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A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
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A Gate at the Stairs (2009)

by Lorrie Moore

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English (131)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  All languages (137)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
Made me cry on more than one occasion. ( )
  thereaderscommute | Apr 13, 2014 |
Made me cry on more than one occasion. ( )
  thereaderscommute | Apr 13, 2014 |
poetic. pretty. predictable. i wanted to like it more. i was disgusted by most of the characters. ( )
  lloyd1175 | Mar 22, 2014 |
I liked this book, sort of. Sort of not. The writing was snappy, which I enjoyed except when it got so snappy that I found myself remarking on the writing, having lost the story because of it.

But the most interesting character in the novel, the mother of an adopted child and the protagonist's employer, simply disappears near the end. Without giving spoilers: she left something dangerous with the protagonist that goes nowhere (at least, it doesn't affect the story). She left her business. She left the book.

Too many strings left loose. ( )
  PetreaBurchard | Feb 9, 2014 |
I really liked this book. A lot of the other reviews said that the book was a unfocused, but I thought it was a very nice snapshot of the first time someone leaves their family home and goes out into the world. The narrator, Tassie, is a young college student looking for her first job.

The entire book had a very strong culture clash theme going throughout. It starts off with the shock of moving from a small agricultural town to a more liberal college city. Tassie mostly acts as an observer as she moves through her new city. The difference between the lifestyle of Tassie's family and her new employer emphasises the class differences, and are repeated in Tassie's employer's actions. The strongest theme, almost to the point of being another character in the book, is the casual and overt racism Tassie witnesses. The book is really interesting in addressing racism around the characters, but really showing the privilege that allows them to only engage it when they want to.
The end of the book is a little meandering, but meaningful and important in Tassie's life. I really enjoyed the book and I would highly recommend it. ( )
  ahgonzales | Feb 5, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
In addition, the book suffers from more particular problems. Its narrative lines never fully converge, there are some anachronisms of phrasing, and Sarah is so rarely absorbed by her restaurant’s day-to-day routines that her career seems little more than the author’s attempt to make her into an arbiter of style, someone whose sophistication contrasts with Tassie’s lack of it. Moore does, admittedly, try to finesse the difficulties this narrative voice presents by asking us to imagine that the story is told by an older Tassie. “Years later”: Every fifty pages or so we get a little phrase like that. But how many years? Even today she’d be under thirty, and there’s no gap here in either diction or sensibility between the student and her presumably older self. After such a long absence, it’s good to have something new from Moore, to taste the bite and pith of her sentences once again. There’s a wonderful line—mordant and richly so—on every other page, but A Gate at the Stairs never adds up to more than the sum of those moments.
 
As the drifts of perfectly turned moments mount up about the reader's shoulders, along with a corresponding paucity of dramatic incident, forward motion becomes increasingly difficult. Moore is a great writer, but you wish that every once in a while, she would settle for just being good.
added by Shortride | editTime, Lev Grossman (Oct 5, 2009)
 
Moore has performed a brilliant feat. She has retained the shining, fluid, and, yes, funny surface of her earlier work. But she has also given us a narrator who attempts to peer through the shimmering veil of language to the truth behind.
added by Shortride | editSlate, Claire Dederer (Sep 7, 2009)
 
What Moore crafts is so like life that to condemn Tassie for the ways in which she fails and falls short as a person would demand that we examine such behavior in ourselves. Thank goodness this book is funny, otherwise, it would be nearly unbearable.
added by Shortride | editAssociated Press, Patrick Condon (Sep 3, 2009)
 
Aggressively clever, meticulously crafted -- and exhausting.
added by jjlong | editSalon, Stephanie Zacharek (Sep 1, 2009)
 
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Epigraph
"As for living, we shall have our servants do that for us."
--VILLIERS DE L'ISLE-ADAM, Axel

"Suzuki!"
Madama Butterfly

"All seats provide equal viewing of the universe."
--MUSEUM GUIDE, HAYDEN PLANETARIUM
Dedication
This book is for Victoria Wilson and Melanie Jackson.
First words
The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard.
Quotations
If he had loved me, or even if he’d just have said so, I would have died of happiness. But it didn’t happen. So I didn’t die of happiness. Words for a tombstone: SHE DIDN’T DIE OF HAPPINESS.
This was love, I supposed, and eventually I would come to know it. Someday it would choose me and I would come to understand its spell, for long stretches and short, two times, maybe three, and then quite probably it would choose me never again.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
Twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin yearns to escape her provincial home. She moves to the college town of Troy to start university and takes a job as a part-time nanny to a glamorous couple. Tassie is drawn into their life and that of their newly adopted toddler. As the household reveals its complications, Tassie is forced out of her naivety, and the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways.
Haiku summary
Yuppies need nanny
Every last thing is lost
Beware depressed much?

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375409289, Hardcover)

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Lorrie Moore's people are jokesters, wisenheimers. They hold the world, and the language used to describe it, a little off to the side, where they can turn it around and, if not figure it out, at least find something funny to say about it, which, often, is not quite enough. It's been 11 years since her last book, 15 since her last novel, but A Gate at the Stairs is vintage Moore: brittly witty and lurkingly dark, the portrait of a Midwest college town through the eyes of Tassie Keltjin, a student from the country whose mind has been lit up by learning but who spends nearly all this story out of class, as a nanny for a couple who have adopted a toddler. Tassie's a bit of a toddler herself (and an ideal narrator because of it), testing the world as if through her teeth, and she finds the world stranger and more deeply wounded the more she learns of it. Her investigations make A Gate at the Stairs sad, hilarious, and thrillingly necessary. --Tom Nissley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:38:23 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"...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..."--dust cover flap.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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