Eclec­tic tales of hu­man­ity

Lisa Moore’s short sto­ries spin a jour­ney through the senses

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - BOOKS - Joan Sul­li­van Joan Sul­li­van is ed­i­tor of New­found­land Quar­terly mag­a­zine. She re­views both fic­tion and non-fic­tion for The Tele­gram.

Some­thing for Ev­ery­one Short Sto­ries by Lisa Moore House of Anansi Press $22.95 302 pages

There are 10 sto­ries in Lisa Moore’s fourth col­lec­tion of short fic­tion, rang­ing in length from 10 pages to a five-part near-novella. As the ti­tle im­plies, there is some­thing for ev­ery­one — love, loss, vi­sions, mem­ory, age, youth, Mar­coni (in the only non-con­tem­po­rary time pe­riod), Santa Claus (oc­cu­py­ing his own time and space), buck­ets of salt beef, loaves of home­made bread. This catholic eclec­ti­cism is re-en­forced by the swirling, phan­tas­magoric cover de­sign, leap­ing fish and pin-up legs and car head­light beams.

Most re­views of Moore’s work note her sen­su­al­ity, erotic threads spin­ning the most quo­tid­ian and do­mes­tic of scenes in a sul­try web. Not that she writes pri­mar­ily about sex­ual de­sire, although that is al­most al­ways a through-line, be­cause it is so cen­trally hu­man. The volup­tuous­ness lies in her at­ten­tion to sen­sa­tion, the par­tic­u­lar­ity of how some­thing felt, what it evoked, and the way the very sounds are tac­tile.

For ex­am­ple, this is how Marty re­mem­bers how his “grand­mother used to press his shirts for him and re­turn them in a neat stack with a sheaf of white tis­sue pa­per folded around each shirt. She made lemon roll dusted with ic­ing sugar ev­ery Sun­day and the smell of it when he walked in all through the house. She was pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of oceanog­ra­phy at Me­mo­rial Univer­sity, spe­cial­iz­ing in the re­pro­duc­tive cy­cles of sea cu­cum­bers” — an il­lus­tra­tion of the tan­gi­ble crafts­man-like build­ing blocks of Moore’s prose.

Marty is one of a trio of char­ac­ters in “A Beau­ti­ful Flare,” set in a mall out­let of The Shoe Em­po­rium. The oth­ers are Cathy, the man­ager, and Steve, for­merly of the Fort Mac backand-forth of em­ploy­ment, who are head-to-head in a con­test for top sales, the award be­ing tick­ets to “Kinky Boots.” “Steve is serv­ing two women at the same time, and tilts his chin up at a third woman. With the tilt of his shovel chin Steve is say­ing: I’m com­ing for you, girl­friend, hang tight, love of god. Cathy is stuck with a mother and three sugar-blitzed young­sters, the youngest of whom is headed for a full-on im­plo­sion be­cause she wants shoes with blink­ing lights in the heel which are not one of the brands where you buy one get the sec­ond one half price.”

There are three sep­a­rate sce­nar­ios un­fold­ing, all beau­ti­fully paced and deftly re­al­ized. Con­sider the time Moore takes with one of the shoe store’s tools of trade: “The new heat­sens­ing Bran­nock foot mea­surer came with the spring ship­ment and Steve was the first to embrace the tech­nol­ogy. The old foot mea­surer has slid­ing parts that cup the ball of the foot and the top of the toes. The mea­sure­ments are in the grooves that run down the side, like on the foot mea­sur­ers of yore. The new Bran­nock in­tro­duces the first in­no­va­tion to the orig­i­nal de­sign since 1928, when the de­vice was first in­vented; the metal has been fit­ted with a magic, foot­printshaped in­lay.”

This ex­act and visual writ­ing is a Moore sig­na­ture (as is her word pre­ci­sion: “trans­mo­grify”; “nog­gin”). Here’s what a mar­riage is, in “Vis­i­ta­tion”: “We are: Daily walks along Duck­worth Street in the late af­ter­noon to­gether; oc­ca­sion­ally, change for the home­less of down­town St. Johns, mostly kids with dogs, sleep­ing bags draped over their shoul­ders and card­board signs that say they’re try­ing to get home; lat­tes from Fixed … We are the dog let loose in the Angli­can Cathe­dral on the way back home, rip­pling through the chest-high snow at dusk … We are roast chicken din­ners with chicken sea­son­ing that we bang out of a tin can with the flat of our hands.”

Most re­views of (Lisa) Moore’s work note her sen­su­al­ity, erotic threads spin­ning the most quo­tid­ian and do­mes­tic of scenes in a sul­try web.

Aside from the his­tor­i­cal and fan­tas­tic Mar­coni and Claus, most of Moore’s char­ac­ters live in the here-and-now, of­ten in down­town St. John’s, and strug­gle with the or­di­nary, which is not to say not en­gross­ing, hu­man dis­tresses of lone­li­ness, try­ing to make end meets, or sim­ply find­ing de­cent apart­ments. The fi­nal work, “Sky­walk,” is an in­ter­link­ing se­ries, or cy­cle, of en­counter and episode. Chelsea, a MUN stu­dent from Grand Falls who is afraid to use the Sky­walk be­cause of re­cent re­ports of rapes, meets David, wait­ing out­side Bit­ters to buy an iphone from some no-show dude named Clancy. Over the fol­low­ing pages their lives will en­twine and disen­tan­gle, as Chelsea sell cos­met­ics and stud­ies nurs­ing and ne­go­ti­ates some no­to­ri­ous neigh­bour­hoods and David par­ties in a field and loses his phone and also his watch they both worry about their mothers. Their jour­neys are full of events — and kind­ness. Moore’s char­ac­ters are in­ter­ested in each other. No is­lands here.

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