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Like Life: Stories

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The purpose of this review is to explore how Lorrie Moore uses Elements of fiction; Point of view, setting, and character aided by dialogue most strongly all through her collection of short stories under the collective title Like Life: Stories, which follow the daily lives of eight people. But only four of the stories in the collection will be discussed; “Two Boys”, “Vissi d’Arte”, “Joy” and “You’re Ugly, Too”. Each story in the order they are in above will follow the lives of Mary and her relationship with two men she’s romantically involved with; Harry, a poor playwright; Jane, a manager at a cheese store; and Zoe, an American History professor at Hilldale-Versailles Liberal Arts College.

In Moore’s first short story “Two Boys”, point of view is established after the first sentence; “For the first time in her life, Mary was seeing two boys at once” (Loc 78). Consequently, this lets the reader know that in addition to Mary there are the two guys she’s seeing. Dubbing them guy one and two instead of using their given names. Having said that, point of view is established even further when Moore incorporates dialogue between Mary and the two guys allowing everyone a chance to speak. For instance, starting at the bottom of location 92 following all the way to the top of location 117 there is a shift from when Mary is going on about her life preceded by guy one who officially comes into the picture in terms of actual dialogue through a phone call to her. “Hello,” they said. “Hello, hello.” “where have you been?” asked Boy Number One on the phone in the evening …“Where have I been?” echoed Mary…“I’ve been at the park, reading.” . (Loc 97, 102). All the while, guy two is only briefly introduced with some dialogue for the rest of location 117, “Ask him, “What if we both saw other people?” …He’d say nothing. Or he’d shrug and say, “Fthatz…” “Excuse me?” “Fthatz what you want.” Afterwards, the dialogue shifts back to Mary and guy one but it still keeps the shifting dialogue between Mary and the two guys.

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In contrast, short stories “Vissi d’Arte” and “You’re Ugly, Too” establish setting. In “Vissi d’Arte” Moore does this when she says, “Harry lived near Times Square, above the sex pavilion that advertised 25 cent girls…Also, the rent was cheap, and he could play his Maria Callas records loud without causing a stir. The neighborhood, after all, was already in a stir. It was a living, permanent stir.” (Loc 338, 343). Thus, indicating that the main character, Harry lives in New York, the United States in a rundown apartment through word choice. For example, the first thing that was mentioned was Times Squares followed by the fact that the apartment is located right above a brothel equating to its cheapness as well as its significance regarding Harry’s history because why else would it have been elaborated on.

Meanwhile, in “You’re Ugly, Too” setting is established via the different places Zoe goes daily, professionally and personally. For instance, “Paris, Oblong, Normal…outside of Paris, in the middle of a large field, was a scatter of brick buildings, a small liberal arts college with the improbable name of Hilldale-Versailles.” (Loc 1067, 1074). Setting can be seeen through the fact that Illinois in this case has places with strange names, especially Zoe’s workplace. Which is quickly identified as a college campus by stating so while stating that the buildings are made of brick just like some of the building located on the University of Central Florida campus even though this book was written nearly twenty-eight years ago. Secondly, setting can be seen through dialogue in a telephone call between Zoe and her sister as she makes plan to stay with her sister and her boyfriend Charlie while participating in a Halloween party they’re hosting. “I’m flying in to visit you this weekend,” announced Zoe. “I was hoping you would,” said Evan. “Charlie and I are having a party for Halloween. It’ll be fun.” Said Evan…she was looking forward to New York.” (Loc 1128, 1206).

In short, these two short stories exhibit three ways in which setting can be seen whether it’s Harry’s life as a very poor playwright living near Times Square above a brothel of sorts. Or establishing Zoe as a character through describing a lot of the places she goes, be it on a college working as a professor or taking a mini vacation and visiting New York to see her sister.

Finally, in “Joy” which showcases the daily life of Jane, a manager of a cheese store Moore describes Jane’s co-worker Heffie as someone older than Jane “who minded the register… appeared generally disgruntled. Her hair was thinning at the front, and she had clipped to the top with barrettes she was too old for…Heffie didn’t much like doing anything, and whatever Jane did apparently seemed to Heffie like more fun, and easier, so sometimes the older woman complained a little by means of a shrug or a sigh.” (Loc 890, 901, 912). In other words, Heffie as describe by Moore was someone she paid a lot of detail too, specifically the way she looked, and she was personality-wise in which Jane obviously knew.

To conclude, Elements of fiction; point of view, setting, and character each had a role when it came to furthering the four short stories along. Especially when they were aided by dialogue like that between Mary and the two guys she was involved with; Harry’s life as a playwright who was poor and lived in a cheap apartment; Zoe’s life as a professor who visits her sister; or the description of Jane’s older co-worker Heffie.


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