I read Lorrie Moore's new novel, A Gate at the Stairs, as a subtle tragedy on the wastefulness of our recent past, using a personal narrative to tell a story of wide-reaching cultural disconnect. How, in this world, we can have had the ultimate in freedom but have failed to be responsible, so much desire but have failed to connect, so much knowledge and yet have been so unwise. We trade rhetoric about racial prejudice in America like tupperware, but the words are hollow and lack follow through. We have betrayed our role as stewards of the free world.
Tassie, the young narrator in A Gate at the Stairs, faced with the possibility to learn of a rich world at her university, fills her time with courses on wine tasting and film scores (not that those are inherently bad subjects). A young woman adopts a baby and then immediately goes back to work, leaving someone else in charge. This book is filled with a deep aching loss in the midst of abundance. It is rendered elegiacally, almost calmly (except for one key narrative of heart-racing tension), yet it is filled with Lorrie Moore's trademark humor too and an almost accidental quality to the action. Ultimately it leaves the reader, I think, with a glimmer of hope in our ability to learn from our lives. I found it poignantly beautiful and have continued to think about it since I finished it. Here are my other posts on it 1, 2, 3.