The Second Person Study, Part 11: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

Hello, You are Zin, Helping Yourself

Begin by meeting him in a class, in a bar, at a rummage sale. Maybe he teaches sixth grade. Manages a hardware store. Foreman at a carton factory. He will be a good dancer. He will have perfectly cut hair. He will laugh at your jokes.

Here is a book that even announces it will be an instruction manual! Not all of the stories are second person, but most of them are, and I have to admit, I got tired of it pretty quickly.

Part if it, I think, is time.

I got this book from the library and just started reading the stories without looking at any preface or introduction or jacket blurbs. And I kept thinking, This feels like the 80s. And you know what? It was published in 1985! It was her debut collection! I did not realize this. Oh, the 80s. Madonna, Reaganomics, MTV, AIDS, and Women Who Love Too Much. Women who in the 70s had learned to live alone and get professional degrees and have sexual desires without feeling ashamed and give orders to men and who pays at a business lunch when the host – uh, hostess – is female. Women who already went through the cute answers to “What does your husband do?” and no longer have to get his signature to apply for credit or have a tubal ligation. And now these women in the 80s were sitting around wondering, so why are we so miserable? and looking right back at themselves because it must be their fault, after all, so do not love so much, do not love the wrong men, learn to meet your own emotional needs, as you learned to meet your sexual and reproductive needs via a variety of appliances and medical procedures.

So Robin Norwood wrote Women Who Love Too Much and Lorrie Moore wrote Self-Help. I found Norwood annoying at the time. I find Self-Help annoying now, and I am sad about that. I wonder if 20 years from now I will find “How to Leave Hialeah” annoying. I wonder if I would find it annoying if I read it now. I wonder if I would have found Self-Help annoying if I had read it then.

But I am happy I read it! I now know that the instruction-manual form of second person, what Richardson calls the “hypothetical,” is best used in infrequent small doses.

2 responses to “The Second Person Study, Part 11: Self-Help by Lorrie Moore

  1. Pingback: The Second Person Study, Part 13: Editors Have Their Say – Ellen Parker (FRiGG) and Joe Levens (The Summerset Review « A Just Recompense

  2. Pingback: The Second Person Study, Part 1: “Boys” by Rick Moody | A Just Recompense

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