January 18, 2013 Vanderbilt University’s graduate program in creative writing—already the single most selective M.F.A. program in the country—just drafted a powerhouse: Lorrie Moore, a widely acknowledged master of short fiction and winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the art of the short story, and The Irish Times International Fiction Prize, has accepted a new endowed chair and will join the Vanderbilt faculty in the fall.
“Lorrie’s the most influential short story writer working in America, and has been been for the last 20 years,” Tony Earley, no slouch in the short-fiction department himself, said in a Vanderbilt press release. “Ordinarily I would say that our MFA students have no idea how lucky they are, but they know exactly how lucky they are. They actually shouted with joy when they heard. I did, too, but first I made sure nobody could hear me.”
Moore is the author of three story collections—Self-Help, Like Life, and Birds of America—but she is also of three acclaimed novels and a book for children. A Gate at the Stairs, Moore’s most recent novel, was a finalist for both the PEN/Faulkner Award and the Orange Prize. In an interview with Chapter 16 last year, Moore expressed no preference for one form over the other: “They each have their excitements and their difficulties. I’m still discovering things about each of these genres.” Still, she is unquestionably best known for her short stories: Birds of America was a New York Times bestseller, a highly unusual achievement for a book of stories. she has also written for virtually every intellectual periodical in the country, including The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among others.
Perhaps most usefully for the cheering M.F.A. candidates at Vanderbilt, however, Moore has taught at some of the premier graduate programs in the country, including Cornell University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Wisconsin. “Lorrie is an extraordinary writer,” said Kate Daniels, director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at Vanderbilt. “Not only one of the most celebrated and widely respected of contemporary American authors, she is esteemed as well for her teaching and mentoring of young writers.”
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