Saturday, August 09, 2014

"A Gate at the Stairs", a novel by Lorrie Moore

After being introduced to Lorrie Moore's writing in recent months, two of her books of short stories have been read here, both books, one from the late 1980's and one from this year, with stories that are serious, wry, humorous, gloomy, and heart wrenching, some all at the same time.  They were rewarding reading and have been commented on here.  "A Gate at the Stairs" is one of three novels written by Moore, and this is her latest from 2009.

Anyone can Google or Wiki the book to get the basic story, which, briefly, is about a small town mid western girl, named Tassie, heading off to a challenging college in a bigger city, meeting different types of people, and still living a life involved in family issues back home while experiencing new things in her own life.  Realist fiction is what this might be called because, like her short stories, the mood can distinctly vary at different points.  It is set after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and that is a cloud that hovers over the events in the novel.

At the beginning it is just lucid story telling with some of Moore's incredible sentences and observations thrown in as gems to keep the reader in touch, in close.  As the story develops, and Tassie's college job as a part time caretaker for an adopted 2 year old comes to life, the story develops depth, and Moore blatantly reflects a reality which few current popular fiction writers ever get near.  At other times there are some humorous sequences, the most amazing by far is one in which her on again off again college roommate Murph, both Tassie and Murph having ended in some despair year long college romances, begin making up songs with Tassie on her translucent bass guitar and Murph on a xylophone left behind by Tassie's former boyfriend.  It's a hilarious( I never use that word, but I guess it will pass because it works here) sequence that reminded me of the several page English candies sequence in "Gravity's Rainbow".  Could they be equals in unexpected exceptional humor showing up from out of nowhere in what on the surface is a story of serious and atypical fiction.

Enough has been written here.  As indicated, the novel was well written and had reality and not reader inspired satisfaction as a goal.  At the end, an older man that she had met in a college job calls her a few times and persists in asking her out to dinner.  Not to be a spoiler, but the novel ends with, "Reader, I did not even have coffee with him.   That much I learned in college." 


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