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  • NYS Writers Institute

A little Q&A with Lorrie Moore

We checked in with Lorrie Moore, major American fiction writer and daughter of Glens Falls, New York.

Celebrated for her "askew sense of humor" (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times), she is one of the most beloved short story writers at work today.

The Guardian called her "America's first lady of darkness and mirth." Newsweek called her, “one of her generation’s wittiest and shrewdest writers.”

Lorrie was among the headliners of the New York State Writers Institute's 25th Anniversary celebration in 2009. She shared the stage with fellow Upstate New Yorker Richard Russo. (From the Writers Institute's archives.)

Lorrie teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Q: Where are you self-isolating?

A: My apartment in Nashville, where we just had a long 4-day power outage. Which in quarantine, with a freezer jammed with food for the end days, is an especially unfortunate thing.

Q: What are you doing for physical exercise?

A: Zip.

Q: Any recipes for comfort food?

A: Recipes? See rotting frozen food above.

Q: Anecdotally, folks have been complaining that it's hard to read books during quarantine. Any theories why?

A: Perhaps the streaming services have turned their heads? I'm not sure. Dread is terribly undermining to concentration. But I recommend Mavis Gallant and D.H. Lawrence.

Q: Any advice for the graduating Class of 2020?

A: Gargle! And be kind.

Lorrie Moore was interviewed at length by Deborah Treisman in last week's issue of The New Yorker (May 3, 2020). Regarding her childhood in Glens Falls, she said:

"I did not come from an era or a demographic or a gene pool where parents were supportive of their children’s ambitions, if we even had them. We all stayed very quiet. Everyone minded their own business. My parents had tried a little writing, but I wouldn’t say I had 'writers in the family.' I had a great uncle who was a Defoe scholar and published some poetry. Did I have ambitions? That was a besmirching word when I was a young adult, unless it referred to the aspirations of an actual work of art. The work could be ambitious. As an artist, you merely had to have intelligence and devotion. Everything else would come from that."

"I am from provincial people, though some were academics and scientists and musicians. There was very little money, some religion, much education, some unrealized talent, some actualized talent, and a strong sense that the world was simultaneously beautiful and unwelcoming. My strongest memories of childhood are of quiet interior spaces as well as the outdoors, full of mud and bugs and us kids running everywhere. I miss running everywhere. It was flight in both senses." (link to article)

More Lorrie Moore

May 3, 2020

Experiencing the coronavirus pandemic as a kind of zombie apocalypse, by Lorrie Moore, The New Yorker, April 13, 2020

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The Keatsian intelligence of Lorrie Moore, by Lauren Groff, The New York Review of Books, February 18, 2020

Lorrie Moore, The Art of Fiction No. 167, Interviewed by Elizabeth Gaffney, The Paris Review, Spring-Summer 2001


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