Of all the stories by Lorrie Moore that I could have chosen, I decided to go with ‘How to Be an Other Woman’, the first story in Moore’s debut collection Self-Help, because I was re-introduced to it recently at a writing workshop given by Lara Williams (more on Lara later!) and reminded of how utterly sublime it is.
‘How to Be an Other Woman’ is the kind of short story we all want to write: witty, charming, irreverent, and original. It is also written in the second person, the literary equivalent of hair gel; some writers think it is really cool, others can’t stand it, but love it or hate it most of us have given it a go at some point with varying results. ‘How to Be an Other Woman’ follows the doomed trajectory of a love affair between Charlene and Jack, and what I find special about this story is the calm authorial undertaking to explore poor life choices and the acknowledgement that sometimes it is these same choices that glitter amidst the mundanity of an ordinary life. Yes, it can be messy. No, it is not always dignified. But, Moore reminds us quietly, perhaps life is not supposed to be. (HC)
First published in Self-Help, FSG/Faber, 1985 and then in the Collected Stories, FSG/Faber, 2008