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Anagrams Paperback – March 13, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Moore, praised for her short story collection Self-Help, makes her debut as a novelist with this story about what may be the disintegration of the thoroughly modern protagonist's personality. PW called Anagrams "original and highly inventive."
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Who exactly is Benna, the 33-year-old poetry teacher (or singer? or aerobics instructor?) we meet in this inventive novel? It is hard to say. She hidesfrom us, from herselfbehind imaginary identities, relationships, and scenarios in which elements of character and action are transposed like the letters of those anagrams she scribbles on napkins. Her fantasies are offered as straight narrative along with a stream of wisecracks ("All the world's a stage we're going through"). For deep down, Benna is terrified of the contingencies of reality ("One gust of wind and Santa became Satan"), longs for the very continuity she mocks. This won't be everyone's cup of tea. Still, the virtuosity of Moore's widely praised Self-Help ( LJ 3/15/85) is once again evident, and when she fleetingly reveals the vulnerability beneath the sleight of hand, it is very affecting. Elise Chase, Forbes Lib., Northampton, Mass.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; F Second Printing Used edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307277283
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307277282
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #270,381 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Burkhalter on May 23, 2001
Format: Paperback
Don't get me wrong, it's great, yeah. A quick and engrossing read stuffed with humor and Lorrie Moore's trademarked sardonic and somehow self-effacing wit(TM). Yet this is by no means her best book or even (I think) among her better material. I read it and very much enjoyed it, but I find weaknesses in her handling of her own style. And the ending, though clever and pretty ambitious, just doesn't do it for me (takes it too far out of the close-to-home we enjoy up to that point). I guess I would say that this was maybe a transitional work(?). I saw Moore read at Elliott Bay here in Seattle and she said the book resulted in part from publishers nagging for a novel (they sell better than collections I imagine). You can see how she cleverly handles the transition (being a writer of short stories up to that point) by writing a novel that, at the beginning, comes off a bit like a collection of related shorts. It ends up being an interesting way to write, but a bit schizophrenic. She works this trick more effectively some years later in "Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?" where a short story of a trip to Paris is woven through a longer narrative. In short, readers already gripped in the throes of Moore's prose shouldn't hesitate to read this -- its good! But those looking to try her work for the first time would do well to hit "Frog Hospital" (an awesome starting place I think) or one of her too-fab collections of short stories.
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Format: Paperback
I laughed out loud numerous times, little suspecting that I would put the book down upon completion and sob for about twenty minutes. I've never had this intense a reaction to a book, with the possible exception of Catcher in the Rye. Lorrie Moore is not only clever and funny as hell; she also has a spectacular dark side. The reader is at first a bit confused -- is this a collection of short stories? If not, why is this character's back story different in this chapter? What the hell's going on here? By the last chapter, you think you've settled into an acceptable reality, only to have the rug pulled out from under you again. For readers who take a perverse pleasure in this kind of experience, I highly recommend "Anagrams".
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By A Customer on August 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
Like reviewer Chris Burkhalter, I don't think is Moore's best (Birds of America and Self Help are it, for me), but her second or third best surpasses so much other fiction out there it's not even funny. There is no one better at inventive descriptions of emotions, physical characteristics, smells, clothing, etc. It's miraculous really; her way with words boggles this aspiring writer's mind. And, as an aspiring writer, I have to say that it is Moore's writing I strive to emulate. I wasn't wild about the structure of Anagrams; as others have noted, three short story-esque pieces to start, followed by 'the novel.' But if you're a reader that reveres language, and if you often find yourself pausing to savor sentences and phrases in whatever it is you're reading, pick up this book (and anything else by Moore) and savor those moments, because I guarantee there will be many of them.
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Format: Paperback
I have read three Lorrie Moore books, but missed this one so it was a treat to delve into her writing again. I enjoyed the story and laughed at the turns of phrase. It is fun to have a book that it is best to read slowly so you don't miss the unexpected anagram or wry comment about life.

Then there is the incredible loneliness and sadness threaded throughout the book. Very strong and so real. This book has a punch.

I am going to quote a paragraph that caught my attention as I read.
"You cannot be grateful without possessing a past. That is why children are incapable of gratitude and why night prayers and dinner graces are lost on them. "Gobbles Mommy, Gobbles Grandpa..." George races through it. She has no reference points. As I get older the past widens and accumulates, all sloppy landlessness like a river, and as a result I have more clearly demarcated areas of gratitude. Things like ice cream or scenery or one good kiss become objects of a huge soulful thanks. Nothing is gobbled. This is a sign of getting old."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I once heard David Sedaris on a podcast interview say of Lorrie Moore's stories, "There's joke after joke after joke, and yet when you get to the end you're just devastated." I think that characterization may be more true of this book than of anything else Moore has written. Again and again I found myself laughing out loud while reading this book, and yet when I finished it... yes, "devastated" is exactly the right word.

The book is a bit "experimental" in its structure. The first four "chapters" are really short stories, each one fully complete and self-contained in itself. These take up one quarter of the book's pages, and the fifth chapter, titled "The Nun of That," fills out the remaining three quarters. Each of the five stories features a suite of main characters who have the same names, and similar personalities and backgrounds as well. It's as if Moore were a musician performing a concert, first playing some short tunes that feature variations on similar themes and then settling in for a longer composition to conclude the performance. It's an interesting exercise in constructing a book, but a potential reader shouldn't get the impression that this book is nothing more than an interesting intellectual exercise. On the contrary, to my eye Lorrie Moore is among the most deeply "humanist" of living writers. Her focus is on the lives and feelings of her characters, and not on dry intellectual exercises. It's the deeply-felt humanity of her characters that makes her writing so delightful, and so devastating.
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