Lorrie Moore


First, try to be something, anything, else. A movie star/astronaut. A movie star
missionary. A movie star/kindergarten teacher. President of the World. Fail miserably. It is best if you fail at an early age -- say, fourteen. Early, critical disillusionment is necessary so that at fifteen you can write long haiku sequences about thwarted desire. It is a pond, a cherry blossom, a wind brushing against sparrow wing leaving for mountain. Count the syllables.

Show it to your mom. She is touch and practical. She has a son in Vietnam and a husband who may be having an affair. She believes in wearing brown because it hides spots. She'll look briefly at your writing, then back up at you with a face blank as a donut. She'll say: "How about emptying the dishwasher?" Look away. Shove the forks in the fork drawer. Accidentally break one of the freebie gas station glasses. This is the required pain and suffering. This is only for starters.

In your high school English class look only at Mr. Killian's face. Decide faces are important. Write a villanelle about pores. Struggle. Write a sonnet. County the syllables: nine, ten, eleven, thirteen. Decide to experiment with fiction. Here you don't have to count syllables. Write a short story about an elderly man and woman who accidentally shoot each other in the head, the result of an inexplicable malfunction of a shotgun which appears mysteriously in their living room one night. Give it to Mr. Killian as your final project. When you get it back, he has written on it: "Some of your images are quite nice, but you have no sense of plot." When you are home, in the privacy of your own room, faintly crawl in pencil beneath his black-inked comments: "Plots are for dead people, pore-face."

Take all the babysitting jobs you can get. You are great with kids. They love you. You tell them stories about old people who die idiot deaths. You sing them songs like "Blue Bells of Scotland," which is their favorite. And when they are in their pajamas and have finally stopped pinching each other, when they are fast asleep, you read every sex manual in the house, and wonder how on earth anyone could ever do those things with someone they truly loved. Fall asleep in a chair reading Mr. McMurphy's Playboy. When the McMurphys come home, they will tap you on the shoulder, look at the magazine in your lap, and grin. You will want to die. They will ask you if Tracey took her medicine all right. Explain, yes, she did, that you promised her a story if she would take it like a big girl and that seemed to work out just fine. "Oh, marvelous" they will exclaim.
Try to smile proudly. Apply to college as a child psychology major.

As a child psychology major, you have some electives. You've always liked birds. Sign up
for something called, "The Ornithological Field Trip." It meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at two. When you arrive at Room 134 on the first day of class, everyone is sitting around a seminar
table talking about metaphors. You've heard of these. After a short, excruciating while, raise your hand and say diffidently, "Excuse me, isn't this Birdwatching One-oh-one?" The class tops and turns to look at you. They seem to have one face -- giant and blank as a vandalized clock. Someone with a beard booms out, "No, this is Creative Writing." Say: "Oh -- right," as if perhaps you knew all along. Look down at your schedule. Wonder how the hell you ended up here. The computer, apparently, has made an error. You start to get up to leave and then don't. The lines at the reistrar this week are huge. Perhaps your creative writing isn't all that bad. Perhaps it is fate. Perhaps this is what your dad meant when he said, "It's the age of computers, Francie, it's the age of computers."

Decide that you like college life. 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. The assignment this week in creative writing is to narrate a violent happening. Turn in a story
about driving with your Uncle Gordon and another one about two old people who are accidentally electrocuted when they go to turn on a badly wired desk lamp. The teacher will hand them back to you with comments: ''Much of your writing is smooth and energetic. You have, however, a ludicrous notion of plot.'' Write another story about a man and a woman who, in the very first paragraph, have their lower torsos accidentally blitzed away by dynamite. In the second paragraph, with the insurance money, they buy a frozen yogurt stand together. There are six more paragraphs. You read the whole thing out loud in class. No one likes it. They say your sense of plot is outrageous and incompetent. After class someone asks you if you are crazy.

Decide that perhaps you should stick to comedies. Start dating someone who is funny,
someone who has what in high school you called a ''really great sense of humor'' and what now your creative writing class calls ''self-contempt giving rise to comic form.'' Write down all of his jokes, but don't tell him you are doing this. Make up anagrams of his old girlfriend's name and name all of your socially handicapped characters with them. Tell him his old girlfriend is in all of your stories and then watch how funny he can be, see what a really great sense of humor he can have.

Your child psychology adviser tells you you are neglecting courses in your major. What
you spend the most time on should be what you're majoring in. Say yes, you understand.

In creative writing seminars over the next two years, everyone continues to smoke
cigarettes and ask the same things: ''But does it work?'' ''Why should we care about this
character?'' ''Have you earned this cliche?'' These seem like important questions. On days when it is your turn, you look at the class hopefully as they scour your mimeographs for a plot. They look back up at you, drag deeply and then smile in a sweet sort of way.

You spend too much time slouched and demoralized. Your boyfriend suggests bicycling.
Your roommate suggests a new boyfriend. You are said to be self-mutilating and losing weight, but you continue writing. The only happiness you have is writing something new, in the middle of the night, armpits damp, heart pounding, something no one has yet seen. You have only those brief, fragile, untested moments of exhilaration when you know: you are a genius.
Understand what you must do. Switch majors. The kids in your nursery project will be
disappointed, but you have a calling, an urge, a delusion, an unfortunate habit. You have, as
your mother would say, fallen in with a bad crowd.

Why write? Where does writing come from? These are questions to ask yourself. They are like: Where does dust come from? Or: Why is there war? Or: If there's a God, then why is my brother now a cripple?These are questions that you keep in your wallet, like calling cards. These are questions, your creative writing teacher says, that are good to address in your journals but rarely in your fiction.The writing professor this fall is stressing the Power of the Imagination. Which means he doesn't want long descriptive stories about your camping trip last July. He wants you to start in a realistic context but then to alter it. Like recombinant DNA. He wants you to let your imagination sail, to let it grow big-bellied in the wind. This is a quote from Shakespeare.

Tell your roommate your great idea, your great exercise of imaginative power: a
transformation of Melville to contemporary life. It will be about monomania and the fish-eat-fish world of life insurance in Rochester, N.Y. The first line will be ''Call me Fishmeal,'' and it will feature a menopausal suburban husband named Richard, who because he is so depressed all the time is called ''Mopey Dick'' by his witty wife Elaine. Say to your roommate: ''Mopey Dick, get it?'' Your roommate looks at you, her face blank as a large Kleenex. She comes up to you, like a buddy, and puts an arm around your burdened shoulders. ''Listen, Francie,'' she says, slow as speech therapy. ''Let's go out and get a big beer.''

The seminar doesn't like this one either. You suspect they are beginning to feel sorry for
you. They say: ''You have to think about what is happening. Where is the story here?''

The next semester the writing professor is obsessed with writing from personal
experience. You must write from what you know, from what has happened to you. He wants deaths, he wants camping trips. Think about what has happened to you. In three years there have been three things: you lost your virginity; your parents got divorced; and your brother came home from a forest 10 miles from the Cambodian border with only half a thigh, a permanent smirk nestled into one corner of his mouth. About the first you write: ''It created a new space, which hurt and cried in a voice that wasn't mine, 'I'm not the same anymore, but I'll be O.K.' ''About the second you write an elaborate story of an old married couple who stumble upon an unknown land mine in their kitchen and accidentally blow themselves up. You call it: ''For Better or for Liverwurst.''About the last you write nothing. There are no words for this. Your typewriter hums. You can find no words.

At undergraduate cocktail parties, people say, ''Oh, you write? What do you write about?''
Your roommate, who has consumed too much wine, too little cheese and no crackers at all,
blurts: ''Oh, my god, she always writes about her dumb boyfriend.''

Later on in life you will learn that writers are merely open, helpless texts with no real
understanding of what they have written and therefore must half-believe anything and
everything that is said of them. You, however, have not yet reached this stage of literary
criticism. You stiffen and say, ''I do not,'' the same way you said it when someone in the fourth grade accused you of really liking oboe lessons and your parents really weren't just making you take them.Insist you are not very interested in any one subject at all, that you are interested in the music of language, that you are interested in - in - syllables, because they are the atoms of poetry, the cells of the mind, the breath of the soul. Begin to feel woozy. Stare into your plastic wine cup.''Syllables?'' you will hear someone ask, voice trailing off, as they glide slowly toward the reassuring white of the dip.

Begin to wonder what you do write about. Or if you have anything to say. Or if there even
is such a thing as a thing to say. Limit these thoughts to no more than 10 minutes a day, like
sit- ups, they can make you thin.You will read somewhere that all writing has to do with one's genitals. Don't dwell on this. It will make you nervous.

Your mother will come visit you. She will look at the circles under your eyes and hand you a brown book with a brown briefcase on the cover. It is entitled: ''How to Become a Business Executive.'' She has also brought the ''Names for Baby'' encyclopedia you asked for; one of your characters, the aging clown-schoolteacher, needs a new name. Your mother will shake her head and say: ''Francie, Francie, remember when you were going to be a child psychology major?''
Say: ''Mom, I like to write.''
She'll say: ''Sure you like to write. Of course. Sure you like to write.''

Write a story about a confused music student and title it: ''Schubert Was the One with the
Glasses, Right?'' It's not a big hit, although your roommate likes the part where the two
violinists accidentally blow themselves up in a recital room. ''I went out with a violinist once,'' she says, snapping her gum.

Thank god you are taking other courses. You can find sanctuary in 19th-century ontological
snags and invertebrate courting rituals. Certain globular mollusks have what is called ''Sex by the Arm.'' The male octopus, for instance, loses the end of one arm when placing it inside the female body during intercourse. Marine biologists call it ''Seven Heaven.'' Be glad you know these things. Be glad you are not just a writer. Apply to law school.

From here on in, many things can happen. But the main one will be this: You decide not to
go to law school after all, and, instead, you spend a good, big chunk of your adult life telling people how you decided not to go to law school after all. Somehow you end up writing again.

