A Gate at the Stairs (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009) was my first of Lorrie Moore's books, and frankly, was more than a little disappointing.
Jacket summary: "As the United States begins gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, the Midwestern daughter of a gentleman hill farmer -- his 'Keltjin potatoes' are justifiably famous -- has come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir. Between semesters, she takes a job as a part-time nanny. The family she works for seems both mysterious and glamorous to her, and although Tassie had once found children boring, she comes to care for, and to protect, their newly adopted little girl as her own. As the year unfolds and she is drawn deeper into each of these lives, her own life back home becomes ever more alien to her: her parents are frailer; her brother, aimless and lost in high school, contemplates joining the military. Tassie finds herself becoming more and more the stranger she felt herself to be, and as life and love unravel dramatically, even shockingly, she is forever changed."
My take: Hard to articulate exactly what I didn't like about this book, except that I expected it to really grab me by the throat and reel me in, and instead, while the writing was solid, the plot was fairly slow-paced and plodding, and the characters not particularly deep or compelling. Even when what should be major, game-changing events happen, it was hard to care too much. Moore tends, in my experience, to be well-reviewed, which further increases my annoyance; is the proverbial emperor really naked, or do I just not get it? At any rate, I may give another of her books a try if the opportunity presents itself, but I won't be spending much time to seek them out.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.