‘Real Estate’ by Lorrie Moore

Real Estate by Lorrie Moore, 1998

The magic trick:

Putting the main character through hell but making it feel only like standard ennui

I have to be in the right mood for Lorrie Moore. When my mindset’s good, the relentlessly wit is great. I smile, I laugh.

But when I’m not in the proper mood, the barrage of punch lines is simply exhausting. I swear sometimes she rearranges the plot just to suit a pun. Such is her dedication to wordplay.

Of course there’s far more going on than jokes.

Moore is so good at showing how life always finds its way back to the middle. No matter how good things are for the character; no matter how awful – the people who populate her stories more often than not exist in a mediocre, little, quiet loneliness.

It’s depressing but kind of comforting at the same time.

In this story, Ruth faces any number of bad things. Really, really bad things. Like cancer level of bad. But she carries on, focusing on the things she can control. Focusing on the mundane.

It’s a remarkable portrayal of pain – extreme yet very small.

And that’s quite a trick on Moore’s part.

The selection:

Nuptial forensics. Ruth would let her marriage live. No mercy killing, no autopsy. She would let it live! Ha! She would settle, as a person must, for not knowing everything. Ignorance as faith; faith as food; food as sex; sex as love; love as hate; hate as transcendence. Was this a religion or some weird kind of math? Or was this, in fact, just spring?

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