Lorrie Moore’s fictional food

May 18, 2009

like lifeIn Lorrie Moore’s story Two Boys (Like Life, 1990), the protagonist Mary compares the two men she’s unhappily involved with.

Number One is successful, funny and married, and predictably treats her like crap. Number Two loves her, but is “tall and depressed and steady as rain”:

‘He’d kiss her, then weep into his own long arm. Mary worried about his health. Number One always ate at restaurants where the food – the squid, the liver, the carrots – was all described as “young and tender”, like a Tony Bennett song. But Number Two went to coffee shops and ate things that had nitrites and dark, lacy crusts around the edges. Such food could enter you old and sticking like a bad dream. When Two ate, he nipped nothing in the bud. It could cause you to grow weary and sad, coming in at the tail end of things like that.’ 


  1. I love this, especially the image of the man ‘weeping into his own long arm’. I hate to be a pedant but one part of this passage jars and that’s the bit about the crusts ‘around the edges’. I’d delete that; aren’t all crusts around the edges? Apart from crusts on top but that’s sort of an edge isn’t it?

  2. hmmm, detail! I SORT of agree with you, cos obviously you’re right. But maybe it’s something about the word ‘edges’ that reinforces this separation between them, and therefore his misery, somehow. Guess she could have just said edges instead of crusts. but then there’s the rhythmic imbalance to worry about … it was the deep bleakness of ‘nitrites’ that got me. And also, the earlier bit, ‘tall and depressed and steady as rain’. Amazing how I have a full physical image of this poor nice man just from that. Love that.

  3. Yes, she’s obviously done it for a reason and it is a lovely piece of writing.

  4. I was just about to join the sub-editorial debate but started reading Lorrie Moore excerpts online and now can’t wait for Bray’s to open so I can buy Like Life. Re the crusts ….Steph is technically correct but Charlotte’s rhythm section is compelling…and I’m still trying to picture ‘lacy’. Hats off to the Tony Bennett simile – the guy does it tough in literature, but sounds like he’s right there with Number One.

  5. Lunger, you will loooove Lorrie Moore. If you can’t get Like Life, which is an oldie (i haven’t read it, still have to look forward to) try Birds of America. Or there’s even a big new collected stories I think, combining lots of different books. She’s a winner.

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