Perhaps you go to graduate school. Perhaps you work odd jobs and take writing courses at
night. Perhaps you are working and writing down all the clever remarks and intimate personal confessions you hear during the day. Perhaps you are losing your pals, your acquaintances, your balance.You have broken up with your boyfriend. You now go out with men who, instead of whispering ''I love you,'' shout: ''Do it to me, baby.'' This is good for your writing.Sooner or later you have a finished manuscript more or less. People look at it in a vaguely troubled sort of way and say, ''I'll bet becoming a writer was always a fantasy of yours, wasn't it?'' Your lips dry to salt. Say that of all the fantasies possible in the world, you can't imagine being a writer even making the top 20. Tell them you were going to be a child psychology major. ''I bet,'' they always sigh, ''you'd be great with kids.'' Scowl fiercely. Tell them you're a walking blade.

Quit classes. Quit jobs. Cash in old savings bonds. Now you have time like warts on your
hands. Slowly copy all of your friends' addresses into a new address book.
Vacuum. Chew cough drops. Keep a folder full of fragments.

An eyelid darkening sideways.
World as conspiracy.
Possible plot? A woman gets on a bus.
Suppose you threw a love affair and nobody came.

At home drink a lot of coffee. At Howard Johnson's order the cole slaw. Consider how it looks like the soggy confetti of a map: where you've been, where you're going - ''You Are Here,'' says the red star on the back of the menu.Occasionally a date with a face blank as a sheet of paper asks you whether writers often become discouraged. Say that sometimes they do and sometimes they do. Say it's a lot like having polio.''Interesting,'' smiles your date, and then he looks down at his arm hairs and starts to smooth them, all, always, in the same direction.

From ''Self-Help,'' a collection of short stories by Lorrie Moore. Copyright 1985 by M. L. Moore.

Lorrie Moore
was born in Glen Falls, New York on January 13, 1957. She attended St Lawrence University in Canton, New York, from 1974 to 1978 receiving a BA and graduating summa cum laude.She attended Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, from 1980 to 1982 receiving an MFA. She is currently Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Madison where she also lives with her husband and son.

Lorrie Moore has been the recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts award in 1989, the Rockefeller Foundation fellowship in 1989, and the Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. Her workfrequently appears in Fiction International, Ms, The New York Times Book Review, Paris Review,The New Yorker, and others. Her publications include: Self-Help (1985); Anagrams (1986); The Forgotten Helper (1987); Like Life (1990); editor, I Know Some Things: Stories About Childhood by Contemporary Writers (1992);Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994) and Birds of America (1998).

Lorrie Moore 1957- SHORT BIO

(Full name Marie Lorena Moore) American short story writer, novelist, children's writer, and editor.

The following entry presents an overview of Moore's career through 2001. For further information on her life and works, see CLC, Volumes 39, 45, and 68.


Among the most promising American short story writers to emerge during the 1980s, Moore is distinguished for the clever wordplay, irony, and sardonic humor of her fiction, all of which usually masks an underlying sadness or trauma experienced by her characters. Best known for her novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994) and the short story collections Self-Help (1985) and Birds of America (1998), Moore presents female protagonists who are often exploring loss or moving toward a new, undefined stage in their lives. Her darkly comic stories are filled with relationships in which the partners feel alone and devoid of hope. Her adult characters typically find themselves coping with realizations that their lives will not fulfill their hopes and dreams; consequently, they experience feelings of displacement and unease. Moore's fiction has appeared in numerous periodicals, including the New Yorker, which featured one of her best known stories, “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” in 1998.

Biographical Information

Born in Glen Falls, New York, Moore was interested in creative writing as a young child. Her parents participated in a local community theatre, where Moore learned to appreciate drama and language. Academically gifted, she advanced quickly through public school and won a Regent scholarship, which she used to attend St. Lawrence University. Her writing career began at age nineteen when she won first prize in a Seventeen magazine fiction contest for her short story “Raspberries.” Moore won several academic honors as an undergraduate, including the Paul L. Wolfe Memorial Prize for Literature, and was editor of the university's literary journal. After graduating in 1978, she worked for the next two years in Manhattan as a paralegal while attempting to develop her writing talents further. She entered Cornell University's Master of Fine Arts program in 1980, where she studied with Alison Lurie, and in 1982 received her M.F.A., staying on as a lecturer at Cornell through 1984. Her first volume of short stories, Self-Help, contained pieces she had written for her master's thesis. In 1984 Moore accepted a position at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she remains as the Delmore Schwartz Professor in the Humanities and a member of the English department. She was also the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence at Baruch College in 2000. Throughout her career, Moore has received a number of prestigious prizes and fellowships, including the A. L. Andrews Prize at Cornell in 1982 for three of the short stories later published in Self-Help. She was named as a Granville Hicks Memorial fellow in 1983, and received a National Endowment for the Arts award and a Rockefeller Fellowship in 1989. Along with winning three O. Henry awards—for “Charades” (1993), “Terrific Mother” (1994), and “People Like That Are the Only People Here” (1998)—Moore has received six Best American Short Story awards and, in 1996, was included the “Best of Young American Novelists” issue of Granta 54. Her story, “You're Ugly, Too,” appeared in the 2000 anthology Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Birds of America was nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award and was named one of the Best Books of 1998 by the New York Times.
Major Works

Since the 1930s, the American short story has been noted for moving away from streamlined, carefully crafted prose toward minimalism and the sophisticated, witty, experimental work of Moore and other contemporary short fiction writers. Self-Help is one of the first of a group of short story collections that helped redefine the genre in the mid-1980s. The nine stories mock the popular form of “how-to” books, and most are written in the second person, including “How to Be an Other Woman,” “How to Become a Writer,” and “Go Like This,” which tells the story of a woman confronted with the news that she has terminal cancer. Other stories in the collection explore the often trying relationship between mothers and daughters. While Moore is best known for her short fiction, she has explored other genres as well. Moore wrote her first novel, Anagrams (1986), during her early years in Wisconsin. It is the story of a nightclub singer, Benna, who tries unsuccessfully to rearrange the letters of words to make anagrams, and similarly tries to make sense of the disjointed details of her life. In this work, as in Self-Help, Moore experiments with point-of-view. The eight stories of Like Life (1990) are less satiric than those in her earlier collection. Thematically, the stories are concerned with romance, particularly the pain and irony that can result from relationships gone awry. Two of the stories, “Vissi d'Arte” and “Starving Again,” focus on male protagonists who both fail at creating a lasting bond with an object of affection. “You're Ugly, Too,” which depicts the destructive effects of loneliness on a woman in her thirties, contains a haunting, ambiguous ending. The novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? opens in Paris, where Berie Carr and her husband are attending medical conference and hoping to renew their flagging marriage. Berie, however, cannot help remembering her fifteenth year, when, with her best friend Sils, she worked at a Canadian amusement park called Storyland. Sils played Cinderella at the park, but Berie, who had not yet attained physical maturity, was a cashier. The park's happily-ever-after fairy tale theme contrasts sharply with the reality of the girls' growing up and the challenges they face. A bildungsroman with a female protagonist, the novel is full of humor, derived primarily from wordplay, but the overarching theme is one of loss. Berie reminisces about her lost childhood and her lost optimism for the future.

Birds of America contains twelve stories—with ten focusing on female lives and perceptions. The title has been variously interpreted, with some seeing it as a reference to nineteenth-century naturalist and painter John James Audubon, who killed birds before enshrining them for posterity in his watercolors. The women in the collection, like nearly all of Moore's female characters, are Midwestern, well-educated, and in their thirties or forties. They have lived sufficiently to have experienced loss but still believe in the potential for exciting possibilities. A thread that runs through many of the stories is physical pain, the result of either accident or disease—Down's syndrome, polio, cystic fibrosis, or cancer. With two exceptions, however, the diseases and misfortunes do not afflict the protagonists; rather, they occur in the lives of a sibling, a child, or a parent and affect the protagonist in unexpected ways. “Real Estate” contains two plots that intertwine. The first involves a woman who realizes that her cancer is no longer in remission; the second concerns a young man who turns to armed robbery when he is fired from his job. The most celebrated of the stories in Birds of America is “People Like That Are the Only People Here,” in which a baby is diagnosed with a rare form of kidney cancer. The mother finds a blood clot in the baby's diaper, and the nightmare of an emergency room visit, surgery, and chemotherapy begins. The staccato nature of thoughts and events are memorably captured in Moore's raw and nuanced telling of this devastating event in the life of a young family. Moore has also authored a children's book, The Forgotten Helper: A Story for Children (1987), and edited an anthology of stories about childhood, I Know Some Things (1992), republished in 1997 as The Faber Book of Contemporary Stories About Childhood.
Critical Reception

Critics have considered Moore to be one of the foremost practitioners of the innovative and urbane American short fiction that emerged in the final two decades of the twentieth century. While Self-Help has been acclaimed by reviewers, her novel Anagrams has been regarded as far less illustrative of Moore's talent. Critics have praised Like Life for its emotional engagement and broader thematic scope. Some of the short stories in this volume, notably “You're Ugly, Too,” have been considered as representative of the best in American short fiction. Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? has been generally well received, though some reviewers found the novel's Parisian sections overly coy and questioned Moore's ability to sustain the breadth and scope of the novel form. Birds of America has been widely complimented for its sharply etched vignettes and the maturity of Moore's narratives. In particular, “People Like That Are the Only People Here” has attracted notice for its emotional power, which has been considered by many reviewers as evidence of Moore's skill with narrative control. Moore's incorporation of humor, particularly puns and one-liners, has been both admired and admonished by critics, with some arguing that Moore's jokes lessen the emotional connections between the text and the reader.


