitrant, scabrous, and histrionic).

Sometimes her subject matter is banal.

With characters chewing their fish and chips on Signal Hill with their mouths full. (“Skywalk”, the final work in the collection, a novella.)

Or taking time to explain how they unload a dishwasher:

“A marriage is this: My husband likes the glasses with the glasses, the cups with the cups. Every morning I unload the dishwasher and put the cups and the glasses together. He comes down and moves the cups.” (“Visitation”)

Her narratives might be action-packed.

With a woman who “just made it to the toilet and what happened there was so violent she knocked her contact lens out”. (“The Fjord of Eternity”)

Other times the narrative is quiet and the momentum is rooted in characterization, the psychological action far more significant:

“The dog, wanting to get in, would paw the glass of the back door. That sound broke through her deafness. Made her come back into her own skin.” (“Skywalk”)

Bleak and grim experiences (whether the fire at the Bay de Verde fish plant or an older woman’s dental crisis) are not leavened with humour. But there is a simmering appreciation of irony which affords readers the chance to catch a breath:

“One side of her face has blown up like a balloon and she is in her seventies and she has, she says, her looks to consider.” (“Lighting Up the Dark”)

(Many of the similes are simple, like this one, but a mutt, “mottled like an old mirror”, ice in a glass “like a rattlesnake” and heat “like cotton batting”? They work.)

Speaking of which, it’s clear that Lisa Moore has spent some substantial time around librarians:

“On the last day of the conference, after the last panel and the closing remarks, twenty thousand librarians pour out of the conference centre, fighting over the cabs outside.” (“The Vipers Revenge”)

For every moose carcass and skinned rabbit, there is a lemon loaf dusted with icing sugar and a needlepoint Santa Claus.

And both the structure and the tone of a story may be altered to reflect the theme, which is one of the reasons “The Challenges and Rewards of Re-entering the Workforce” is such an effective piece.

There are lists “up all over the building so you had to look and see who’d bump you. Or whom you were going to bump” so, in the story, one character bumps into another, shifts the scene, and alters the perspective on what fills our everyday lives.

The sensory detail always adds to a reader’s appreciation of the story, but in a work like “Marconi”, this is the hinge upon which the story swings, for here the detail is overwhelmingly concerned with the other senses and rooted in the visceral, in the quotidian (from “slime-slotted” hacking coughs to a skinned rabbit’s “scrawny purple body webbed all over with skeins of yellow fat”), all in anticipation of the central act of hearing and listening and transmitting and receiving and, well, something nearly-magical.

Lisa Moore’s stories have consistently drawn a variety of readers and her collection Open was nominated for the Giller Prize: Something for Everyone is exceptional and guaranteed to please both new and returning readers.

Contents: A Beautiful Flare, Visitation, The Fjord of Eternity, Marconi, Guard of What, Lovers with the Intensity I’m Talking About, The Challenges and Rewards of Re-entering the Workforce, The Vipers Revenge, Lighting Up the Dark, Skywalk

Edited October 2018: I read this collection/book before it was selected for the 2018 Giller Prize longlist by the jury comprised of Kamal Al-Solaylee, Maxine Bailey, John Freeman, Philip Hensher and Heather O’Neill. Now I am tagging the post as part of my reading for the shadow jury – with Alison and Kim and Naomi – for the 2018 Giller Prize.

2018-10-17T12:33:54+00:00

12 Comments

  1. annelogan17 September 25, 2018 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    This review made me so excited to read this collection-I’ve got it on my shelf right now but I’m knee deep in my wordfest reading-soon!!!

    • Buried In Print September 26, 2018 at 7:10 am - Reply

      The equivalent in these parts is IFOA, the International Festival of Authors, now TIFA (Toronto International Festival of Authors) and I have been woefully neglecting my reading for the event while dealing with seasonal allergies and a couple of library duedates, but I’ve got to get focussed.

  2. Naomi September 25, 2018 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    You forgot to mention that this book is on the Giller longlist! (or was it deliberate?)

    I’ve read the first three stories so far. It’s nice to be able to put it down to read a couple of library books, but I will get back to it. I loved reading the quotes as you shared them on Twitter. The violent event at the toilet made me laugh, even though it’s not funny. It’s the surprise of the sentence even being there at all, I think.

    • Buried In Print September 26, 2018 at 6:59 am - Reply

      I was drafting the post while I was finishing some rereads in the collection, and after it was included on the longlist I thought I would go back and add a sidebar to the draft – my usual Giller-bility paragraph – but, then, forgot. Thanks for the reminder: I’ll remedy that. I think I did tag it that way, which is not at all helpful, but part of my brain was paying attention at some point.

      And, yes, that’s it exactly! I did too! And you’re quite right: you just don’t expect the sentence. Which, I suppose, is a smaller version of the change-the-structure-to-suit-the-story technique, because who really exPECTS to have THAT happen to them. Beyond the theoretical possibility, throwing up is never (disorders aside) something you plan on. Looking forward to chatting more about the stories as you read along.

  3. Debbie Rodgers @Exurbanis September 25, 2018 at 11:45 am - Reply

    I love Lisa Moore – I’ve read Alligator, February and Flannery and so enjoyed them all. This has to go very near the top of my TBR!

    “For every moose carcass and skinned rabbit, there is a lemon loaf dusted with icing sugar and a needlepoint Santa Claus.” But isn’t that Newfoundland itself? I think she captures it so well.

    • Buried In Print September 26, 2018 at 6:54 am - Reply

      I’m so glad you mentioned that, Debbie: yes, very Newfoundland indeed. And I am a committed Lisa Moore reader too, although I never posted about February here (I’d love to reread it though – and maybe when I’m less concerned about the plot – it was SUCH an engrossing story – I’ll be able to take some notes along the way). Thoughts on Alligator and Flannery here. Also, Caught. Now that I think about it, I guess I’ve read them all, so I should be adding her to my MustReadEverything shelf.

  4. Rebecca Foster September 25, 2018 at 5:30 am - Reply

    Sounds like there really is ‘something for everyone’ here! 🙂 I loved February and also enjoyed Caught, but was less fond of her story collection Open. I would certainly be willing to give this one a try, though.

  5. heavenali September 24, 2018 at 10:47 am - Reply

    I can tell just from the quotes you have used that I would probably really like this short story writer. I was excited for a second because I thought I had a book by her too – then realised the one I have is by Lorrie Moore (also stories)

    • Buried In Print September 24, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      I’m glad it was enough of a sample for you to believe that you would enjoy her. And, if you have enjoyed Lorrie Moore, then I think you’re quite right, this would be a great match. If you come across her novel February, I think you would like that as well.

  6. A Life in Books September 24, 2018 at 7:23 am - Reply

    What a lovely taster for this collection! I particularly like the dishwasher quote.

    • Buried In Print September 24, 2018 at 9:27 am - Reply

      Thanks, Susan. That’s one of my favourites too! And it’s easier to agree on kitchen matters, I think: hearth and home and all that.

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