Review:Bark by Lorrie Moore

Bark by Lorrie Moore

I started Lorrie Moore’s new short story collection Bark after finishing half of Ann Enright’s “The Portable Virgin” and feeling a bit perplexed and not loved up towards that particular collection. I am hoping that The Portable Virgin is something I will come back to.

Now, I needed a short story that suited my reading style and taste. Entertaining, with funky characters and situations with endings that makes you miss the story and the people in it.

Lorrie Moore is an American fiction writers best known for her short stories. Nuala Ni Chonchuir originally alerted me to her, on the Arena programme on RTE Radio 1. I actually would agree with her review and opinion of the collection but please, read on!

Debarking is the first and strongest story of the collection.¬† A lovely, ¬†long short story, which I do enjoy most. In this story, we see Ira, a newly divorced man coping with the stresses of dating after a marriage breakup. I use the word “stresses” in a tongue in cheek way as this story is brilliantly witty and shrewd, most time it is simply comical. Ira starts to date a “mentally challenged” women called Zora who had a teenage son who she seems to be almost having a relationship with. Ira is an observer to all of this madness and he goes along with it all as Zora is quite the hot looking woman.

The details that Moore includes within her character are excellent. The characters of Ira and Zora are thought out, living and breathing and this is what adds to the entertainment of it all. The story ends with what seems to be a recurring theme of the intrusion of television in the characters lives. The invasion of Iraq featuring heavily throughout. This story was my introduction to the world of Lorrie Moore and I found myself very excited about reading the reminder of her stories.

My other favourite was “Referential”. A sad, raw story about a mother and her mentally ill son. Of course, there is the added hassle of the mother having an unconnected boyfriend thrown into the mix. We can see that there is a growing separation between the mother and the boyfriend of ten years. The mother is seeing it too and that’s the sad thing. You can read this story online for free at

The remainder of the collection write almost exclusively about relationships but especially about couples who are divorced, having marriage troubles or illnesses/ struggles in long term relationships. The characters therefore were of a different time and age to me so it was hard to relate. If you take this collection as an amusing observation on love and its complexities, you will do well with it. Many critics have said that Bark was too short with only 8 stories. But, I was quite satisfied as after reading through the collection, Moore’s style and content remain the same no matter what. For me, to carry on reading another 10, I may have became restless. I did enjoy the way she looks at life and the quirks within but the subject matter and characters were alien to me, at times.

Bark by Lorrie Moore is published by Random House publications at

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