Review number 52, bitches!!! I feel like the dork equivalent of a rock star. I’ve had a really great time reading and reviewing and I think I might just keep it up and try to make it to 100. Surprisingly I’ve learned some valuable lessons from this: don’t read a book about cadavers on the subway unless you want weird looks. Don’t tell your friends or boyfriend that you can’t go out because you’re reading. And most importantly for the rest of you Cannonballers, be VERY careful when people recommend you books. Since January, people have been handing me books that they love and the worst sin you can commit, worse than hating their favorite book, is to think that it’s only eh, ok.
That’s the deal with Anagrams by Lorrie Moore. My friend who recommended it to me called it fantastic, amazing and told me it would pull the rug out from under me. I hope she doesn’t read this review. Anagrams is really a series of short stories and one novella all patched together, short story writer’s equivalent of cheating their way into a novel. The book has an interesting premise and focuses on a woman named Benna. Who exactly is Benna, the 33-year-old poetry teacher (or singer? or aerobics instructor?)? It is hard to say. She hides from us and from herself behind imaginary identities, relationships, and scenarios in which elements of character and action are transposed like the letters of those anagrams she scribbles on napkins. In one section Gerard is her close friend, in another her lover and in another her long-term boyfriend. Sometimes her mother is alive; in another chapter she has been dead for 24 years, sometimes she has a deceased lawyer husband and other times a six-year old daughter.
At the end of the book, I finally thought that I understood Anagrams as a whole. But when I reread chapters after, I found myself just as lost as before. And I like confusing books where it is the reader’s job to puzzle everything together. The problem with the book is a complete lack of transition between stories that leave the reader pistol-whipped. I read an interview with Lorrie Moore where she said that she wrote Anagrams when her publishers were nagging her to write a novel rather than another collection of short stories. Publishers famously prefer novels to short story collections because they are much easier to sell to the major distributors. Anagrams makes a sharp, tight collection of short fiction, and a disjointed, plot-less muddle of a novel which is truly a shame considering Moore’s masterful way with words.