cover image Like Life

Like Life

Lorrie Moore. Alfred A. Knopf, $18.95 (178pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58101-9

Nobody is having a good time in Moore's ( Self-Help ) wondrously witty second collection of short stories. Her characters may live above the urban rot but fumes rise from the gutter and out of the drain pipes. The problem: there is no passion in Moore's world of ``like lives'' (as opposed to love lives), where romantic partings are all too common, children get misplaced, ``Dear John'' messages are habitually left on phone machines, and marriages endure mainly because discontented wives cannot find affordable apartments of their own. Millie, 51 and hopelessly maternal, in ``Places to Look for Your Mind,'' is a whiz at recycling leftovers, but not at finding a meaningful use of her time and talents. In ``Two Boys'' Mary escapes the demands of her difficult boyfriends (one ``claimed to be separating'' from his wife, the other ``sweated all over her'') by visiting the park, dressed in white--only to be spat on by an 11-year-old wearing green lipstick. In ``You're Ugly, Too'' Zoe flees the results of an ominous sonogram to dress up for a high-rise Halloween party. With gallows humor and unfailing understanding, Moore evokes her characters' quiet desperation and valiant searches for significance. (Apr.)