Flashback Friday: Self-Help

ffbutton2Flashback Friday is a weekly tradition started here at Bookshelf Fantasies, focusing on showing some love for the older books in our lives and on our shelves. If you’d like to join in, just pick a book published at least five years ago, post your Flashback Friday pick on your blog, and let us all know about that special book from your reading past and why it matters to you. Don’t forget to link up!

Going back to those far-distant 1980s for this week’s Flashback Friday!

self help moore

Self-Help by Lorrie Moore
(published 1985)

 Synopsis (Goodreads):

In these tales of loss and pleasure, lovers and family, a woman learns to conduct an affair, a child of divorce dances with her mother, and a woman with a terminal illness contemplates her exit. Filled with the sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language Moore has become famous for, these nine glittering tales marked the introduction of an extravagantly gifted writer.

Full disclosure: I am not a short story person. I almost never read them. Okay, maybe grudgingly, once in a while, if they’re by an author I love — but before long, I can feel my eyes rolling back in my head and I have to grit my teeth in order to force myself to finish.

A major exception to the rule was Self-Help, accomplished author Lorrie Moore’s first published work. Not only did I read them all, I practically swallowed them whole. Many of the stories in Self-Help are written in the style of — you guessed it — a self-help guide, but each sparkles with wit and word play, even in the saddest of the lot. From the second I started reading the first story in the collection, “How to Be an Other Woman”, I knew I had stumbled onto something special. A random example:

When you were six you thought ‘mistress’ meant to put your shoes on the wrong feet. Now you are older and know it can mean many things, but essentially it means to put your shoes on the wrong feet.

Or how about this opening line from the story “How to Become a Writer”:

First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star/missionary. A movie star/ kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably.

The women in these stories struggle, find and lose connections, and take good, hard looks at themselves and their lives. The writing is delightful, especially to a word-freak like me — meanings and double meanings and puns galore, and all enhance the stories, rather than acting as distractions.

I’ve read several other books of stories by Lorrie Moore, and need to read her most recent novel, A Gate At The Stairs (2009). Still, Self-Help remains my favorite of her works — and remains one of the few books of short stories that I actually loved.

What flashback book is on your mind this week?

Note from your friendly Bookshelf Fantasies host: To join in the Flashback Friday fun:

  • Grab the Flashback Friday button
  • Post your own Flashback Friday entry on your blog (and mention Bookshelf Fantasies as the host of the meme, if you please!)
  • Leave your link in the comments below
  • Check out other FF posts… and discover some terrific hidden gems to add to your TBR piles!


Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

3 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Self-Help

  1. This sounds very interesting. I’m not a short story person either, but this book sounds like something I want to read. Thanks for sharing.

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