cover image See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary

See What Can Be Done: Essays, Criticism, and Commentary

Lorrie Moore. Knopf, $28.95 (432p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3248-6

Acclaimed fiction writer Moore (Bark: Stories) has compiled her nonfiction writings into a marvelous collection. The chronologically arranged selections, beginning with a 1983 review of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn, include book reviews, personal essays, and cultural criticism on subjects that include Ross Perot and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential debate and the television documentary OJ: Made in America. The cumulative effect is to provide a window onto the trajectory of both late 20th-century American culture and Moore’s development as a writer. Throughout, her chief virtue as a critic is shown to be a sympathetic, generous eye, which enables Moore to reveal the unique appeal of any given work, whether it’s Ann Beattie’s novel Park City or James Cameron’s blockbuster Titanic. Her essays on politics are humorous but more critical, prophetically foreseeing “the televised flattery, the bad candy, the shifting hairstyles—the future of presidential campaigning” familiar today. However, the book’s most deeply felt entries are the meditations on Moore’s craft. In an essay aptly titled “On Writing,” Moore claims “there is nothing more autobiographical than a book review or a violin solo.” If so, then this book provides ample insight into Moore’s inner life; it is certainly a boon to any lover of smart cultural criticism. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Apr.)