Reviewing the Reviewer - Lorrie Moore
So Moore’s autobiography elides with her review of Welty’s life story. Sweetly we watch her approach Welty’s house for a snapshot, unwilling to knock on the door as locals say she should. Locals say Welty is welcoming to all, but ‘I knew that no writer in her writer’s heart welcomes impromptu visits from writers she doesn’t know.’
In such a way Moore’s very opening paragraph announces that she has the inside scoop on being a writer. Later we hear how ‘Having as a young writer befriended two literary grande dames (Katherine Ann Porter and Bowen) she gamely stepped forward when her time came.’ So having entwined her own young life with Welty’s, she gamely acknowledges the responsibilities that are set to ensue.
Lorrie Moore had name recognition with me before this, but I had never read her. Now I shall make sure to, for the one clearest way in which I see her stepping into the lineage of welt & Co. is the very fine way in which she writes. Observations stand out as true. Sentences stand out as clean and lucid.
The biographer Suzanne Marrs claims that an early fictional character of Welty’s is “aka Eudora” … ‘as if a fictional character were an alias, or someone the author is doing business as,’ Moore remarks. ‘Oh, well: it is a hazard of literary biography that few have avoided. Still, the phrase “aka Eudora,” it seems to me, sets a new rhetorical standard for refusing even to try.’
Here’s a crisp one-liner. ‘Welty seemed to love any populated room that did not have Carson McCullers in it.’
Her literary observations are clear-eyed, affectionate and unsentimental. Welty ‘will be remembered for a handful of writings—which is really all any writer, even a great one, can hope for.’ [On this point, I myself wonder sometimes if writers might be awarded grants on condition they limit themselves to the production of five books.]
Lorrie Moore delivers a splendid punchline to her piece. ‘Literary biography is like detective fiction for those who don’t need suspense.’
So I look forward to a book of Moore’s stories. In the meantime she has prompted me to take Eudora Welty’s ‘Why I Live at the P.O.’ down off the shelf here in France—a success by any reviewer’s standard.