Lucas Thompson reviews 'See What Can Be Done: Essays, criticism, and commentary' by Lorrie Moore

It saddens me to say it, but Lorrie Moore’s first collection of non-fiction is a serious disappointment. Having long admired her astonishing fiction, I came to this new book expecting to find obscure essays and little-known gems from across Moore’s long career. Instead, I came away wishing that Moore would give up writing non-fiction and devote herself entirely to short stories and novels.

Despite being described in the subtitle as a collection of ‘Essays, Criticism, and Commentary’, the bulk of these pieces are in fact reviews, spanning thirty-four years of writing for such prestigious publications as The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker. The collection’s seemingly endless list of reviews is broken up with the odd essay or reflection on writing craft, along with some occasional pieces commissioned by various glossy literary periodicals (soliciting Moore’s reflections on such topics as 9/11, the GOP primary debates, and her first job) and introductions to other people’s books. It thus seems disingenuous to be marketing the book in ways that make it look like an essay collection.

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Published in August 2018, no. 403

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