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A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore

A Gate at the Stairs (2009)

by Lorrie Moore

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2,0751523,195 (3.38)193
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Showing 1-5 of 147 (next | show all)
This is a case where I think I'd have enjoyed the book more if not the audio version. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
I Pearl Ruled this book after 5 CD's. It just wasn't worth my time. I liked the narrator, but even a good narrator on a recorded book can't improve on the quality of the novel itself and that is where the real problem is with this novel. Boring. ( )
  benitastrnad | Jan 11, 2017 |
I have often read books i did not particularly enjoy, but which I admired. Less frequently I have experiences like this where I generally enjoy a book despite thinking it a bit of a hot mess. There is a really good story in here but Moore (whose short stories I love) couldn't seem to decide what the story should be about. Sure, all the characters' stories are about the transience of life, love, and certainly connection and about how we abdicate our duties at times and then are left to deal with the consequences of having done so. Those are pretty giant themes, and turns out they do not create any real cohesion. There is a lot of other stuff here too. So much religion -- the casual antisemitism of Jews, the barely explored and false tribalism of Muslims, the godlessness of Unitarians, and the fact that despite the benign (and sometimes not so benign) neglect of our religious affiliations they still form a core part of our identity. There is Tassie herself, charming and interesting, but also intermittently wise as an owl and naive as a baby, but not much in between. Another side story that needed pruning (or better yet, amputation) was the dismal boyfriend story. It presented us with an inconsistent portrayal of Tassie and a hasty, shallow, oversimplified exploration of radicalization. I wish Moore had stayed with Tassie and Sara's story. she clearly wanted to explore interracial adoption, and to wedge in the side stories she restricted most of that exploration to overheard snippets of conversation from support group meetings. That was a lazy way to get in the research the author found interesting, and which was interesting. Too bad it was not developed and explored rather than the silly antiwar message which did not fit with the rest of the story. (Antiwar messages are not inherently silly, but this is a message delivered in platitudes.) And yet I enjoyed the read overall. Moore is a wonderful writer, her humor and wordplay are best in class, and reading it is a joy. I went with a 3 here, but I am not sure that is accurate. More accurately I would say the prose is a 5, the structure is a 1, and there are stories within which all may have been 5s if fully explored, but which were 2s and 3s because they were not. Confused yet? ( )
  Narshkite | Jan 8, 2017 |
This so did not work for me. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
Boring. ( )
  jrbeach | Mar 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 147 (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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"As for living, we shall have our servants do that for us."

Madama Butterfly

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This book is for Victoria Wilson and Melanie Jackson.
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The cold came late that fall and the songbirds were caught off guard.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:18 -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)

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