A Gate at the StairsBook | Lorrie Moore By Tracy O’Neill
An ambitious cave dive into the depths of postmodern disenfranchisement.
It's been 11 years since melancholy pun-stunner Lorrie Moore came out with a book, so it's no exaggeration referring to A Gate at the Stairs as one of the great literary events of the decade. In it, 20-year-old collegian-cum-nanny Tassie Keltjin narrates her discovery of love's limitations in the post-9/11 world as she cares for a white couple's adopted biracial baby. Some surprise plot twists--such as the revelation that Tassie's purportedly Brazilian boyfriend is in fact Muslim--read a bit cheaply, like artifacts from the half-off mystery paperbacks bin. And, yes, overtly polemical observations of race relations at times seem almost to prod readers with the consciousness that Moore is a white woman writing about, you know, the R word. No matter, A Gate at the Stairs is an ambitious cave dive into the depths of post-Civil Rights Movement disenfranchisement, the crumbling of the American family, and most of all, the anaesthetized resignation of those for whom life has been a disappointment. Moore's novel glitters with bouncy wordplay, bringing relief to the sweeping darkness of her characters' loss of innocence. It's a sad, funny picture of Change We Can't Believe In, with the momentum of a decade's worth of ideal-shattering politics, immortality-crushing crashes, and budget-killing wars on terror behind it.