Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The New Yorker: "Childcare" by Lorrie Moore

This fiction is almost certainly from Moore’s forthcoming novel, and in my opinion it does not work as a story. There’s a bit of tension, but nothing sustained, and no conflict that I can see. Tassie, a small town girl living in another small town where she’s in college, is looking for work as a babysitter. She’s smart enough, but socially backward. Still, she’s hired by a woman who is adopting a baby, and she wants Tassie to be present every step of the way. Well, that’s nice. Not much tension there. It’s not even very odd.

What is odd is that the woman’s husband isn’t gone, but he isn’t present in the story either, and Tassie’s father is somehow important, but he isn’t present either. He’s a hobbyist farmer and . . . well, that’s nice, too. So Tassie goes with Sarah to meet the mother whose baby will soon be adopted. The woman, a pretty girl with no teeth (a meth addict?) who is on probation for whatever it is she’s done, isn’t very happy with Sarah. At the end, it isn’t clear that the girl will give Sarah the baby after all.

The end.

Okay, this is nice writing, but it isn’t even interesting enough a set up to persuade me to buy the novel when it comes out. It looks like Sarah will get some kind of baby and Tassie will be provide childcare. And . . . what else? Please tell me there’s more to it than that!

July 6 & 13: “Childcare” by Lorrie Moore


Paul Dorell said...

I'm a Moore watcher who concurs with you on "Childcare." I'm still not sure whether I'll read the full novel, but I've reached a truce with the M.F.A. club ( and have agreed not to bash it without a full reading.

The reason why I'm pessimistic is that I've been through this before. I've been looking for years for Moore to produce a solid novel with a strong narrative that captures real people and what it means to live in these times, but it hasn't happened. She is good at evoking the small set of emotions that one might expect to find in sensitive, intelligent and introverted people who become disappointed with and distrustful of the world that they encounter and end up feeling brutalized by it one way or another. These are usually ethereal people who seem to give up easily and implicitly condemn whomever or whatever upset them without really understanding or caring to explore the whole situation.

Moore is very good at what she does, but may have run up against her limitations early in her career. I still have hope.

Heather said...

I liked the story. Maybe it's something that resonates more with women: the remembered babysitting days.