About Lorrie Moore: A Profile
by Don Lee

Lorrie Moore hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in three and a half years. It’s not what you think, however. She has not, like one of her characters, fallen prey to love woes or obsessive-compulsive panic. If anything, Lorrie Moore is far tougher than most people would suspect. It’s simply that she has a feisty three-and-a-half-year-old son. “This particular parenting experience has been like a large nuclear bomb on the small village of my life,” she says.

The author of two novels and two short story collections, with a third, Birds of America, due out this fall, Moore has lived in Madison, Wisconsin, for the past fourteen years. Since 1984, she has been teaching at the University of Wisconsin, where she is now a professor of English. By all appearances, she has had a remarkably stable writing career. “I’ve rarely felt any pressure to publish,” she concedes. “I really feel like I’m writing what I want, at a pace that is the natural one.” Indeed, her biography reads like a model of serendipity, a guide to “How to Become a Writer”—the title of one of Moore’s earlier stories, which begins: “First, try to do something, anything else.” The irony of that line speaks volumes of her literary and personal temperament. While success has come quickly and easily to her, she has worked hard for it. Like most writers, she runs through dozens of drafts before getting a story or a book right, going back and forth from longhand to the computer, revising and polishing. And while Moore’s fiction is renowned for its wit and humor, filled with repartee, pithy one-liners, and wisecracks, she considers the essence of her work to be sad.

Nicknamed “Lorrie” by her parents, she was born Marie Lorena Moore in 1957 in Glens Falls, New York, a small town in the Adirondacks. Her father was an insurance executive, her mother a former nurse turned housewife. Moore, the second of four children, remembers her parents as rather strict Protestants, politically minded, and culturally alert. A quiet, skinny kid, Moore fretted, quite literally, about her insubstantiality. “I felt completely shy, and so completely thin that I was afraid to walk over grates. I thought I would fall through them. Both my younger brother and I were so painfully skinny, it still haunts us. Here we are, sort of big, middle-aged adults, and we still think we’re these thin children who are
going to fall down the slightest crevice and disappear.”

Academically precocious, she skipped ahead in school, earned a Regents scholarship, and attended St. Lawrence University. There, as an English major, she was the editor of the literary journal and won, at nineteen, Seventeen magazine’s fiction contest. It was her first publication, and it unearthed some surprising facts about her parents. Her father revealed that he had had literary aspirations of his own. He’d been in a writing class with fellow students Evan S. Connell and Vincent Canby at Dartmouth; he brought down some stories from the attic that he’d once sent to The New Yorker. Her mother, too, had wanted to be a journalist. Yet her parents’ revelations did not necessarily strengthen Moore’s resolve to become a writer.

Her expectations for herself were modest. Entering St. Lawrence, she hadn’t been exactly bursting with ambition. “I think I probably went to college to fall in love,” she laughs. “I had the same boyfriend from the second week of college until I was twenty-four.
I don’t recommend it. But I have to tell you what it allowed—it allowed me to study, and write, and have a very serious student life, whereas other people were still busy shopping around for boyfriends and girlfriends.” After graduating, she moved to Manhattan and worked as a paralegal for two years, then in 1980 enrolled in Cornell’s M.F.A. program, where she was in a class of five—two fiction writers and three poets—who were thrown together with second-year students to make up a single workshop.

As she became more devoted to her writing, she found that music, her first love, was now a distraction. Like her father, she played the piano, and even had had a professional gig as a freshman, at a reception for Eugene McCarthy. (She’d been playing in a dormitory lounge, the dean of women students heard her, and she asked Moore to provide background tinkle for the reception the day after the next. She was paid fifteen dollars.) But at Cornell, she decided she had to give up music. “It was eating into similar energies,” she says. “The typewriter and the piano were actually similar ideas, for my mind and for my hands. I was completely unaccomplished musically. Nonetheless, I was having ecstatic experiences in the practice room at Cornell and wasn’t getting any writing done. So I had to choose.” Slowly, the sacrifice began to redound, as her stories were accepted at magazines—one by Ms., for which they paid her but never ran, others by Fiction International, John Gardner’s Mss., and StoryQuarterly. The publications were encouraging, but she was still not convinced they would lead anywhere. “I remember thinking, rather naïvely, that I would give myself until I was thirty, and if I hadn’t published a book by then, I would probably have to find something else to focus on, that I obviously just was completely deluded and I didn’t know what I was doing.”

In 1983, when she was twenty-six, Knopf bought her collection, Self-Help, comprised almost entirely of stories from her master’s thesis. One of Moore’s teachers at Cornell, Alison Lurie, had mentioned that her agent, Melanie Jackson, was looking for clients. Neither Moore nor her classmates really knew what an agent was. “I sent her the collection, and she sent it to Knopf, and they took it. Now, I realize, that doesn’t happen ordinarily,” Moore says. Self-Help, which was published in 1985, produced a flurry of attention, reviewers comparing her to everyone from Grace Paley to Woody Allen. Six of the nine stories are written in the second-person mock-imperative, ironically imitating self-help books for contemporary women, particularly in regard to romance. One story begins, “Understand that your cat is a whore and can’t help you.” Another, called “How to Be an Other Woman,” starts, “Meet in expensive beige raincoats, on a pea-soupy night,” then continues, “After four movies, three concerts, and two-and-a-half museums, you sleep with him. It seems the right number of cultural events.”

By this time, Moore had been hired at the University of Wisconsin, but Madison often proved too lonely for her, and, whenever she could, she returned to Manhattan. “It was all very difficult,” she says. “I lived in Little Italy for the summer, then found an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. I kept moving back to New York to worse neighborhoods and paying more rent.” Not incidentally, the predicaments of East Coast sophisticates landlocked in the Midwest became a motif in Moore’s next two books. Anagrams, her first novel, published in 1986, features Benna Carpenter and Gerard Maines, occasional lovers who live in Fitchville, U.S.A. The novel is structurally anagrammatic, the characters’ relationships and occupations changing from chapter to chapter; Benna also has a daughter and a best friend who are, the book reveals, imaginary. “It got many bad reviews,” Moore says. “I actually had to stop reading them. I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Her next collection in 1990, Like Life, received raves, the eight stories showing a growing narrative authority, accompanied by her distinctive wit and mordant observations about love in the modern age. In “You’re Ugly, Too,” Zoë Hendricks is languishing in Illinois, teaching college history. It’s not that different from her last job in Minnesota, where her blond students assumed, because she is a brunette, that she is from Spain. She escapes to New York to visit her sister, who pairs her with a man at a party. Zoë braces herself for the initial conversation: “She had to learn not to be afraid of a man, the way, in your childhood, you learned not to be afraid of an earthworm or a bug. Often, when she spoke to men at parties, she rushed things in her mind. As the man politely blathered on, she would fall in love, marry, then find herself in a bitter custody battle with him for the kids and hoping for a reconciliation, so that despite all his betrayals she might no longer despise him, and in the few minutes remaining, learn, perhaps, what his last name was, and what he did for a living, though probably there was already too much history between them.”

“You’re Ugly, Too” was the first of many of her stories to be published in The New Yorker (and then to be reprinted, with regularity, in annuals such as The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories), but, in 1989, it was a controversial piece for the magazine. “All through the editing process, they said, ‘Oooh, we’re breaking so many rules with this.’ ” Robert Gottlieb had taken over as the editor, but the turgidity of his predecessor, William Shawn, still gripped the institution. “I could not say ‘yellow light,’ I had to say ‘amber light,’ ” Moore remembers. “And that was the least of the vulgarities I’d committed.”

In her next book, the short novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, which came out in 1994, Moore took a different tack and focused on adolescence. Lauded as her richest work, the novel has Berie Carr, a thirty-seven-year-old photography curator, in a childless, failing marriage. During the three weeks that she is in Paris with her husband, who is attending a medical research conference, Berie replays the summer of 1972, when she was fifteen. She worked as a cashier at an Adirondacks amusement park called Storyland, where her beautiful best friend, Silsby Chaussée, was costumed as Cinderella.

Moore took the title for the book from a Nancy Mladenoff painting, which depicts two girls worriedly standing over a pair of bandaged frogs—injured from too many kisses. The novel evokes the fairy-tale purity of Berie and Sils’s love for each other, as well as their hopes for the future, beyond this fallow period when they have “no narrative”: “it was liquid, like a song . . . It was just a space with some people in it.” Yet, heartbreakingly, the novel is just as much about the end of possibility, the realization that the narrative—all that waiting—has arced prematurely into disillusionment: “By then my parents had moved from Horsehearts to the east coast of Florida with my grandmother, who, when I visited, stared at me with the staggering, arrogant stare of the dying, the wise vapidity of the already gone; she refused to occupy the features of her face. The living didn’t interest her; she grew bored when anyone spoke. In her yawn I could see the black-and-white dice of her filled teeth, the quiet snap of her spit, all gathered in a painting of departure. It is unacceptable, all the stunned and anxious missing a person is asked to endure in life. It is not to be endured, not really.”

Birds of America, Moore’s new book—her fifth from Knopf with the same editor, Victoria Wilson—is her longest yet. “Almost three hundred pages,” she marvels. “Unbelievable. You could keep a small door open with this.” Of late, Moore has become more interested in the novelistic terrains of place and time and memory. She also notes the inclusion of children in her most recent work. She realized after the fact that nearly all twelve of the stories in Birds of America have a jeopardized child in them—most of them written well before she herself became a mother.

Moore is taking the next year off from teaching to work on a new novel. “It’s on my own nickel, so we’ll see if we end up in a shelter,” she says. “Having a child, you can start to feel money pressure, and if you get a bad review, you might think, How’s my kid going to go to college?” The new novel will be a marked departure for her. “It’s actually about hate. It’s hard to get in the same room with it. It may not be a book that is possible for me to write.”

Lorrie Moore claims her literary ambitions have become more prosaic than ever. “I used to stay up all night and write and read, and I was quite obsessive. But now it’s a much more modest endeavor. When your life gets crazy and complicated, your hopes turn into ‘I hope I get enough sleep so that I can get some writing done this year.’ ”

Copyright © Don Leehttp://www.pshares.org/issues/article.cfm?prmarticleID=4504


From The Times December 31, 2008
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

Erica Wagner talks to Lorrie Moore about the future of the short story

January 16, 2009

I spoke to Lorrie Moore when her Collected Stories came out in hardback. Moore lives and writes in Wisconsin, where she holds the Delmore Schwartz Professorship in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Her new novel will be published in the autumn.

Erica Wagner: What's it like to see all these stories collected together?

Lorrie Moore: I don't know who would actually sit down and do that, read them all the way through like that; I had to because I had to proofread the book [she's laughing here], but by the end I had my head in my hands. You feel distant, and you wouldn't write these particular stories now, especially some of them, and even if you did you would write them differently. And you think the words are stupid and ask why did I write it this way? Sometimes there's a pleasant surprise - right next to something that's mortifying. But everybody has that about their younger work. Except Hemingway, maybe. But maybe he even felt that way.

What do you think about readers who look at your work for clues to your own life?

It's a way of reading that has always existed. I try not to judge it; as writers we don't like it, we have a knee-jerk response, we want to set it aside. But there are ways of seeing it as a compliment, there are ways of understanding it as just natural human curiosity. I think fiction writers somehow feel disrespected by it, that it shows no comprehension of what fiction's doing or what literature is, but it's always been there. If it's a problem, it's always been a problem. It's always been in the conversation. So much so that now there's this rash of memoir-writing. People who would ordinarily take a manuscript and call it an autobiographical novel are calling it a memoir, and there's confusion - as with James Frey and Oprah [Winfrey]. Because Frey really did try to sell A Million Little Pieces as a novel, and he couldn't.

You know, almost all novels are autobiographical to some extent, that doesn't mean they're not novels. There's always been a biographical strain in lit crit. Whether it's analysis or a lit biog; it's just there. I try not to think it's absolutely philistine to think that way, because we all do. We're all curious about people's lives beyond the book and all of that. But it shouldn't be the main thing, it shouldn't be distracting. But I think it's a natural thing. Even if it's not ... attractive.

Is it a harder climate for fiction these days?

I'm not a climatologist. I don't really know what the climate is. Everybody's trying to take the cultural temperature, but what do they know? Writers are just home writing books, so we're the last ones to know - and if we did know, it would probably paralyse us.

Do you think the short story is in trouble?

But Jhumpa Lahiri's been at No 1 in the bestseller lists with Unaccustomed Earth, a book of stories - which is great! The downside is that shows that not very much is selling; the upside is that it's absolutely unprecedented, never before has a young woman's collection of short stories been No 1. So that's very exciting, and I try to get my students excited about it. They are so apprehensive about their own future that sometimes instead of taking inspiration from other people's success they feel that there's only a little success out there so if someone else has it, they won't. And they're close enough to her age to feel, almost, that she got all the success. Instead of feeling inspired by it.

What do you for recreation?

I don't do anything. I grocery shop. I go to the grocery store, get groceries, come back and say, Oh! I had my break. You know how it is.


January 3, 2009

Alyson Rudd on Birds of America by Lorrie Moore

HOW CAN A STORY end in a restaurant with a husband looking at the spine of his wife and her bright, new and terrible hair as she bends over at the table? What does that mean? Lorrie Moore does that to you, she makes you want to scream at the page.

If you do not much like tales with no endings then this collection of short stories might drive you crazy. However, how wonderful it is to be left hungry for more every 20 pages. I could not manage to read more than three stories without a break. I needed to pause, digest and accept that I would never know more about Agnes or Joe and that I did not need to know more. You have to trust that Moore has given you all the detail you need.

And it is splendid detail. There are snippets of conversation and thoughts and although we have been in a character's company a matter of minutes, Moore shows us enough for us to sense the irony or humour or pain. There is plenty of pain, much of it the mundane sort.

The book is packed with women who feel unfulfilled or are hurt by a glance in their direction. Women do all the talking; their men grunt or try to say the right thing and fail. The father of an actress was so horrified to see his daughter naked on screen that he now leaves for a nap whenever she visits. One woman, a dance instructor, likes people who talk not with their hands, not with their arms but who talk with their arms over their head. This collection is the writing equivalent. It is bold and slightly bonkers but also witty, fascinating and mesmeric.

Birds of America by Lorrie Moore
Faber & Faber, £8.99



Self Help - Lorrie Moore

"But I love you, he will say in his soft, bewildered way, stirring the spaghetti sauce but not you, staring into the pan as if waiting for something, a magic fish, to rise from it and say: That is always enough, why is that not always enough?"

Reviewed by Sarah Salway

How to become a writer like Lorrie Moore – go for the jugular, shape every sentence until it sings, tackle every subject head-on, observe.

Self Help was apparently written almost exclusively for her Masters thesis. Although it has a little annoying archness of a young writer showing off, overall this collection has stood the test of time. It’s one I return to when I want to look at unusual structures for a short story, before getting seduced by the quality of the writing. Open any page at random and you’re guaranteed a perfect sentence – "Dream, and in your dreams babies with the personalities of dachshunds, fat as Macy balloons, float by the treetops." Beautiful. As indeed, although in a different way, is, "Wives are like cockroaches…They will survive you after a nuclear attack – they are tough and hardy and travel in packs – but right now they’re not having any fun." Ouch.

Of the seven stories, three titles begin, ‘How to..’ and one is just called ‘How’. The slightly hectoring tone, and frequent use of second person, fits the theme of how Moore’s heroines want to know the answers to questions they can’t articulate, and feel nostalgic for things they’ve never really achieved – true love, belonging, purpose. Only Moore’s witty writing stops this falling into cynicism. It’s hard to resist a story which begins, ‘Understand that your cat is a whore and can’t help you’.

For me the two stand outs in this collection are How to Become a Writer – The only happiness you have is writing something new, in the middle of the night, armpits damp, heart pounding, something no one has yet seen – and How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes). I took apart the structure of How to Talk to Your Mother (Notes) the first time I read it, like a dressmaker deconstructing a fine garment. As it consists of a selection of paragraphs ranging back from after the mother’s death to the moment of conception, I guessed a strategic author like Moore would work in a middle point. Eureka. At exactly the centre of the story, in 1961, the grandmother dies and the narrator has an abortion – leaving only the two women at the centre of the generations, forever stuck with each other.

Although Moore has said in an interview that she shudders at the thought of her work being analysed, it proves to me that these seemingly slight stories have been crafted so tightly, both in language and structure, that it is only in the hands of a master that they can retain any character and passion. Luckily Moore is a master.

In her very funny How to Become a Writer, Moore has her narrator start with, "First, try to be something, anything, else", and at the end of the story, likens her need to write as "a lot like having polio." Interesting, smiles the date the narrator is telling this to, "and then he looks down at his arm hairs and starts to smooth them, all, always, in the same direction."

Show me another short story writer, or indeed any writer, who can beat the cruel biting humour of an observation like that.

Sarah Salway is a poet, short story writer and novelist. She is the author of the novels, Something Beginning With and Tell Me Everything (Bloomsbury). Her short story collection, Leading the Dance, is published by Bluechrome, and, with Lynne Rees, she is the co-author of the collaborative classic, Messages.Sarah's other Short Reviews: http://www.theshortreview.com/reviews/SelfHelp.htm

Copyright © 2009 Ploughshares

Adeus, país do futuro

Adeus, país do futuro

Entre frustrações e sonhos de prosperidade, 3 milhões de imigrantes brasileiros vão fazendo história

Ivan Marsiglia - O Estado de S.Paulo  5/07/09


SÃO PAULO - Depois de três décadas de exílio acadêmico em São Paulo, a pernambucana Maria Teresa Sales de Melo Suarez enfim voltou à sua terra natal. Considerada grande especialista do País no tema das migrações internacionais, ela própria fez o caminho de volta para casa - a exemplo dos brasileiros que hoje retornam dos Estados Unidos, Europa e Japão por causa da crise financeira global. No caso de Teresa, a migração foi interna e por saudade mesmo.


Professora aposentada do Nepo, Núcleo de Estudos de População da Unicamp, ela levou na bagagem um doutorado em ciência política na USP e pós-doutorados no Instituto de Tecnologia de Massachusetts e na Universidade Harvard para assumir a presidência do Centro de Estudos e Pesquisas Josué de Castro, em Recife.


A autora de Brasileiros Longe de Casa (Editora Cortez, 1999), estudo clássico sobre a grande onda migratória nacional para os EUA no final dos anos 80, está em Barcelona, na Espanha, para participar do 3º Encontro da Rede de Brasileiras e Brasileiros no Exterior. A reunião, que conta com a participação de mais de 40 associações de imigrantes do Brasil espalhados por uma dezena de países da Europa, ocorre na mesma semana em que três brasileiros foram presos na cidade, acusados de planejar um assalto a banco.


Foi nesse clima de agitação e festa junina - "em Barcelona o dia de São João é feriado, igualzinho no Nordeste", exultou a professora - que Teresa Sales falou por telefone com o Aliás. Concedida numa quinta-feira, 25 de junho, Dia do Imigrante, a entrevista também coincide com a estreia no País do filme Jean Charles, com o astro Selton Mello no papel do imigrante brasileiro executado pela polícia inglesa no metrô de Londres em 2005, ao ser confundido com um terrorista.


Nessa semana, três brasileiros e um argentino foram presos aí em Barcelona, acusados de planejar um assalto a uma agência bancária. O episódio turva a imagem dos nossos imigrantes?
Todos os fatos envolvendo brasileiros com a criminalidade são lamentáveis, pois reforçam estereótipos negativos sobre a imigração. Infelizmente, esse tipo de notícia é ainda a que mais chama a atenção quando se discute o assunto no mundo.


O filme 'Jean Charles' também estreou agora e sensibilizou o País. Quando a polícia britânica apresenta como um atenuante de seu 'erro' a acusação de que o brasileiro possuía documentos falsos está reforçando esse estereótipo negativo?
Evidentemente. É flagrante a tentativa de botar a culpa na vítima. Na verdade o que ocorreu foi uma truculência da polícia, que é motivo de revolta.


E o caso da Paula, a brasileira que simulou ter sofrido um ataque de neonazistas em Zurique?
Infelizmente, aquela moça fez um desfavor ao Brasil. Está claro que ela tem problemas mentais, mas o que fez acabou dando argumento para a xenofobia dos países receptores.


Quantos imigrantes brasileiros existem no mundo hoje e em que países estão concentrados?
É um ponto no qual pretendo tocar neste encontro em Barcelona: é uma irresponsabilidade que o Ministério das Relações Exteriores (MRE) até hoje não tenha uma estimativa precisa. Ninguém sabe ao certo. Está claro que a maior parte vive nos EUA, em segundo na Europa e em terceiro no Japão. De certos mesmo, só temos os números japoneses, porque lá a imigração é totalmente legalizada: são 329.519 brasileiros. Os demais dados do MRE são puro chute: o Paraguai teria pouco mais de 400 mil. EUA, cerca de 1 milhão e 250 mil. Europa, 940 mil.


Ou seja, há quase 3 milhões de brasileiros vivendo no exterior?
Isso. E, se por um lado não temos estimativas, por outro é impressionante como, embora nossa imigração seja recente, esses brasileiros estão muito bem organizados. Na Europa há 86 organizações de brasileiros. Nos EUA, 66. E no Japão, 70, das quais 54 são escolas que, a rigor, não são grupos de mobilização. Na América Latina existem cerca de 30 entidades. Três apenas no Paraguai, que tem um tipo de imigrante específico, rural: os chamados "brasiguaios". Mesmo na Austrália, um país tão distante, existem 6 organizações brasileiras. E em Angola, 3.


O que fazem esses grupos?
O foco do 3º Encontro da Rede de Brasileiras e Brasileiros no Exterior é levantar uma pauta de reivindicações para o governo brasileiro. Em geral, os imigrantes querem fazer valer direitos que a dupla cidadania lhes permite. Por exemplo, ano passado participei de um encontro promovido pelo Itamaraty no Rio de Janeiro e o senador Cristovam Buarque propôs que os brasileiros residentes no exterior possam eleger representação parlamentar (atualmente só é permitido a eles votar para presidente da República). As organizações também pedem uma atuação mais agressiva do governo para evitar as barreiras a sua entrada nesses países - a exemplo do que houve com os dentistas brasileiros em Portugal ou, mais recentemente, com os operários brasileiros na Espanha. E atendimento consular, plano de saúde, escola... A última pauta que vi tinha cinquenta pontos, tanto que na última reunião chamei a atenção do grupo para que se centrasse em três a sete prioridades.


Alguns pesquisadores afirmam que o nível sociocultural do brasileiro que imigra não é baixo, como se imagina. Qual é seu perfil hoje?
Ao contrário. Desde o início da imigração, o fato mais marcante é que o brasileiro que deixa o País é de bom nível e vai fazer trabalhos aquém de sua qualificação. A maioria é composta por profissionais de nível médio ou estudantes: professores de escolas secundárias, bancários, pequenos comerciantes que encaram trabalhos braçais, duros. Em 1995, isso já ficava patente em minhas pesquisas. E gerava problemas: conheci uma terapeuta brasileira que ganhava muito dinheiro só atendendo empregadas domésticas. Elas fundiam a cuca porque tinham sido professoras no Brasil e agora passavam o dia fazendo faxina na casa dos outros. Ainda que ganhassem três vezes mais , sua insatisfação psicológica era evidente. Ouvi várisos depoimentos assim, como o de um bancário que foi para Boston trabalhar com o que eles chamam de "landscape" - serviços externos, como tirar neve no inverno e cuidar dos jardins no verão. Ele ganhava bem, mas lamentava: "Estava acostumado a trabalhar com a cabeça, não com as mãos". É um perfil muito diferente do da imigração interna brasileira, do pau-de-arara que ia do Nordeste para São Paulo nos anos 50 - uma mão-de-obra desqualificada, analfabeta. Imigrar para o exterior implica em tirar passaporte, visto, falar língua estrangeira... Exige o mínimo.


Quais foram, historicamente, as principais ondas de imigração brasileira para o exterior?
A principal ocorre em meados dos anos 80 e vai num crescendo até o final da década. Em 1997, fiz uma pesquisa amostral grande, financiada pela Fapesp, em Governador Valadares (MG). Percebemos que a imigração toma vulto em 1985, vai num crescendo e o pico se dá nos anos de 1987, 88 e 89 - que chamei em meu livro Brasileiros Longe de Casa de "triênio da desilusão". Esse foi o período de planos fracassados de combate à inflação e da chamada "década perdida" da nossa economia. Pouca gente se lembra, mas após tomar posse na primeira eleição direta do País depois da ditadura, Fernando Collor de Melo assumiu a presidência fazendo um apelo dramático aos nossos imigrantes: "Voltem, que o País irá se consertar". Alguns voltaram e a decepção foi ainda maior. Então, a onda não se deveu apenas à crise econômica, mas a um sentimento de desesperança no País.


Essa primeira leva vai apenas em direção aos EUA?
Sim. E se espraia nos dois pontos, de origem e de destino. Deixa de ser predominantemente mineira, oriunda da região do Vale do Rio Doce, para afluir de todo o País. E os imigrantes chegam primeiro a Nova York, depois para Massachussetts e Flórida. Hoje, há brasileiros em praticamente todos os Estados americanos.


Como esses primeiros imigrantes eram vistos nos EUA?
Fiz um estudo detalhado sobre isso, comparando a cobertura da imigração brasileira na imprensa dos EUA e do Brasil. Curiosamente, em nosso país, em meados dos anos 80, dois terços das notícias sobre o assunto eram negativas: sobre um brasileiro que era preso, outro que falsificava papéis, o que sofria discriminação, etc. Na imprensa americana, ao contrário, o tom geral era claramente favorável. Havia um estereótipo positivo nos EUA que dizia "brasileiro, povo trabalhador". Hoje, houve alguma mudança nessa imagem, embora as notícias positivas continuem. Já na Europa, embora também haja alguma simpatia, há um claro viés preconceituoso, por exemplo, quando a imprensa se refere às mulheres imigrantes, frequentemente associadas à prostituição.


Mas foi a partir de quando que os brasileiros passaram a escolher também a Europa como destino?Já nos anos 90, pouco depois da onda americana. Concentraram-se inicialmente em Portugal, depois Espanha e Inglaterra. Alemanha, em menor número. Concomitantemente, vem o Japão, com aquelas características diferenciadas: uma imigração induzida pelo governo para se livrar dos trabalhadores ilegais oriundos da China, da Coreia e outros países asiáticos. O Japão talvez seja o país mais xenófobo de todos.


Como assim, se a senhora acaba de dizer que a política de imigração japonesa é totalmente legalizada?
É legalizada, mas só para os descendentes de sangue, os dekasseguis. É por isso que o Japão busca imigrantes no Peru e no Brasil, entre filhos e netos de japoneses. Em seguida, a campeã da xenofobia é a Europa, com pequenas diferenças de um país para outro. Portugal talvez seja ainda o mais flexível, por conta das relações históricas de amizade conosco e os muitos acordos bilaterais que existem. Já os EUA, vale dizer, estão entre os mais tolerantes, mesmo com todos os problemas que aconteceram recentemente. A literatura sobre imigração aponta três países como mais receptivos aos imigrantes: os EUA, o Canadá e a Austrália.


Momentos de crise, como o atual, acirram a xenofobia.
Os governos, em regra, vivem em uma corda bamba. De um lado, a demanda de mão-de-obra por parte das empresas, que dão preferência à mão-de-obra imigrante por ser mais vulnerável e barata. De outro, a sociedade, que tende a ter uma posição de intolerância com os imigrantes que vêm trazendo costumes, "invadindo" os vagões de metrô com suas cores e etnias diferentes.


A crise financeira já afetou os fluxos migratórios?
Tem havido iniciativas da parte dos países receptores no sentido de desestimular a imigração e a estimular o retorno aos países de origem. Elas, no entanto, só funcionam para os imigrantes que chegaram recentemente, não para os mais antigos - que já se estabeleceram, têm filhos na escola e criaram vínculos duradouros com o país receptor. Aqui na Espanha, a Organização Internacional para as Migrações (OIM), tem financiado viagens de retorno, supostamente por razões humanitárias. Na verdade, essas políticas advêm da sensibilidade do governo diante da pressão dos trabalhadores espanhóis. Quando a situação está bem, eles não querem ocupar postos de trabalho ruins e os deixam para os imigrantes. Quando piora, querem esses postos de volta.


E o Brasil, é um país que recebe bem os imigrantes estrangeiros?
Não. O Brasil não é muito diferente desses outros, infelizmente. Tem leis restritivas e, em termos de regulamentação do trabalho, mais duras que as dos EUA. Talvez nossa sociedade tenha uma tolerância maior do que a europeia, pois o brasileiro é acostumado a lidar com o estrangeiro de maneira cordial. Mas na hora do vamos ver, do emprego, a legislação brasileira não o acolhe.


