This week we read a short story from Lorrie Moore’s collection, Bark: Stories, called “Referential.” This was not my favorite story in the collection, nor did I think it was the best one, but I chose it for the discussion factor and its relation to the story we read for our last meeting. Last session we read “Symbols and Signs” by Vladimir Nabokov. Having read the Nabokov, we can clearly see Moore’s nod to his work. (I actually read the Moore story first, and wouldn’t have known of its similarity to Nabokov’s if not for the subtle “After VN” included at the end of Moore’s text.)
Questions for discussion:
1. In the Telegraph article, which I have now linked since reading it won’t spoil anything for you, Moore is quoted as saying, “I wondered what would happen if the parents actually made the visit to the son or if the adult couple weren’t actually married, etc. So I wrote something that tracked the Nabokov closely but also did its own thing. I wasn’t sure if this was even proper or permitted as an homage. I included some language from the story, since I didn’t want anyone to think I was hiding something. I only wanted to honour the original and its power both as story and as inspiration.” Do you consider this story proper or permissible? How does Moore walk the line of plagiarism? What does she do (particularly well) that Nabokov doesn’t? What techniques could/would you borrow from her?
2. I know it will be hard to say, having now read Nabokov’s story, but do you think Moore’s story can stand on its own? What do you think you would have made of it if you had not read the Nabokov first?
3. Discuss the difference in Moore’s treatment of mental illness.
4. Would you consider this darker? More or less satisfying?