Bark, by Lorrie Moore
Faber & Faber
“Instead I fixed my face into a grin and, ah, for a second, the sun came out to light up the side of the red and spinning barn.” There is a chink of hope in the last line of the last story in Lorrie Moore’s collection. But note the “for a second”. Things rarely go right for long for Moore’s flawed, mostly middle-aged Americans. Which is not to say there are not some funny moments, most particularly in the opening story, Debarking, about a divorced academic’s affair with a slightly deranged paediatrician. The writing is wry and deceptively spare. Moore skewers the tiny gestures, the barely registered emotional shifts, the unworthy thoughts. Other highlights are a rejig of Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove; Referential, about the romantic opt-out of the boyfriend of a woman with a terminally ill son; and the aforementioned final story.