Critical Overview

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612

‘‘You’re Ugly, Too,’’ first published in 1989 in the New Yorker, was included in Moore’s second collection of short stories, Like Life. The consensus of critics at the time of its publication was that it helped to cement Moore’s growing reputation as a masterful short story writer known for her engaging wit. However, several reviewers also noted that, while Moore’s strengths were obvious and many, the wit expressed in her writing often came at the expense of an emotional depth to her characters, and her stories revealed a lack of thematic diversity: most of her stories in the new collection, like her previous work, were about middle-class, educated, single women looking for love.

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, the National Book Award winning author John Casey called the collection ‘‘a dazzler’’ with ‘‘witty (and sometimes wisecracking) narration [that is] wonderfully theatrical. . . .’’ While Casey notes that all of Moore’s characters in Like Life ‘‘want both solitude and love,’’ a quandary that is not a new one, ‘‘Moore brings her own variations to [the quandary], her own comic talent and her own eloquence.’’ Writing in the Houston Chronicle, reviewer Sally Poivoir also points to Moore’s comic tendencies, stating that in her ‘‘search for the authentic, Moore’s lantern is humor. Humor in every form and of every degree, from the most abject pun to the subtle insinuation of a vast cosmic joke, from tender irony to mocking contempt to total devastation.’’

Although critic Dan Cryer, writing in Newsday, concludes that Moore’s voice is ‘‘badly needed’’ in fiction, Like Life is ‘‘both a cause for celebration and concern.’’ While the stories themselves are ‘‘full of sharp observation and stylistic grace,’’ they reveal that Moore may be in a ‘‘thematic rut’’ with the ‘‘single women’s anxiety over finding lasting love’’ being her predominant concern. Cryer writes that there is a ‘‘danger . . . that [Moore’s] smart, articulate career women quipping their way out of pain may come to seem interchangeable.’’

Boston Globe reviewer Matthew Gilbert called Like Life a ‘‘deceptively complex’’ collection that ‘‘contains a moving emotionality that was previously banned’’ in Moore’s work. ‘‘In [Like Life], the laughter turns to tears. The stories are not merely witty, they are relentlessly tragic.’’

However, Los Angeles Times reviewer Merle Rubin disagreed, stating that though Moore’s writing provided ‘‘enough verbal glibness to provide material for all the stand-up comics in Los Angeles,’’ she has ‘‘very little ability to create convincing characters or tell stories that invite us to suspend our disbelief as we read them or to brood upon them after they’ve been read.’’ Rubin concludes his review by praising ‘‘her flair at doing what she does,’’ but warning that ‘‘when style becomes this stylized, it is likely to prove a fad.’’ And in a generally positive review, the Christian Science Monitor criticizes Moore’s one-liners, ‘‘[h]owever entertaining they may be,’’ for being ‘‘distracting.’’

As for the story itself, if reviewers mention it at all, it is to discuss the similarities between Hendricks and the characters Moore had created in her other work. The reviewer for the Christian Science Monitor, for instance, writes that Hendricks, like most of Moore’s characters, ‘‘teeters on the edge of rationality,’’ while Matthew Gilbert, in the Boston Globe, writes that Hendricks, like many of Moore’s other characters, ‘‘is married to pure isolation.’’

Although ‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ itself has not been critiqued extensively, it has been widely anthologized since it was first published in such collections as The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction and the highly regarded anthology, The Best American Short Stories of the Century edited by John Updike.

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Essays and Criticism