Eclectic tales of humanity
Lisa Moore’s short stories spin a journey through the senses
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.