A Gate at the Stairs

A Gate at the Stairs

A novel on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the reckness thrust on others in the name of love.In her best-selling story collection, Birds of America (it will stand by itself as one of our funniest, most telling anatomies of human love and vulnerability James McManus, front page of The New York Times Book Review), Lorrie Moore wrote about the disconnect between men and women, about the precariousness of women on the edge, and about loneliness and loss.

Now, in her dazzling new novelher first in more than a decadeMoore turns her eye on the anxiety and disconnection of post-9/11 America, on the insidiousness of racism, the blind-sidedness of war, and the reckness thrust on others in the name of love.

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 farmerhis Keltjin potatoes are justifiably famoushas come to a university town as a college student, her brain on fire with Chaucer, Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir.

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.

Read Online A Gate at the Stairs

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook

I'd liken Lorrie Moore to a cross between Zoë Heller and Lionel Shriver; this novel is insightful, comic, thought-provoking and tragic; beautifully rendered with some gorgeous turn of phrase.

Moore is out of her league her, writing about things that she does not know. She has not been an undergraduate in college for 30 years and it showed in this book. On top of her inability to live the life of a 20-21 year old college student, she tries to tackle every topic out there. I received an email from a proprietor of a bookstore claiming that this book was by far the best of the year.

Moore can't decide if she wants it to be about the travails of 20-year-old Tassie who grapples with being a country girl thrown into the big city campus (alarm bells rang in my head at the pointedness of making her half-Jewish as well) or about the 40- something chef Sarah, with a mysterious past and who adopts a little girl of mixed race parentage. Like the reader, Tassie half-listens to the bits of arguments that float up the stairs into the children's room where she is babysitting the kid of these parents, occasionally scandalized and horrified by some of the more interesting nuggets randomly conjured up.

The story's vehicle is Tassie, a 20-yr old college freshman who becomes a nanny for a wealthy, over-educated, white liberal couple who adopt an infant girl who is part African-American. The worst sections are pages and pages where the politics of interracial adoption are debated by a group of parents whom Tassie listens to while babysitting -- a clumsy and transparent device for directly inserting polemic and social commentary into the novel without bothering to give them the clothing of character and plot.

Lorrie Moore takes on a lot possibly too much in her third novel: race, class, war and post-9/11 anxiety. Its the coming of age story of Midwestern college student Tassie Keltjin, who in the fall of 2001 takes on a part-time job as a nanny to help pay for school. Emmies biracial background allows Moore to riff a lot on race, especially in a series of meetings in which parents of non-Caucasian children get to vent their frustrations once a week.

Strike 1: The main character's roommate passes her old vibrator on to her when she starts dating. Strike 2: The main character does not use the vibrator.

I still love Moore's writing, but I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed in this novel.

Lorrie Moore was born in Glens Falls, New York in 1957. After graduating summa cum laude, she worked in New York for two years before going on to received a Masters in Fine Arts from Cornell University.

  • English

  • Fiction

  • Rating: 3.15
  • Pages: 322
  • Publish Date: September 1st 2009 by Knopf
  • Isbn10: 0375409289
  • Isbn13: 9780375409288