The shelves in my study are crammed with books that I only quite like, to the extent that I think they barely represent my taste in reading, largely because I have pressed all my favourites on voracious friends and family. So imagine my delight a few weeks ago when I discovered a copy of Anagrams by Lorrie Moore in a bookshop bin marked ‘Why Don’t You Try This?’ My second copy of this excellent novel cost me only 99p, something about which I have mixed feelings: as a reader I think it’s wonderful that books of this calibre are available for so little; as a writer I can’t help thinking that Lorrie Moore is being sold down the river. But that’s another story . . .
I pounced upon Anagrams like a long-lost friend, which indeed it was. I first read it when I was a single parent trying to rebuild a life for myself and my son, and it seemed to me that Lorrie Moore was writing much of my own fragile narrative alongside that of her heroine Benna. The book is set in Fitchville, a featureless place that is the epitome of small-town America, and it tells the story of a sparky, gritty trailer-park girl who makes anagrams out of words, and out of her life as well, constantly changing the context and nature of what she appears to be in an almost existential bid to create something out of nothing.
Benna charts the frustrations, the breathtaking insights and the mundane tenderness of daily life with a small child in a way that struck at my heart. She has an eye for the minor intimacies and the domestic commonplaces which mean so little individually, but which collectively carry an incalculable emotional weight.
I sit on the edge of the bathtub, drying off Georgianne, marvelling that the human race has managed to create such comforts for itself as the warm fluffy nubs of towels, the squirming, nearsighted silk of daughters.
What brought me up short was that, although the challenges I was facing with my baby were all too real, Benna’s life is so lonely and so difficult for her that she becomes the single parent of an imaginary child. She mentions her in passing while chatting to Gerard, who might be a boyfrien
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