On Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs

My review of Lorrie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs is up at the expanded, handsomely redesigned Barnes & Noble Review site.

As an ardent Moore fan — and we are legion — I was entertained, moved, and ultimately disappointed by her latest novel. Here’s the start of what I wrote:

In a recent talk, Lorrie Moore suggested that twenty is “the universal age of passion” — the point at which the unique shape and expression of our feelings like love and disgust and fury becomes fixed. It is also, she observed, the perceptual halfway-point of most people’s existence. Our first two decades seem to pass as slowly as the whole of the rest of our lives, according to scientists, so that our early experiences carry vastly more psychic weight than those of adulthood.

It’s interesting to consider the impact of Moore’s own work by this metric, and not only because her ambitious new novel, A Gate at the Stairs, is narrated by a twenty-year-old. Since the publication of her first collection, Self-Help, in 1985, so many readers have identified with Moore’s witty, cynical and yearning failed-relationship stories at a similarly impressionable stage that her writing has become as formative an influence on American fiction as her hero John Updike’s was in an earlier era.

The rest is here. For other perspectives, see Jonathan Lethem’s rave, Michiko Kakutani’s glowing review, Edan Lepucki’s It’s Not You, It’s Me, and Stephanie Zacharek’s People like Lorrie Moore are the only people here.

Narrative has an interview, and you can watch Moore’s Book Expo talk online, in two parts. The first is below.


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