Why we like… Self Help by Lorrie Moore

Ali Pechman and Ali Pechman

Books were the first thing I had on everyone else. In kindergarten, when other kids were making friends, doing math problems, I sat in the corner and read all the books, even the most advanced one about a golden retriever, as a screw-you.

Reading was always something that I did alone. My own mother didn’t realize I knew how to read until a neighbor told her that was the reason I would go over to their house every afternoon. Books were the first things that were my own, that I cultivated a relationship with outside of my family; that’s probably why I have always been so possessive of them, like a jealous girlfriend. I started to hate my fifth grade teacher when she claimed that pang was a word. How similar it sounded to pain – mine! – so I immediately doubted its existence. Words were my property.

I remember reading Lorrie Moore and her stories in “Self-Help” for the first time. I follow writers like her through these capsules I’m sent: “In your dorm you meet many nice people. Some are smarter than you. And some, you notice, are dumber than you. You will continue, unfortunately, to view the world in exactly these terms for the rest of your life.” Her sometimes unsavory wit, her almost masochistic sentimentality: No one had ever talked to me like that before. After reading, I thought to myself, “Yes! She gets it! I am normal!” It’s much the same as how I feel when I make new friends in a strange place, and it is the beginning of the lasting trust and confidence that is love. I feel safe in a room full of books. I feel better knowing my copy of “Self-Help” is on my shelf and not off with someone else. I will always collect and keep books. Unlike the nameless children of the kindergarten classroom, they are forever, to discover and return to.