Historical Context

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 201

Women and Academia
In the 1980s, women were greatly outnumbered by men as faculty members, accounting for only 27 percent of all academic faculty, according to Academic Women Working towards Equality (Bergin and Garvey Publishers, 1987). This number was an increase of about 5 percent over the period 1942–1962, according to the same study. By contrast, women reached their peak in terms of representation among faculty members in 1879–1880 when they made up 36 percent of all faculty in U.S. colleges and universities. According to the National Resource Council’s Humanities Doctorates in the United States, 1991 Profile (National Academy Press, 1994), about one-third of all PhD candidates in History between 1981 and 1988 were women.

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Detection of Tumors
Ultrasound imaging, also known as ultrasonography, is a non-invasive medical imaging technique that uses high frequency sound waves and their echoes to help physicians get an inside view of soft tissues and body cavities. By the 1980s, ultrasound had been widely available to clinics and hospitals for years and was the method of choice for diagnosing abdominal-related pains. Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI, had just been approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1984, but because of its costs would not be widely used for diagnosis for at least another decade.

Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 271

The external plot of “You’re Ugly Too” is obviously not very important for Moore’s purposes. The plot is little more than a particular situation to highlight what is going on inside of Zoë’s head. A brief sketch of her academic career and unsuccessful romances sets the scene for her trip to New York where she meets yet another romantic cripple.

Moore’s use of a third-person narration, which closely follows the consciousness of Zoë Hendricks, allows the reader to see the woman from both the outside and the inside. The reader is thoroughly sympathetic with Zoë, particularly if the reader has experienced firsthand some of the pitfalls of academic teaching and a few unsuccessful relationships. However, one can also see that Zoë partly creates the distance between herself and others. Zoë remains appealing primarily because of her wry sense of humor when looking at both herself and her world.

Moore’s stories have been compared to the stories of Raymond Carver, Bobbie Ann Mason, and Flannery O’Connor. The pervasive comic despair of Moore’s stories may be similar to that of O’Connor’s stories, but in theme she is much closer to Carver. Her characters rarely, if ever, achieve moments of epiphany; such a move might imply easy answers, and Moore clearly disdains easy answers to the complex angst suffered by her women characters. Moore’s style is simple, reminiscent of both Mason and Carver. However, humor is Moore’s pervading trademark. Occasionally, this humor threatens to usurp the sad, underlying truths of her stories, but in “You’re Ugly Too,” Moore maintains a fine balance.

Literary Style

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 272

Style
Throughout ‘‘You’re Ugly, Too,’’ Moore uses flashbacks, jokes, and anecdotes to complete Hendricks’s character. Although the story’s plot is sparse, the reader is given ample details of the protagonist’s dates, her relationships with her students and colleagues, and her feelings for her geographic surroundings that effectively fill in her psychology and personality.

Tone
‘‘You’re Ugly, Too,’’ seen through the point of view of the main character, is told in a witty, often sarcastic and glib tone. Hendricks’s views of her surroundings—her students, the Midwest, and the men she’s dated—are revealed through cutting and sarcastic anecdotes and jokes. Even her trip to the hospital for ultrasound tests that may reveal a fatal growth is described with wit and sarcasm. This tone acts to underscore her generally morbid and cynical view of her life.

Point of View
Although the story is narrated in a third person omniscient point of view, ‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ is told through the eyes of Zoë Hendricks, the story’s main character. Through the telling of stories and jokes, the reader is given a deep understanding of Hendricks’s daily life and personality.

Setting
‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ takes place in Paris, Illinois, where Hendricks lives and works, and in New York City, where her sister and her sister’s boyfriend live. The Midwest, known for its conservative values, is the target of many of Hendricks’s sarcastic comments and the source of much of her isolation and loneliness. Although no date is given, references to the singer Bruce Springsteen reveal that the story is set in contemporary times.

Media Adaptations

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A recording of Lorrie Moore reading ‘‘You’re Ugly, Too’’ can be found in the audio version of The Best American Short Stories of the Century, edited by John Updike. Published in 1999 by Houghton Mifflin, an abridged version of the collection is available on cassette and an unabridged version is available on CD.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources
Aldridge, John W., ‘‘Anguish as a Second Language,’’ in Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly- Line Fiction, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992, p. 110.

Blades, John, ‘‘Lorrie Moore: Flipping Death the Bird,’’ in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 245, No. 34, August 24, 1998, pp. 31–32.

Brockway, Michelle, ‘‘The Art of Reading Lorrie Moore,’’ in Poets and Writers, Vol. 28, No. 5, September/October 2000, pp. 16–19.

Casey, John, ‘‘Eloquent Solitudes: The Short Stories of Lorrie Moore Address Life’s Essential Loneliness,’’ Review of Like Life, in Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1990, p. 3.

Cryer, Dan, ‘‘Bittersweet Quest for a Lasting Romance,’’ Review of Like Life, in Newsday, May 21, 1990.

Gaffney, Elizabeth, ‘‘Lorrie Moore: The Art of Fiction CLXVII: An Interview with Lorrie Moore,’’ in the Paris Review, Vol. 43, No. 158, Spring–Summer 2001, pp. 57–84.

Gilbert, Matthew, ‘‘Like Life: Moore’s Clever and Complex Set of Stories,’’ Review of Like Life, in Boston Globe, May 23, 1990, p. 51.

Lee, Don, ‘‘About Lorrie Moore,’’ in Ploughshares, Vol. 24, Nos. 2–3, Fall 1998, pp. 224–29.

‘‘Lives on a Short-Story Roller Coaster,’’ in Christian Science Monitor, August 2, 1990, p. 12.

Novak, Ralph, Review of Like Life, in People Weekly, Vol. 33, No. 20, May 21, 1990, pp. 43–44.

Picker, Lauren, ‘‘Talking with Lorrie Moore: Humor and Heartbreak,’’ in Newsday, October 30, 1994, p. 40.

Poivoir, Sally, ‘‘In Lithe, Insolent Prose, a Challenge from Lorrie Moore,’’ Review of Like Life, in Houston Chronicle, May 20, 1990, p. 24.

Rubin, Merle, ‘‘Lean Cuisine for Picky Palates: Like Life Stories by Lorrie Moore,’’ in Los Angeles Times, June 3, 1990, p. 11.

Steinberg, Sybil, Review of Like Life, in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 237, No. 8, February 23, 1990, pp. 205–06.

Werner, Robin A, ‘‘Lorrie Moore,’’ in Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 234, American Short-Story Writers Since World War II, Third Series, edited by Patrick Meanor, Gale, 2001, pp. 205–13.

Further Reading
Gelfant, Blanche H., ed., The Columbia Companion to the Twentieth-Century American Short Story, Columbia University Press, 2000. This comprehensive reference guide to twentieth century short stories includes over 100 pages of thematic essays that focus on the form of the short story as well as stories from over 100 writers.

Updike, John, and Katrina Kenison, eds., The Best American Short Stories of the Century, Houghton Mifflin, 1999. Updike, one of America’s leading short story writers, co-edited this critically-acclaimed anthology that includes writers from the entire twentieth century.

Williford, Lex, and Michael Martone, eds., The Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction: Fifty North American Stories since 1970, Simon and Schuster, 1999. This is an eclectic anthology of contemporary short stories written by American writers, including Lorrie Moore.

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