Moore proves herself the rare critic who’s as satisfying to read on the volumes you haven’t heard of as on the ones you have. (Maybe the 'autobiographical' book reviewer is only ever reviewing one book, its subject her own powers of expressivity.) The minute attention Moore pays to what were, at the time of writing, up-and-coming authors—Matthew Klam, Joan Silber—pleads their interestingness; an essay on Silber, from 2005, borrows the passionate exhaustiveness of a TV recap ... her reviews persistently worry the distinction between the human being and his or her work ... Moore-as-essayist scans much as Moore-the-fiction-writer does: as lightly melancholy, with a compensatory inclination to amuse both herself and us ... Still other passages sailed beyond me ... Still, Moore is one of our best documentarians of everyday amazement.
There’s some scrapbook-like bloat. The world would have continued, for example, without the review, written for Moore’s college literary magazine, of Nora Ephron’s Heartburn ... More significantly, although Moore is hardly a pushover, there’s less crack in her whip than some readers (well, me) might like ... In her reviews of fiction (by Margaret Atwood, Joan Silber, Bobbie Ann Mason, Philip Roth, Stanley Elkin and Richard Ford, among many others), she has great feelers ... Had she wanted, Moore could have had an important career as a theater or television critic ... When writing teachers pass this book to their students, the title See What Can Be Done will be read as a simple command.
Moore rarely condescends to her subject except when she is writing in a spirit of sophisticated disgust about politics ... She is generous, sometimes to a fault ... Her voice throughout is clear and informed, easily amused, psychologically nuanced and polished without being brocaded ... As might be expected from a stylist as accomplished as Moore, her essays about other writers are intriguing even when the book in question is minor or has been eclipsed by the passage of time — or when you don’t agree with her assessment ... If I have reservations about See What Can Be Done, they have mostly to do with the fact that the collection seems a bit overstuffed ... That said ... I found myself nestling into the book the way one does with the most gripping of novels...curious to read the next essay.