Benna Carpenter makes anagrams out of words - but also out of life. Changing the facts, she invents new roles - nightclub singer, aerobics teacher.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Moore plays with the conventions of plot, characterization and narrative voice in this cleverly constructed novel. She rearranges the elements of her main character, Benna Carpenter's life, jumbling them up like anagrams to give her a new set of circumstances in each of five chapters. The chapters, which function like short stories within the outer frame of the whole novel, follow Benna as nightclub singer, aerobics instructor, lecturer, and poet, foraging through the 'whole spinning shape of her life' in search of her true self. Moore tap-dances with words and phrases, introducing metaphors that are sometimes hysterical and sometimes sad, injecting a touch of the prosaic even in moments of high grief. She captures some of the snapshot moments and inner truths of life with sparkling sensitivity. (Kirkus UK)
Less is less for Moore (Self-Help, 1985), whose wispy story here is merely a pretext for an endless barrage of smart-alecky one-liners, annoying puns, and deliberately bad jokes. But that's understandable. Wise-cracking Moore's goofy heroine leads such a drab and lonely existence that she's not above inventing a few imaginary lives for herself and others. Before the real Benna stands up, her alternate selves (Benna as nightclub singer, Benna as aerobics instructor, etc.) command some short and often sad narratives, false starts really to a novel that never takes off because it never transcends the entropy at its core. Alas, poor Benna, Ph.D. manque, she's also in reality a writing instructor with no future at Fitchville Community College, where her "moronic" and "savage" students elicit from her much mean-spiritedness and supercilious insight. Widowed early on, self-pitying Benna now can't decide what role Gerard is supposed to play. Friend? Lover? Soulmate? Benna's so wrapped up in her daughter Georgianne, a six-year-old who says the darnedest things, and her friend Eleanor, a pudgy pundit suffering from "heterosexual depression," that she ends up ignoring her devoted Gerard. Too bad these two clever females - the most fully realized characters in this otherwise lifeless book - turns out to be mere figments of Benna's overripe imagination. That's right: Benna, for whom "no idiocy was too undignified," gets by on a "lozenge of pretend." She compulsively "makes things up," though not apparently Gerard's untimely death. From writing-teacher Moore, lots of Eng Lit wit - cheeky bons mots gathered, one imagines, in the departmental lounge. (Kirkus Reviews)