O presidente Lula esteve em Genebra e anunciou na Organização Internacional do Trabalho (OIT) uma anistia a todos os imigrantes ilegais que vivem no Brasil, que deve ser sancionada dia 6 de julho. É uma mudança de direção?
É uma iniciativa, mas vamos ver a implementação. Porque essa nova imigração que o Brasil tem recebido é diversa daquela do pós-guerra. É uma imigração de pobres - bolivianos, coreanos e africanos - e, no contexto atual, considerada "difícil de assimilar". Se bem que não se pode dizer que o fluxo de italianos para o Brasil na passagem do século 19 para o 20 fosse de ricos. E a Itália não é menos Itália hoje por ter imigrado em massa para a América. Ao contrário: formou uma população importante fora do país que, em sua segunda geração, se afirma positivamente.


O que o Brasil tem feito de fato por seus cidadãos que vivem no exterior e o que é preciso melhorar?
Apesar das falhas que mencionei, temos de reconhecer que o MRE tem tido uma atuação positiva que vem lá de trás, desde a época em que Fernando Henrique foi ministro das Relações Exteriores até a gestão de Celso Amorim. Antes de FHC e de Lula, o corpo diplomático brasileiro estava voltado quase que exclusivamente às questões comerciais e de relacionamento com outros países. Transformar isso numa estrutura voltada também ao apoio consular ao imigrante foi uma evolução. Apesar desses esforços, ainda existe muito preconceito contra o imigrante brasileiro no próprio Brasil.


Quer dizer que o brasileiro não vê com bons olhos o conterrâneo que opta por viver lá fora?
Nós ainda vemos o imigrante como um perdedor, um covarde que abandonou o País. Essa imagem tem que mudar. O Brasil se afirma lá fora através de seus imigrantes. Por enquanto, eles podem estar se dedicando ao trabalho braçal, mas vem aí uma segunda geração. E a maior parte dos países que admiramos, Alemanha, Inglaterra, Portugal, Itália, teve imigrantes que saíram para fazer a América, trabalhando pesado. Hoje, elogiamos a tradição alemã no sul do Brasil como uma história de sucesso, esquecendo de que no começo foi brabo. É preciso ter perspectiva histórica para não desprezar os brasileiros que saíram do País. Eles também fizeram uma opção de coragem.

Out of the Bedroom, Into the Clinic

The New York Times
Washington University Libraries

William Masters and Virginia Johnson in an undated photograph.


June 26, 2009
Books of The Times

Out of the Bedroom, Into the Clinic

MASTERS OF SEX : The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love

By Thomas Maier

Illustrated. 411 pages. Basic Books. $27.50.



It's hard to believe, but the word clitoris did not appear in Playboy magazine until 1968, in an interview with Masters and Johnson, the famous sex researchers.

Two years earlier, the pair had published "Human Sexual Response," their first book, based on more than 10 years of clinical research. It was a best seller, and it rattled the culture in much the same way the first Kinsey Report had in 1948.

Alfred Kinsey compiled his information from surveys. His work was sociology. William Masters and Virginia Johnson actually watched people — a lot of people — have sex, with heart monitors and other gizmos attached to their subjects' bodies. Here was science. Here was raw data that steamed America's frozen peas.

"Human Sexual Response" wasn't easy or especially titillating reading, Thomas Maier points out in his new book, "Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love." Masters and Johnson wanted their work to be taken seriously, and wanted to stay a step ahead of the morality police, so they tended to write in almost comically dense medicalese.

Their books speak of "mounting episodes," of "stimulative approach opportunities" and "vocalized performance concerns." A sex flush on the stomach was a "maculopapular type of erythematous rash." Barry White this was not.

Still, the big news in "Human Sexual Response" jumped off the page. Women, compared to men, were veritable sexual athletes, capable of multiple orgasms. More shockingly, women reported more intense orgasms when they masturbated. Who needed men? (Before long, an office sign at Gloria Steinem's Ms. Magazine would read, "It's 10 o'clock at night — do you know where your clitoris is?")

Male readers took some solace in the fact that Masters and Johnson dismissed the "wide-spread concept that ejaculation, whether accomplished through masturbation or coition, is detrimental to the physical condition of men in athletic training programs." They also noted that men with larger penises are not necessarily more effective lovers.

Masters and Johnson became famous. Other books followed, including "Human Sexual Inadequacy" and "The Pleasure Bond." In 1970 they appeared on the cover of Time magazine and came off as avuncular and funny. "The greatest form of sex education," Dr. Masters told Time, "is Pop walking past Mom in the kitchen and patting her on the fanny, and Mom obviously liking it. The kids take a look at this action and think, 'Boy, that's for me.' "

They opened a clinic to treat sexual dysfunction, among the first in the country, and celebrities, among others, flocked to it. Their clients included the actress Barbara Eden, Mr. Maier writes, as well as Gov. George Wallace of Alabama, after he had been shot in an assassination attempt.

Behind Masters and Johnson's success, however, is a long and frequently disquieting story, one that is told with patience and care by Mr. Maier in "Masters of Sex."

Dr. Masters met Ms. Johnson in 1956. He was 41, a married professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Washington University in St. Louis and a distinguished surgeon. She was a twice-divorced 31-year-old former singer without even a college degree who had simply applied to be his assistant.

"Why me? I still don't quite know," Ms. Johnson said later. "I just became the princess."

It was a professional marriage that worked. At the time, Dr. Masters was shifting from gynecology to sex research, a nearly empty field. He knew he needed a female perspective, especially after a woman told him she sometimes faked her orgasms, a claim that utterly baffled him. "You really need an interpreter," she told him.

Ms. Johnson was not aware of Dr. Masters's sex studies when she was hired but proved to be a perfect partner. She humanized the famously aloof Masters, was a quick learner and had a gift for putting people at ease while asking the most intimate questions.

Dr. Masters had begun his early research by studying prostitutes. But he came to realize they did not lead representative sex lives. The pair put signs up on the Washington University campus looking for volunteers to participate in their sex research and soon had more than they could handle.

It was a different world in the late 1950s. There was an aversion to speaking about sex in public, much less studying it in private. Before Masters and Johnson, for example, no one had photographed the inside of a woman during intercourse. (They employed a clear Plexiglas dildo nicknamed Ulysses for the task.) "Before they could fix things sexually," Mr. Maier writes, "they had to know how it worked."

Their research became the subject of rumors on the Washington University campus, and they soon left to open their own nonprofit research center. Some of the rumors were true. Bill Masters made it clear to Virginia Johnson — or Gini, as many people called her — that having sex with him was part of her job. They would study their own human sexual responses.

There are other details that, to some, were unsavory, including that the pair often paid sexual surrogates — a practice bordering on prostitution — to help men with premature ejaculation and other sexual problems.

In 1971, after being married for 29 years, Dr. Masters left his wife and married Ms. Johnson. The pair entered a relationship that seemed charmed on the outside — Shana Alexander, writing in Newsweek, called them "the Ma and Pa Kettle of sex therapists" — but was essentially loveless.

The couple's later books were increasingly ridiculed. In "Homosexuality in Perspective" (1979), they claimed homosexuality could be cured — a claim that, with their names attached, is still trotted out by some social conservatives. In 1988 they published "Crisis: Heterosexual Behavior in the Age of AIDS," a book that said the government was covering up the true extent of the AIDS problem. One critic called it "a classic of the terror genre."

In 1993, Dr. Masters divorced Ms. Johnson to marry his high-school sweetheart. He died in 2001, at 85, after suffering for many years from Parkinson's disease. Ms. Johnson tried to open a new clinic in the late 1990s, but it failed. She is now in her 80s.

"Masters of Sex" can be, at times, depressing reading. Neither Masters nor Johnson, it seems, led particularly happy or well-adjusted lives. But there's no denying that they added greatly to the enjoyment of many other people's time on this planet.

Mr. Maier writes well, and with good humor, about their struggles and frequent successes. They got very good at what they did. One former colleague, only slightly exaggerating, says of Dr. Masters: "Bill could look at somebody and say 'Have an erection!' and they would."


Joyce P. Mcgurrin

Thomas Maier

Le Sandwich Takes a Bite Out of French Tradition


Le Sandwich Takes a Bite Out of French Tradition

By Edward Cody
Friday, June 26, 2009

The popularity of Xavier Mazzoni's sandwich stand in Paris typifies France's move away from the idea that lunch is something to be savored at length.

The popularity of Xavier Mazzoni's sandwich stand in Paris typifies France's move away from the idea that lunch is something to be savored at length.

PARIS, June 25 -- Ah, France, bastion of the three-hour lunch. First comes the appetizer, followed by the main course, then cheese and dessert, washed down with red wine and, along with an espresso at the finale, maybe a little cognac to enhance digestion back at the office.

Well, yes and no.

While they have not abandoned their love of food, French people increasingly are resorting to a humble sandwich for the noon meal. Some even gulp it down with a soft drink while sitting at their desks. So much so that the consumption of sandwiches in France has grown by more than a quarter over the past six years, to 1.8 billion annually, and climbed by 10 percent last year, according to market researchers.

Moreover, the change has often come at the expense of neighborhood cafes, where lunch still means a hot dish like grandma used to make and sitting around the table for an hour of conversation with friends or colleagues. The number of bars and cafes in France has fallen from 200,000 half a century ago to 38,600, according to industry associations. More than 2,000 went out of business last year alone as an indoor smoking ban took effect and the world economic crisis bit into budgets.

The shifting lunchtime habits, which are more pronounced in large cities such as Paris, are part of a social tug of war in France between the imperatives of a modern industrial economy and a long-cherished tradition of fine food produced and prepared by artisans devoted to their crafts. The increasingly common sight of a young French office worker walking down the street munching on a sandwich suggests tradition is more and more on the losing side as the years go by.

"If they were home, or near home, maybe they would have a real meal," explained Jean Rossi, a market researcher at the Gira Food Service consulting company who has investigated the sandwich phenomenon. "But their offices are one hour or more from their homes, and with their limited buying power, the sandwich is an obvious solution."

