Anagrams is the first novel by acclaimed short story writer Lorrie Moore. Published in 1986, the novel is attempt to transfer the concept of anagrammatic rearrangement from letters to characters. Moore has described the work as a “cubist novel” while many reviewers described it in the exact same way while using less aesthetically pleasing words. Moore also described Anagrams as a short-story writer’s novel which may well be the most accurate: the novel rearranges the lives and relationships between its heroine and a man named Gerard in a way that is totally anagrammatic, but can often come across more like a collection of connected short stories than a fully coherent novel.
In terms of reception, Anagrams was not as warmly greeted by critics as Moore’s short stories, which preceded her transformation into a published novelist. Despite the structuring of the novel like a series of short stories, many reviewers criticized the novel for being too dependent upon the wisecracking nature of it amiable and likable protagonist, Benna Carpenter. In fact, Benna was almost universally acclaimed as one of the author’s most sublime creations and therefore worthy of a more controlled narrative in which Moore’s famously on-target sense of humor was integrated with greater precision.
Fortunately, the atypically mixed reviews which greeted Anagrams has proven to be exactly that: atypical. Moore would not publish another until 1994 and that novel—Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?—was greeted with the kind of universal adulation accorded her short stories.