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17 September 2023

Lorrie Moore’s Q&A: “US gun regulation should be a public health policy”

The author and critic on epidemiology, the joy of wine and coffee, and the soul of Abraham Lincoln.

By New Statesman

Lorrie Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York, in 1957 and worked as a paralegal before becoming an author. Her books include the short story collections Self-Help and Birds of America, and the novel A Gate At the Stairs.

What’s your earliest memory?

The mobile over my crib that had a bright red robin and a yellow bird, which was probably a finch. I hope this is my earliest memory because otherwise I was sleeping in a crib at a shockingly old age.

Who are your heroes?

When I was 11 I loved the actress Susan Saint James. She played Tony Franciosa’s research assistant on The Name of the Game. I liked her brave but glamorous investigative journalism, her outfits, her berets, her humour, her raspy voice. Lest you think I was a hopelessly superficial girl, I also admired Florence Nightingale, Edith Cavell and Harriet Tubman. They were heroic beyond all dreams for myself or any person I actually knew, and I knew some nurses. As an adult, looking at the entirety of their lives, anyone would be hard-pressed to find more admirable people than Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Rachel Aviv’s Strangers to Ourselves did not change my thinking but presented stories and thinking that were new to me. So it added to my thinking without being strenuously argumentative.

Which political figure do you look up to?

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t perfect. But he was a beautiful soul and a brilliant mind in impossible circumstances. Thinking about him brings tears to my eyes.

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What would be your “Mastermind” specialist subject?

I’m not sure what Mastermind is. So I don’t know what constitutes a special subject. I can sing the entirety of “Frank Mills” from Hair. I think that’s niche since I’ve only met three other people who can do this. I also know a lot about B vitamins and can go on about the Covid lab-leak theory.

In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

New York City in the 1950s.

What TV show could you not live without?


Who would paint your portrait?

I don’t think anyone would. Though I could try myself, which would allow for some ad hoc improvements.

What’s your theme tune?

The theme from Frontline. It’s full of drama and alarm and if you have it in your head you’re then prepared for virtually anything.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I was advised not to buy the house I bought, not to marry the man I married, not to wear so much black. So clearly I am clueless.

What’s currently bugging you?

War. And the insane gun situation in the US. 

What single thing would make your life better?

American gun regulation as a proper public health policy. Some disease cures.  Universal healthcare. Wine that is unwaveringly good for you.

When were you happiest?

There was a coffee I used to drink in Ithaca, New York state, that made me very happy for a good long hour.

In another life, what job might you have chosen?

Forty years ago I used to say “epidemiologist”. I would still say that.

Are we all doomed?

Not at all. Well, maybe a little.

“I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home” by Lorrie Moore is published by Faber & Faber

[See also: Lorrie Moore’s American afterlife]

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This article appears in the 20 Sep 2023 issue of the New Statesman, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers