Emdashes—Modern Times Between the Lines

The Basics:
About Emdashes | Email us

Before it moved to The New Yorker:
Ask the Librarians

Best of Emdashes: Hit Parade
A Web Comic: The Wavy Rule


More Lorrie Moore and Louise Erdrich

Filed under: The Katharine Wheel: On Fiction   Tagged: , , , , , ,

Not too long ago, I raved about the podcast of Lorrie Moore’s story “Dance in America,” which was featured in April on the New Yorker website. Guess that was well timed, because The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore has recently been published. If you’re late to the Lorrie Moore party (if that’s quite the right word for her hilarious but sad style), you should check out this excellent review.

Meanwhile, Louise Erdrich, who did a stellar job reading and discussing Moore’s story in the podcast, has also come out with a new novel, The Plague of Doves, which has gotten some intriguing reviews. You can read the first chapter at The New York Times or, of course, at TNY, where it first appeared as a story with the same title. I haven’t read either version yet, but I noticed the opening lines differ slightly.

In fact, it looks like all of Erdrich’s recent TNY stories made it into her new novel. Pluto, North Dakota, where Doves is set, was also the setting for her superb story “Demolition,” which I praised at length a couple of months ago, and one of the novel’s main characters is the subject of “The Reptile Garden,” one of the better stories TNY has published this year. That the latter should turn out to be part of The Plague of Doves didn’t surprise me, since it felt more like part of a novel than a short story, but “Demolition” worked so well on its own that I’m curious how Erdrich integrated it into something longer. Now I’ve just got to read the book….


I’ve wondered how this works - given the long lead time needed to produce a book (or an issue of TNY) I suspect these were not short stories woven into the book, but chapters separated from the book and made to stand on their own.

Hi Stephen - I’m sure in many cases, you’re right. Shirley Hazzard, for example, almost definitely works the way you suggest. The stories she published in TNY that ultimately appeared in The Transit of Venus were almost word-for-word as they appeared in the eventual novel, and while they actually stand on their own quite well, you can tell they’re done, and it’s likely that she published them after she’d finished the entire novel.

But some authors may develop their novels only after working them through in smaller pieces, stories they may rework substantially for the longer work. Seems only natural that it would depend on the author’s particular creative process.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, it may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Thanks for waiting.)

2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree