Critically acclaimed: Lorrie Moore’s new novel gathers year-end praise


Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English Lorrie Moore’s newest novel, I Am Homeless If This Is Not My Home, has been named one of the best books of 2023 by The New Yorker. The distinguished American fiction writer who teaches in Vanderbilt’s renowned MFA creative writing program also has received year-end praise from NPR and New York Magazine. Before the novel’s release, Time Magazine had named I Am Homeless one of the most anticipated books of 2023.

Parul Sehgal of The New Yorker called the book “a work of determined strangeness and pain … an almost violent kind of achievement, slicing open the conventional notions of narrative itself.”

People Magazine asked ” Who else but Lorrie Moore could make, in razor-sharp, irresistible prose, a ghost story about death buoyant with life?”

Maureen Corrigan of NPR said, “Just the title of Lorrie Moore’s latest novel tells you how singular and strange her vision is.” In one post-publication interview, Moore shared that this was the first time she’s written a book and not shown it to anyone during the process, precisely because of that “singular and strange” vision.

I Am Homeless features two narratives in one, alternating between the musings of an 1870s boarding house proprietor in the post–Civil War South and an unusual love story, set just before the 2016 presidential election, featuring a hapless high school teacher who abandons his sick brother and takes a road trip with his ambiguously undead former girlfriend.

Book cover for Lorrie Moore's novel, I am Homeless if this is not my HomeThe book touches on a variety of significant topics and themes, including cancer, climate change, the Confederacy, Donald Trump and school shootings, just to name a few. But at its core, Moore said, I Am Homeless is about “grief and the weird forms it takes.”

Moore, who joined Vanderbilt’s faculty in 2013, worked on the book while in residence at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers in New York during the 2017–18 academic year. She admits to having done too much research while she was there.

“I found a lot of interesting things I could not include, and now I bore people with it all at parties,” she said.

Moore’s writing career spans four decades and includes four short story collections, four novels and dozens of essays, criticisms and commentaries on a wide variety of subjects, from race in America to prestige TV.

Her other novels include Anagrams (1986), Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? (1994) and A Gate at the Stairs (2009), which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the Orange Prize for Fiction.

For her various works, she has won the O. Henry Award, The Irish Times International Fiction Prize, the Rea Award for the Short Story, the PEN/Malamud Award for short fiction and the Finn Zinklar Award for the Short Story.

“Lorrie is richly deserving of this recognition from The New Yorker. She is a lodestar in American fiction, and we are fortunate to count her among our colleagues,” said Jennifer Fay, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Cinema and Media Arts, professor of English and chair of the English department. “She not only brings vast experience to our MFA program and the arts at Vanderbilt, but she also enlivens our language and expands our imagination with every sentence she writes.”

When asked to look back on her career to date, Moore declined: “That’s a terrible activity and will cause you to lie down on the floor and never get up.”

But then again, why look back when you can look ahead?

Recently, Moore was named a fiction fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. She spent the spring of 2023 in Berlin researching a narrative inspired by her own father’s childhood visit to Germany in 1935. That work is in progress.