A Gate at the Stairs Paperback – 22 Apr 2010
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Witty and disturbing ... the novel resonates with coming-of-age poignancy and wise-cracking self-deprecation... the bleakness is profound, but her dark humour pulls you through. (Guardian)
A masterly work ... alternating between the playful and the tragic, Moore is the kind of writer who shifts invisible gears to reveal chasms beneath. Like a younger and insouciant Anne Tyler, she replays commonplace observations from everyday life in new and subversive ways. (Independent)
This novel is a testament to Moore's capacity not only as a storyteller but as a writer willing to engage with the world as it is today ... always tender, never sentimental, often heartbreakingly funny. A Gate At The Stairs confirms Moore as one of the preeminent American writers working today. (Irish Times) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore is one of the most acclaimed novels of the year from one of America's most brilliant writers.See all Product description
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Moore is such a gifted author, and as ever, darkness is never too far away and yet this novel succeeds in being both tenderly heart-warming and utterly heart breaking at the same time. At times this is truly magical writing. In many ways the feeling you get after reading Lorrie Moore is like you’ve have just met some eccentric yet fascinating woman somewhere, and been swept up in her bizarre yet mesmerising world, leaving you feeling like you have just come off some exhilarating and bewildering attraction at the fairground. You may not know what hit you, but you do know that you want some more.
This novel is just teeming with some lovely lines, like her trip to a café, where, “Orwellian sizing-‘tall’ means ‘small’!” or what about, “You can keep loading it up and discover so much you didn’t know was there! It’s like the stream of endless clowns that keep coming out of the Volkswagen!...To me, Sarah herself was like a Volkswagen endlessly expelling clowns.”
Moore’s fertile mind and rambling imagination keeps producing some wonderfully unorthodox, yet deeply incisive observations and this book twists and turns till the closing pages, pulling you in so many emotional directions that you will not know what hit you by the end of it all.
At the heart of the novel is the babysitting experience with a would-be mother soon to adopt an African-American baby. The story of the adoption, the life with the adopted child, the tensions underlying the process, all construe to make the reader feel part of the family. That the author also brought in all the prejudices and petty squabbles in a bold, direct, yet unobtrusive, manner enhances the quality of the novel. Those with an interest in unusual cuisine will find a few chestnuts in the restaurant storyline.
The observations on modern America are stark. Tassie's student eyes are devoid of social sensitivities and make for an entertaining and informative view of America with a habit of Brit kicking just this side of acceptable. The red herrings in the story safely put at ease any signs of predictability. Her relationship with her brother has a macabre and wholly unexpected ending. Highly recommended.
The image at the start of her first novel for years is pure Lorrie Moore. She sets the scene, the birds have been `suckered' into staying too long. As our student narrator, Tassie, tours the neighbourhood in search of babysitting work she sees the birds everywhere until after a week or so they have disappeared - and she imagines them not migrating late but in some `killing corn field' outside town. The mix of the ordinary and the macabre is very Moore.
Lorrie Moore is one of my favourite writers. She is witty, her dialogue is superb, she observes with scary clarity. She writes about small town America and her narrators tend to be a little quirky as well linguistically able. Tassie has a laughable set of classes in Troy, the Athens of the mid West; Intro to Sufism, Soundtracks to War Movies and Wine Tasting. She is selected to be the baby-sitter of a mixed race baby who hasn't even been adopted yet. Moore can examine whole aspects of this family as well as her own through this device but the relationship between Tassie and Mary Emma is credible, moving, tender and heartbreaking, not some sociological tract.
Lorrie Moore is a known master of the short story form. This is her first substantial novel (321 pages compared to the slim volume of Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?) and it is flawed - it's as if by setting it post 9/11 Moore thought it would gain more gravitas. But, it's also funny, sad, enthralling and glorious.
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