You’re Ugly, Too by Lorrie Moore, 1990
The magic trick:
Being very funny
The protagonist of “You’re Ugly, Too” takes comfort in humor in the face of the desperation and loneliness creeping into her life as she navigates her 30s. That’s a fine character to drum up in your mind, but in order to make it work in the actual story, the author must have a strong sense of humor. The character taking comfort in humor must, you know, say and think funny things. Not so easy for a lot of writers. Not difficult at all for Moore.
Put simply, she is a very, very funny writer. She writes this kind of funny-lonely-desperate thing like a pro. Zoe, the aforementioned protagonist, approaches every situation with a caustic wit. She reminds me of comedian Maria Bamford. Yes, this story is a lot like reading about Maria Bamford visiting her younger, more stable, sister.
Zoe’s humor is a defense tactic, of course; maybe even sad. It is never less than hilarious, though. And that’s quite a trick on Moore’s part.
“Are you and Charles getting married?” Foreboding filled her voice.
“Hmmmmmmnnno, not immediately.”
“Don’t get married.”
“Just not yet. You’re too young.”
“You’re only saying that because you’re five years older than I am and you’re not married.”
“I’m not married? Oh, my God,” said Zoe. “I forgot to get married.”