Monday, 26 October 2009

A Gate At The Stairs by Lorrie Moore

DATE PUBLISHED: 2009 DATE READ: October 2009 NOTES: I had read many good reviews of Lorrie Moore’s work so I had very high hopes of A Gate At The Stairs. The story is of a young college student, Tassie, who leaves her family farm in the Midwest to find an exciting new life in the provincial town of Troy. She is bemused and bewildered by many of the people she meets and the new things she encounters. Her very quirky and eccentric use of language suffuses the whole book – much of it very witty. Her college classes merge in her mind as she contemplates Intro to Sufism, Soundtracks to War Movies and Pilates/the Neutral Pelvis. She seems to have a bright enquiring mind – but many of her relationships end disastrously. She manages to get a childcare job helping out a professional couple who are in the process of adopting a little girl of mixed race origin. This leads to some interesting reflections of attitudes to race. We could only cheer on Tassie when approached by a woman requesting a play date so that her toddler could have experience of being with a mixed race child. Her quick response was: “I’m sorry, but Mary-Emma already has a lot of white friends.” But in the course of the narrative some seriously sad things happen…. But Tassie seemed hardly moved at all and her quirky language just carried on relentlessly – almost to the point of being annoying. Although the book had so many funny moments it was also bleak and melancholy. The writing is fine – I understand what reviewers rave about. However Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar gives a better picture of a young girl finding her way at college and Ann Tyler’s Digging to America is more perceptive about adoption.

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