Home > Arts and Entertainment > RESOLUTION READING REVIEW: ‘A GATE AT THE STAIRS,’ BY LORRIE MOORE

RESOLUTION READING REVIEW: ‘A GATE AT THE STAIRS,’ BY LORRIE MOORE

BY KRISTIN CHALMERS

David Sedaris, why would you do this to me? By the time I reached the end of Lorrie Moore’s recent novel, A Gate at the Stairs (Random House), I had sunk so deeply into melancholia that I was pretty sure I would be unable to leave the house for at least the next few days. And it was David Sedaris’ fault, because I chose my book for April based on his  recommendation of Lorrie Moore’s previous book of short stories, Birds of America.

I began the book as I began the month of April: cheerful, hopeful, ready for a little spring (or at least a little spring break: a family vacation in Florida). As Moore’s protagonist, Tassie, struggles with winter in a Midwestern university town and the lonely poverty of the aimless undergraduate, I adjust my airplane seat and tray table for takeoff: we’re on our way! Moore has lots of funny, nasty things to say about race, adoption, parenting and intellectualism, all of which seem fairly innocuous as I lounge around the pool in the Orlando sunshine.

As Tassie gets a childcare job (yea!) and a boyfriend (double yea!), I periodically look up to make sure no small nieces or nephews are drowning each other.

Things begin to fall apart for both of us—Tassie and me— about halfway through the book, as Moore hints at tragedies both past and future, and I return home to face Monday morning, and stacks of junk mail and dirty laundry.

As I plunge through to the end of the book on a dreary, rainy Sunday afternoon, Moore has more to say about loss and grief of all kinds. The humor is so dark and Tassie’s reactions so true, that by the end of the book we are both bruised and disconnected.

I check my source—an old interview with David Sedaris. He has this to say about Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, “Her stories read like a collection of one-liners, yet at the end, you’re devastated.  How does she do it?”

Yeah.  Pretty much.

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  1. May 8, 2010 at 11:06 am

    A recommendation from the king of turning his own lemons into lemonade and leaving out the sugar, and this is a surprise? Actually, sounds like a great read–thanks!

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