February 25, 2005


Angela Stubbs

Damn the madness! Percival E. and Lorrie Moore both in one night??? I am very sad that I can't attend either because I'll be at the great OSGOODS show at the LAVA LOUNGE tonight. Anyone seeking a little rock after the readings should stop by. OSGOODS is the band, Lava Lounge is the place (1533 N. La Brea, Hollywood). Price $3 w/ secret password: BeautyFish. Otherwise it's a whole fiver. Oh, and 10pm--They really rock and I highly recommend! I just gotta see Lorrie Moore . . .the wheels are turning.

Alicia Gifford

The UCLA Hammer Museum was packed for Lorrie Moore. She read two selections: the first from a novel-in-progress, which was funny and very Lorrie. The working title of the novel is The Gate at the Top of the Stairs, or something close, she's not sure.

The second selection was "The Juniper Tree", the story that appeared in The New Yorker a few weeks ago, one of her shorter (shortest?) stories at nine pages. It's a ghost story based on a vivid dream she had when a friend of hers died, Nietzchka Keene, who directed a 1987 film entitled "The Juniper Tree" (aha!) starring a 19 year old Bjork, filmed in Iceland, and based on a grim Brothers Grimm fairy tale (although, from the Go Figure Department, the synopsis of the film and the text of the story have nothing to do with one another. More research needed but not by this girlfriend).

Lorrie's story, "The Juniper Tree" is dream-based; not fairy tale or friend's-film-based, but she said what they all had in common was a theme of sexual jealousy. A juniper tree makes an appearance in the story in the dead friend's fairy-tale-esque garden, and juniper berries are evoked in the lust for gin the characters in the story have.

Lorrie Moore is an icon of mine, her work inspired me to start plucking at a keyboard myself, and I unabashedly adore her (what else could plunge me into Friday night L.A. traffic?), but "The Juniper Tree" is my least favorite story. It feels dream-based, alright, stiff, contrived and loony in a not-good way, and ends with a Soupy Sales pie in the face. But it was great to hear Lorrie again, and I like her hair (she's let it grow since I saw her at the first Tin House Summer Workshop), and I'm picking up my tattered Birds of America for yet one more immersion into her story worlds.

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  • The Elegant Variation is "Fowler’s (1926, 1965) term for the inept writer’s overstrained efforts at freshness or vividness of expression. Prose guilty of elegant variation calls attention to itself and doesn’t permit its ideas to seem naturally clear. It typically seeks fancy new words for familiar things, and it scrambles for synonyms in order to avoid at all costs repeating a word, even though repetition might be the natural, normal thing to do: The audience had a certain bovine placidity, instead of The audience was as placid as cows. Elegant variation is often the rock, and a stereotype, a cliché, or a tired metaphor the hard place between which inexperienced or foolish writers come to grief. The familiar middle ground in treating these homely topics is almost always the safest. In untrained or unrestrained hands, a thesaurus can be dangerous."


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