Lorrie Moore’s 1990 collection of short stories does not disappoint, plus you gotta love any book that starts with an epigraph from Zelda Fitzgerald, “It seemed very sad to see you going off in your new shoes alone.” Her eight stories are tight set pieces, it’s hard to pick a favorite, but maybe You’re Ugly, Too would be at the top: Zoë Hendricks, the American history professor with a possible cancerous lump in her abdomen, visits her sister in Manhattan and stands on the balcony with the man she’s being set up with, newly divorced. He steps on her jokes and tires of him circling back to the theme of Love. “Love? Hadn’t they done this already?” she muses to herself before launching into the story of her famous violinist friend who settles down with a local Indiana boy and then kills herself. It ends with her shoving him from behind, as if she’s going to knock him off the balcony to the street twenty floors below.
Joy was also solid, the story of Jane Konwicki, her cat Fluffy, and her job at a mall cheese shop as the assistant manager. Heffie, her manager, likes to stick her finger into the cheeses and lick it clean; eventually Heffie quits, they drink champagne and eat herring in cream sauce. “‘To our little lives,’ toasted Heffie. ‘On the prairie,’ added Jane… They sang a couple of Christmas carols they both knew, and sang them badly.”