For instance, McDonald's has enjoyed rising business in France for the past five years, taking full advantage of the evolution. Income at its more than 1,100 French outlets rose by 11 percent in 2008 despite the economic crisis, the company reported.

Most French people still prefer to eat a full lunch when they can, following age-old custom in the country and its Latin neighbors, such as Spain and Italy, industry officials said. As a result, sandwich consumption per capita is still lower than in other countries. Britons, for instance, eat several times as many as Frenchmen.

"The function of a meal in France is not just to take on energy, and it never will be," cautioned Nawfal Trabelsi, vice president for marketing and communications at McDonald's in France.

But the change, Rossi and others pointed out, is that French people increasingly are willing to forgo their tradition of a sit-down lunch if they face time constraints or are low on funds. The younger they are, the more easily they make the decision, he added.

Yannis Athenes, a 24-year-old computer engineer, is one of the people Rossi was talking about. Athenes handed over about $5 one recent day for a grilled salmon sandwich prepared at a little stand outside the Benjamin Cafe on Rivoli Street, in a busy shopping district just north of the Seine. Athenes said he sits down for a full lunch whenever he can but frequently resorts to sandwiches because of a lack of time.

"The truth is," he said, holding up his sandwich, "I'm going to eat this while driving. I have appointments set up that I have to get to, and I just don't have the time to sit down for a real meal."

Xavier Mazzoni, who operates the stand, said he left his job in a traditional restaurant a little over two years ago to open the sandwich stand, renting the space from the cafe owner. As clients lined up to be served, Mazzoni, 42, said he has to get up at 5 a.m. to make the sandwiches -- tuna, chicken, ham, cheese, salmon -- but is rewarded with enough business to bring in a good living and finance a planned beach vacation this summer for his two children.

A waiter circulating among the traditional cafe tables only a few feet away acknowledged that Mazzoni's sandwich stand drains away food business from the Benjamin, which advertises in gold letters painted on the wall that it offers "traditional cuisine."

"But we have to live with it," he said.

As he set down a cola for one 20-something woman with swept-back hair, she pulled a sandwich out of her bag and bit into it. Unmoved, the waiter shuffled off to tend to other customers.

The problem is, Mazzoni said, that about five other stands have opened up in the neighborhood since his arrival to try to take advantage of the sandwich boom. Across France, the number of shops and stands selling sandwiches has risen to more than 32,000, doing about $13 billion in business, industry research shows.

But the surge in the new sales pattern may slump a little in 2009; since the beginning of this year, Mazzoni noted, the economic crisis has produced a dip even in sandwich consumption, with some of his previously steady customers reverting to bringing a lunch pail to the office.

Part of the most recent sandwich boom, particularly last year's steep rise, can be attributed to the crisis, which has carved into food budgets even in a country where many businesses subsidize employee lunches. A sandwich and soft drink in Paris run between $4 and $6, while a sit-down lunch easily hits $18 to $20 even in a simple cafe.

But the increase in sandwich consumption also reflects a long-term generational change in the way French people, particularly the urban young, view their noontime meal. Although older people cling to the idea that a full meal is a necessary part of the day, those under 40 think nothing of grabbing a sandwich if it will save money or time. For an up-and-coming French businessman, lunch may not be for wimps, but it has become expendable.

First-class business travelers on the three-hour train between Paris and Brussels in the 1980s, for instance, used to enjoy long lunches served by waiters in crisp white tunics who, for a price, proposed four courses and poured good wine into crystal glasses. The same trip now takes a little over an hour; travelers have the choice in a bar car between club sandwiches or "wraps" that they can carry back to their seats with plastic cups for airline-style mini-bottles of wine or cans of beer.

Children in Rio are just too sweet

Sarah O'Sullivan

Fw: The Sunday Times - 28 June 2009 - World

Brazilians love children. Where I live in Rio de Janeiro a child can't get down the street without strangers approaching to ruffle their hair, shake hands, or strike up a conversation. Surly-looking characters crack open smiles and start cooing as soon as an infant comes into view. Likewise, it is perfectly acceptable for a waiter to plant a kiss on a kid's head in a restaurant. Even the doctor gives a peck on the cheek after a consultation.

That public affection is reflected in parenting methods too. "Heavy on the sugar," is the motto of Brazilian mothers.

My toddler recently threw a strop when told she couldn't have sweets before bed-time. Suddenly my neighbour was banging at the door, demanding to know why the child was screaming. Brazilian children generally don't cry, and certainly never throw tantrums.

Feeling the "bad mother" vibes coming my way, I explained. The woman was aghast to learn that I would refuse sugar to my daughter, and promptly reached into her own apartment for a bag of bonbons. The old dear then proceeded to tell the child that she would set a dog on her if she didn't stop crying. Luckily, Junior doesn't understand the lingua.

The Terrible Twos don't seem to exist in Brazil at all, and so certain cross-cultural difficulties arise with tantrums. I was nearly arrested as a child abducter when Junior decided to exercise her lungs in a public park recently. Tempted as I was to lie on the ground beside her and start screaming myself, I went for the "planned ignoring" tactic. Pay as little attention as possible to the negative behaviour — isn't that what the parenting websites advise? It might make sense in some cultures, but not here.

I was reported to the police. After all, no mother would allow her child to scream like that. I struggled to convince the officers that the now-silent child was mine. Trying to explain the concept of a tantrum in a foreign language in a country where kids don't cry is no mean feat.

Last week I apologised to a woman in the supermarket after Junior embedded a shopping trolley in her shins. It was I who got the scolding. "She's only trying to help, you know," the shopper said, throwing me a dirty look and patting the head of the kamikaze trolley driver.

The creche staff asked a few weeks ago whether my child was allergic to Coca-Cola. Apparently, my little cherub had refused the caffeine-ridden beverage, causing raised eyebrows all around. Delighted to know my conditioning programme was paying off (we call Coke "yucky juice" at home), I explained my position to an ever-deepening brow. A mix of horror and pity furrowed the creche worker's face as she mentally debated whether to call social services. Gringas, she finally decided, a truly strange breed.

Mildly amused, I recounted the story to a Brazilian friend later, expecting to share a laugh. Not so. This mother also couldn't understand why I would refuse Coke to a child. I spluttered about the effects of caffeine on children. Maybe European kids are different, she surmised. "Coke doesn't bother Brazilian children," she continued, "because they start drinking it as babies."

That same woman's child, who lives with his grandparents, doesn't go to sleep until 11pm. They're not sure why.

I'm all for immersing myself in the local culture. When in Rio, and all that. But I draw the line at stuffing my child with sugar just for an easy life. I've been battling the saccharine onslaught for a while now, and I'm starting to feel like I'm losing. There's only so long I will get away with calling raisins "sweeties" in Rio.

Fellow parents in Ireland tell me they have long since given up the ghost. Sugar is unavoidable, they say. It certainly is when you live on the up-slope of a South American sugar-loaf mountain.

But then life in Rio is full of contradictions. The poorest have the best views in town from the shanty towns on the horizon, while the rich people jostle for scarce space on the streets below.

Family is central, but Granny is invariably left holding the baby while Mom rents a flat and gets on with her (social) life. Children are public property on the street, but Rio's natives are so petrified of one another that kids aren't allowed to go to other houses, even for birthday parties.

The term paedophilia is not used, even in media circles, because to do so might cast aspersions on teenage marriages in so much of Brazil. I met a happily married 14-year-old in the mountains recently. Her mother approved of the union; the husband is a "good boy", I was told. The legal age for marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but parental permission ensures a bypass.

Birthday parties are held in public places, such as schools, because of the culture of distrust. Parties cost a fortune as the middle classes flaunt their wealth through the size of the goody bags sent home. These include toys and boxes of explosive bangers — a strange gift for three-year-olds living in a gun-riddled city.

And of course there's one other essential ingredient in these goody bags: a week's supply of candy.

On Gay Issues, Obama Asks to Be Judged on Vows Kept

The New York Times
President Obama and Michelle Obama at a reception Monday to mark a 1969 uprising that led to the modern push for gay rights.

June 30, 2009

On Gay Issues, Obama Asks to Be Judged on Vows Kept

WASHINGTON — President Obama defended his policies on gay rights on Monday, telling an audience of gay men and lesbians that he remained committed to overturning the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule and that he expected to be judged "not by promises I've made but by the promises that my administration keeps."

Mr. Obama made his remarks at a reception in the East Room of the White House to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, the 1969 uprising that gave rise to the modern gay rights movement. Joined by his wife, Michelle, the president directly addressed criticism from gay and lesbian leaders that he had not been a forceful advocate for them.

"I know that many in this room don't believe progress has come fast enough, and I understand that," Mr. Obama said. "It's not for me to tell you to be patient any more than it was for others to counsel patience to African-Americans who were petitioning for equal rights a half-century ago.

"We've been in office six months now. I suspect that by the time this administration is over, I think you guys will have pretty good feelings about the Obama administration."

Many lesbians and gay men supported Mr. Obama's election, but their leaders have grown increasingly impatient and critical of him as president.

Mr. Obama campaigned on a promise of repealing two policies that are anathema to them: the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal law that allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, and "don't ask, don't tell," which bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The president has been accused of dragging his feet on both, but especially on "don't ask, don't tell" because he could use his executive authority to order the military not to enforce the rule.

In his remarks on Monday, Mr. Obama affirmed his opposition to the policy, saying he believed that "preventing patriotic Americans from serving our country weakens our national security." But he said he thought the best course was to work with the Pentagon and lawmakers to overturn it.

"As commander in chief," Mr. Obama said, "I do have a responsibility to see that this change is administered in a practical way and a way that takes over the long term."

The explanation seemed to assuage some of his critics.

Richard Socarides advised President Bill Clinton on gay issues and has been deeply critical of Mr. Obama. Mr. Socarides, who watched the event on the White House Web site because he was not invited, said afterward that while he disagreed with the president's strategy, he respected him for "articulating why and how" he was making his decisions.

