Book: Open

Cover image


Author: Lisa Moore
Publisher: House of Anansi Press

The only certainty in life, according to these stories, comes from the accumulation of moments that refuse to be contained.

The stories in Open cover these moments, familiar territory in the hands of most writers, in unfamiliar ways. The interconnectedness of a bus ride in Nepal and a wedding on the shore of Quidi Vidi Lake; the tension between a husband and wife when their infant cries before dawn (who will go to him?) and the husband’s wrenching memory of an early love affair; two friends, one who suffers early in life and the other midway through—these are some of the subjects Lisa Moore treats with her incomparable style.

Drawing on vivid landscapes both interior and exterior, Moore splices together the sudden shocks and subtle realizations that enter her characters’ lives, using the piercing imagery and soulful technique that have won her acclaim from critics and her many fans.


Open is Lisa Moore’s second collection of short fiction, and it’s a beauty—imagine 10 brisk, shattered tales by an East Coast Mavis Gallant, given to flights of impressionistic fragmentation but disciplined enough to keep her stories utterly true to themselves. Open‘s centre of gravity is St. John’s, Newfoundland, and the experiences of women who live in and around it, but the characters’ lives meander extravagantly, to Toronto and the Mediterranean, through callow youth and the sexual eccentricities of middle age. Moore’s characters behave like their peers—the youngsters who fight their way through the writings of Lynn Coady and Christy Ann Conlin—but many of them are older, wiser, and just as close to the brink of self-possession. Some half-wittingly raise children that are not their own (“Natural Parents”), many bungle their way through relationships with nothing leading them but desire and a compassless sense of purpose (“Melody”), while a very few have, through art or their own strength of character, constructed some sort of foundation for themselves (“The Way the Light Is, Azalea”).

These stories make for dense, challenging, rewarding reading. Moore has stripped her narratives to their barest elements, but they are not remotely Spartan. Instead, her rapid-fire chronological leaps—with perfect, seemingly random details scattered throughout the gaps—make for an ornate but visceral style that is equal parts Michael Winter and Virginia Woolf. Readers can’t help but live these stories; the intensity of Moore’s writing and the depth of her characters leave them little choice.

Interestingly, many aspects of Open recall another 2002 Giller-nominated short fiction collection, Bill Gaston’s Mount Appetite. Both books approach love, sexuality, and age with the same sort of wonder, lust, and pathos. The authors inhabit (and write about) opposite coasts and genders, but this makes their books still more complementary. Mount Appetite and Open are intellectual and aesthetic equals; readers interested in either should really pick up both of them. —Jack Illingworth

Views: 572 • Modified: • Elapsed: 0.016 sec