I have loved Lorrie Moore ever since I first read her story “How to Become a Writer”: “First, try to be something, anything, else.” Well, I’d tried, as she had, and couldn’t. I related immediately to her voice and the way she infuses her stories with humor. I had no idea what she would be like in person, but when I saw that she was going to be on a panel with Jeffrey Eugenides and Dana Spiotta at AWP Tampa, I knew I had to find out.
It’s a little daunting to hear someone you’ve admired for so long in person. What if they don’t come across the way you’ve imagined? It’s like meeting a fictional character in real life, because don’t we all make fictions about the people we love? We think writers belong to us, specifically, when we really love them, and that’s both beautiful and terrifying. Jeffrey Eugenides was on the panel too. So this was two idols in one session. But it was fantastic! Lorrie Moore was everything I wanted her to be: smart, funny, personable, and I really enjoyed the way Jeffrey Eugenides did not overpower the conversation and let the women speak.
Each author read for a few minutes and then they had a moderated conversation about fiction and nonfiction. Lorrie Moore read from a new collection of essays that is coming out soon, and this led to an interesting conversation about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. Eugenides said that he thought that his fiction feels more real to him, because the dislocation allows him to be more honest. Lorrie Moore said “you can make this stuff up but you don’t have to” when talking about her nonfiction. Writing as a whole, though, they agreed is designed for preservation. You invent, you collect, but then by writing, you preserve. “It’s absurd, being humans” was another Lorrie Moore statement. It’s absurd, and we writers are here to make sure it’s all recorded.