"This will buy him some time," Mr. Socarides said, "but he'll have to deliver."

For at least one person at the reception, time is of the essence.

Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, an Air Force officer who is facing expulsion proceedings after someone informed his superiors that he is gay, attended the reception as a guest of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which is challenging the policy. Colonel Fehrenbach said he introduced himself to the president after Mr. Obama spoke.

"I explained that I'm being thrown out as we speak, and that there was a sense of urgency for me," Colonel Fehrenbach said. "He looked me in the eye and he said, 'We're going to get this done.' "

A alma encantadora do teatro, segundo o crítico João do Rio

 Saturday, July 04, 2009 8:02 AM

A alma encantadora do teatro, segundo o crítico João do Rio

Tido como 'o Oscar Wilde carioca', ele analisou as artes cênicas na virada do século 19 para o 20

Sérgio Augusto


Gordo, mulato, homossexual, epicurista, comilão, o dândi da rua do Ouvidor, "o pândego infame" que curtia como ninguém a alma encantadora das ruas do Rio de Janeiro da belle époque - isso basta para identificar a figura ímpar de João do Rio, o Oscar Wilde carioca. Mas ainda é pouco para avaliar seu talento e a extensão de seus dotes à cultura brasileira, como observador, repórter, sociólogo amador, crítico, autor, ensaísta, conferencista e entertainer de salão.

Nascido João Paulo Alberto Coelho Barreto, também foi Joe, X, Claude, José Antonio José, Máscara Negra - e, antes de todos esses, apenas Paulo Barreto. Sob qualquer nome, o mais vivo, erudito e pernóstico cronista da cidade, na virada do século 19 para o século 20.

Arauto e baluarte do processo de modernização implantado pelo prefeito Pereira Passos, nenhum de seus pares (pares, repito, não apenas contemporâneos, como lhe foram Machado de Assis e Lima Barreto) sobreviveu com igual desenvoltura às traças do esquecimento e ao mofo das estantes. Pelo menos um dos 23 livros que publicou em vida costuma ser reeditado com regular frequência: o nunca assaz louvado A Alma Encantadora das Ruas, que acaba de sair em edição de bolso pela Cia. das Letras (256 págs., R$ 15). Além de ensaios a seu respeito ou nos quais ocupava lugar de destaque, dedicaram-lhe, nos últimos 30 anos, duas biografias: a mais recente, em 1996, de autoria de João Carlos Rodrigues, também responsável, dois anos antes, por um indispensável catálogo bibliográfico da obra de João do Rio.

Foi a partir desse catálogo que Níobe Abreu Peixoto elaborou sua tese de doutorado na USP sobre as relações de João do Rio com o teatro, defendida em 2003 e agora editada pela Edusp, com o título de João do Rio e o Palco (dois volumes, 592 págs., R$ 85). É a mais recente demonstração do fascínio que o flâneur mais curioso e inquieto da República Velha até hoje exerce sobre todas as gerações. Preenchida essa lacuna, fica faltando coligir os comentários literários e políticos que Paulo Barreto e seus alter egos espalharam pela imprensa do Rio e São Paulo entre junho de 1899, sua estreia (ou seu début, como ele, na certa, preferiria dizer) no ofício, e junho de 1921, quando, prestes a virar quarentão, morreu de enfarte, num táxi (como o poeta Robert Lowell), vindo da redação do jornal A Pátria para sua casa, na então quase inabitada Ipanema.

O teatro foi uma descoberta adolescente de Paulo Barreto. Era o que havia de arte cênica na época, além do circo e dos cafés-concerto. Com a vida teatral envolveu-se totalmente, aqui e além-mar; como crítico (ou comentarista, como se autodefinia), repórter (fez inúmeras entrevistas com a nata da ribalta do Rio, Lisboa e Paris), tradutor (de Wilde: Salomé e O Retrato de Dorian Gray), autor (uma de suas peças, A Bela Madame Vargas chegou a ser montada em Portugal, em 1913), ativista (fundou a Sociedade Brasileira de Autores Teatrais), e até como cicerone de estrelas internacionais (Isadora Duncan dançou nua em sua frente, na cascatinha da Tijuca, em 1916).

Níobe Peixoto impressionou-se com a abundante produção jornalística de João do Rio, a diversidade de seus enfoques, a riqueza de seus detalhes, e, sobretudo, com sua ativa participação nos eventos teatrais mais significativos do momento e os diálogos que estabeleceu com os diversos segmentos da área. Analisou peças, autores, montagens, performances, comportamento da plateia, e polemizou, sempre de espada afiada, com seus companheiros de crítica, pela qual, à exceção de Rodrigues Barbosa, não tinha o menor apreço.

O que ofereciam os teatros da capital federal no final do século 19? Espetáculos cômicos, com dança e música, pequenos vaudevilles (o pré-teatro de revista), adaptações de romances folhetinescos (em geral por Dias Braga ou Eduardo Vitorino), encenações líricas com tenores estrangeiros, temporadas de estrelas europeias, quase todas vindas da França e Itália (Eleonora Duse, Sarah Bernhardt, Gabrille Réjane). Salvando as cores nacionais, as paródias e operetas de Artur Azevedo, cujas caricaturas aturdiam, quando não irritavam, as celebridades e os poderosos do dia. Com a morte de Azevedo, em 1908, Coelho Neto e Olavo Bilac passaram a dividir as honras da casa.

"Há uma vibração ideal de verdade, um sentimento degenerado de desorganização física, uma neurose de epiléptica na atriz Lucília." Assim começava o primeiro texto jornalístico de Paulo Barreto, no jornal A Tribuna, 1º de junho de 1899. Em pauta, uma encenação de Casa de Bonecas, de Ibsen, com Lucília Simões no papel de Nora. Lucília era filha (e herdeira artística) de Lucinda Simões, grande dama do teatro brasileiro, dona de uma casa de espetáculos com seu nome, admirações permanentes de João do Rio.

Um mês depois, o segundo texto, ainda como Paulo Barreto, mas já na gazeta Cidade do Rio (fundada pelo abolicionista José do Patrocínio) e misturando a literatura de Alexandre Dumas Filho com digressões sobre o Naturalismo e o Realismo, que defendia ferozmente contra o Romantismo. Só no final de 1903, na coluna A Cidade, da Gazeta de Notícias, tirou do colete o nom de plume que o consagraria. Já era, portanto, João do Rio quando passou a colaborar na sofisticada revista Kosmos, em setembro de 1904, mesmo ano em que publicou uma série de reportagens sobre as religiões do Rio, que, enfeixadas em livro, viraram best seller, e iniciou sua caleidoscópica perambulação pela "cosmópolis" carioca, que redundaria em A Alma Encantadora das Ruas.

Tinha uma visão negativa do teatro nativo, da mediocridade de seus autores (afora Martins Pena e Artur Azevedo, nada a ser levado a sério) e da pobreza das casas de espetáculo, que praticamente se resumiam a meia dúzia: o Lírico ("enorme e lamentável barracão muito feio"), o São Pedro, o Lucinda (de Lucinda Simões), o Carlos Gomes e o Recreio. Espinafrou até a precariedade de seus camarins ("de tabiques maus e papel sujo"), livrando a cara de dois ou três, um dos quais o de Lucinda Simões. Reclamava da mesmice de ofertas, limitada a "embrulhadas, pândegas, pilhérias compridas, angus feitos com os pedaços de todas as outras coisas", do amadorismo, do egoísmo, da vaidade doentia e do fátuo estrelismo de muitos atores nacionais, que volta e meia aderiam ao coro (ou ao "coaxar malévolo") dos demais ingratos e insatisfeitos com as críticas por ele formuladas, sempre, vale frisar, com a melhor das intenções.

Impossível estimar, sem a possibilidade de uma tira-teima, onde e quando foi justo ou injusto. É certo que exagerou nas exaltações a Coelho Neto, tratado como um gênio da literatura, comparável a D?Annunzio e Kipling, mas, à luz do que até hoje se vê, várias de suas estocadas permanecem atualíssimas. Como esta: "No Brasil, quanto mais o ator cômico vira palhaço e deturpa os autores, mais aplausos tem da plateia sem noção de arte."

Divertido e surpreendente (só gostava de assistir às companhias líricas baratas, "com coros hesitantes, velhos barítonos em decadência e prima-donas esfalfadas"), teve a sorte de testemunhar a construção e as 12 primeiras temporadas do Teatro Municipal do Rio, cujo centenário se celebra daqui a 10 dias. Recebeu-o como uma bênção, uma conquista civilizatória, um oásis artístico e cultural. Não aderiu à campanha de parte ou da maioria da imprensa contra a entrega da primeira temporada do Municipal à companhia da atriz francesa Gabrielle Réjane. Apenas em tese julgava justa a reivindicação do novo e formidável templo teatral carioca para uma companhia brasileira. Como "não queria vê-lo transformado em palco de revistas e velhas mágicas", defendeu "o elemento estrangeiro", que, a seu ver, muito nos teria a ensinar.

Foi João do Rio, assinando-se então Joe, quem fez a melhor cobertura da inauguração do Municipal. Em linguagem literária há muito ausente de nossos impressos, pontuada de alusões históricas e literárias, nada, em sua reportagem-crônica, escapou ao seu olhar deslumbrado, jubiloso e fotográfico. Do intenso movimento de veículos e cocheiros à entrada do teatro à cerimônia em si (Hino Nacional, discurso de Bilac, um poema sinfônico de Francisco Braga e Escragnole Doria, uma peça em um ato de Coelho Neto, uma ópera lírica, também em um ato, de Delgado de Carvalho), com preciosas descrições do opulento interior da casa e dos solenes convivas presentes à grande noite. O homem certo, no lugar certo, na hora certa. E com o estilo certo.