Each of Lorrie Moore’s short stories in Bark is a perfect encapsulation of a time and place, as each character struggles to orient themselves to the changing world around them. Each story reads like a meditation, roaming purposefully over the ups and downs of each brief slice of life, turning over ordinary moments for inspection like precious jewels.
The lives of the inhabitants of each story cannot be described as happy, but Moore’s acerbic observations and self-depreciating inner monologues keep the stories from dipping from meditative to bleak.
We’re used to the story of young characters searching for themselves and their place in the world, but Moore’s characters are in their middle-years and onto a different sort of challenge. They’ve already defined themselves and are now facing a different discomfort as the world continues to barrel ahead, irreverent to the individual’s personal history, changing in sometimes alarming and disheartening ways.
The closest thing to a title story is “Debarking,” a story about a recently divorced man who is dating a woman he’s frightened of at times but can’t bring himself to give up, against the backdrop of his post-divorce loneliness and unease about the 2003 bombings in Iraq.
In “Wings,” singer KC’s band has fizzled, and she and her boyfriend/previous bandmate, Dench, are subletting in an idyllic town as they try to figure out what to do next. KC takes daily walks to the coffee shop and begins to befriend an elderly man on the next block. KC struggles to define her motivations in befriending the wealthy, lonely man, while trying to piece together some understanding of Dench and their drifting relationship: “She had given up trying to determine his facetiousness level. She suspected it was all just habit and his true intent was unknown even to himself."