Floodgate at the Stairs

Lorrie Moore’s novel A Gate at the Stairs was released to much praise and fanfare. After reading glows from the New York Times, Washington Post, and several other high profile publications I was sure I was in for something spectacular. Then I read it.

Maybe I am missing a literary chip, but this book just didn’t do it for me. After the main character Tassie takes a nanny position in her undisclosed college town for a “quasi”-anonymous couple, Moore takes us on a freakish journey covering just about every contemporary hot-button topic.

Touted as a “post 9/11” tale (I’m not exactly sure what that means), A Gate at the Stairs touches on everything from racism to terrorism to bigotry to elitism to war to fertility to infidelity to adoption to religion to neglect…you get the picture, and no, I’m not joking. Sadly, it’s all left in dangling shreds and nothing seems to resolve. Perhaps that is the point? Is that post 9/11?

The most unfortunate piece of this fragmented puzzle is that Ms. Moore’s writing is quite beautiful when it’s not quite so manic. Her unstoppable script leaves no room for the reader’s imagination, and only when she slows her frantic pace are we allowed to breathe in Moore’s magic. Her ability to capture in lovely, unsuspecting ways is sadly overridden by chronic observation and sarcasm.

A reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly stated that there was “much to love, much to hate” in A Gate at the Stairs, and I suppose in this I agree. As an individual read you will benefit from Moore’s creative language and widen your literary scope. However, I wouldn’t recommend this one as a book club choice; too much, too muddled, and too politically tedious.

-Post by Megan Shaffer

2 thoughts on “Floodgate at the Stairs

  1. Thanks for this, Megan. I have not read Moore’s new novel, but I often find myself in the minority when it comes to her work. Most people I know adore her writing, but I’m with you on the sarcasm and the tone. I’ve never had the nerve to really try to get to the bottom of it with other readers–what everyone else is seeing that I’m not.

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