#25: You’re Ugly Too by Lorrie Moore

Available: Like LifeThe Collected Stories

Like Lorrie?: Tao LinLaura Moriarty

Some days I do not feel like reading longer short fiction.

This was another story I listened to first as opposed to reading; it benefitted massively from being read by Moore herself. In case you’re wondering, her voice is monotone at times, but her deliciously dry wit was made for Moore’s change in tone. She is one of the few writers who, when reading her own work, is able to suitably capture the spirit of the writing.

You’re Ugly Too could not have been a sentence shorter. I am glad I chose this as one of my longer reads, as firstly, it is mysterious enough to keep you reading, and secondly, its length allows for greater character development.

The Story

Zoe Hendricks is a history lecturer at a liberal arts college called Hilldale-Versailles in North America.  She has more than her fair share of problems: she cannot sustain a long-term relationship, is getting poor student feedback, and is jealous of her sister’s recent announcement of her engagement. What would be a recipe for disaster in a lesser writer’s hands seems strangely poetic in Moore’s. By spending time with Zoe, we delve deeper into the reasons for her difficulties.

She decides to visit her sister for the annual Halloween party and embraces the costumes, celebrations and camaraderie. Zoe eventually finds herself alone with Earl, who’d been earmarked earlier as possible boyfriend material. They talk, and as they do, we find out a little too much about each of them on a windy, almost cliched Manhattan night.

Why It Sticks

Apart from the aforementioned opportunities for intense characterisation, the real reason You’re Ugly Too succeeds lies in much subtler narrative technique. In this story dialogue twists and turns, subtle details coming to light. The resulting trail suggests a mind (Zoe’s) almost devoured by darkness. Her reactions come not out of anger or sadness, but from a place of inward emotion, a souring of hope and possibility.

Earl’s exchanges with Zoe are biting, awkward and full of discomfort; never has the divide between man and woman seemed so achingly wide, or attempts at bonding so forced or misunderstood. Beneath the dialogue lie greater truths on how men and women often face differing desires yet still labour on in pursuit of a greater connection.

Whether they eventually reach it is another question altogether. 


One thought on “#25: You’re Ugly Too by Lorrie Moore

  1. Thank you for this! Although others may not comment, students find this extremely helpful for understanding the general themes of the story!


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