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Hanne, reading on Cloud 9

Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.

Review: Degrees of Nakedness

Degrees of Nakedness: Stories - Lisa Moore

This is a peculiar collection of short-stories. Gorgeously written, but tough to crack, but I think I stumbled on a decoding clue that Lisa Moore hid in the very last story.


“I read,’ the haiku is like a finger pointing at the moon. It’s important that it’s not a bejewelled or perfect finger. It only points to something.’”


The description of that haiku sounded like how she wanted her stories to sound. These stories aren’t about the moon. It never is about perfect people doing a set of perfect things. It is about the pointing, the writing itself, the journey while reading, rather than the end point.


Lisa Moore uses language like the painting grandmasters used their colours: there are some sentences you just want to capture and re-read a few times because the flow of the words, and the stunning image behind those sentences. Like ‘Houses digging their heels into the hill to stop from tumbling into the harbour’.



She also takes metaphors and parallels to a whole new level. In 'The Lonely Goatherd', Carl makes Styrofoam theatre sets for Red Riding Hood. Sarah, his assistant is ‘sweating over the giant chunk of Styrofoam from which the Wolf will be carved’, a wolf that is described as having saliva drooling form his fangs. We know that Carl lately has been sleeping with other woman than his wife. And after using some kind of (illegal!) glue, Carl and Sarah’s hands are accidentally glued together, and only get separated 15 minutes after. ‘Carl stays a long time in the empty warehouse, his burnt hands cradled between his knees.’


In 'Sea Urchin' the main character remembers how her father once stepped on a sea urchin and how they had to pour melted wax on his foot to draw the needles out. She will pour metaphorical waxes on her own pain later in the story. But there's more: Her father died of a heart attack, while the nurse is explaining it to her, she notes “But a heart, in fact, must be like tissue paper, must come apart when it’s not pumping, must dissolve.” Later on a baby shower, the pregnant teacher opens a present. “She held it up, tissue paper over the side of the box.”

Or, how our heart is always on display. Even when we think we’re covering it up, that we’ve got it nicely boxed away, there’s always some tissue paper spilling out.


In 'Degrees of nakedness' ‘The top half of Joan’s house burned down while she slept downstairs’, just two or three nights after her last boyfriend leaves her. The fire is literal, but how much other damage is being done in the top half of Joan’s head after that happens?


'Wisdom teeth' tells the story of a woman, who as a child vouched to never get married and instead be a single mother, following her husband to an unknown city, away from her family, and remarks that she’s ‘in a lot of pain because her wisdom teeth are growing’.


In 'Nipples of Paradise', a young mother expected some kind of epiphany after the birth of her first child. Instead, a few days later she finds out through the baby monitor that her partner Cy slept with a friend who during a previous party in their house extinguished a fire in the kitchen. One fire might be gone, but she just dropped a small bomb. The young mother goes out and sits on a fire escape (of all places!) to ponder what she’s just heard and remembers a time when Cy’s thumb dipped into golden pigment was ‘glowing in the dark, like something precious, timeless’.



I think Lisa Moore wrote a glowing, precious collection of short stories, that you have to read slowly to really enjoy and strip it down layer by layer. Upon my first read I gave this 4 stars, but I have a feeling stars will be added with every re-read.