Lauren's Reviews > A Gate at the Stairs

A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Rate this book
Clear rating

F 50x66
's review
Oct 01, 2009

did not like it
Recommended for: no one
Read in October, 2009

The end sequence took hold of me. One hundred pages into it, I hated this book. The last twenty pages actually seemed like something that might happen, and it resonnated with somethings happening in my life. Moore is out of her league her, writing about things that she does not know. Loorie Moore is 52. She has not been an undergraduate in college for 30 years and it showed in this book. When she used the band name Modest Mouse, it sounded clunky, fake, phony as my good friend Holden might say. I'm reminded of Charlotte Simmons (this was the first Tom Wolfe book I ever read and I will never read it again. It was insulting). On top of her inability to live the life of a 20-21 year old college student, she tries to tackle every topic out there. She passes over September 11th with a crude joke. Having lived in DC at the time, and being in college myself, I can say that I and my fellow classmates did not think it was very funny. I'm not sure anybody did. Scared as hell. Yes. Then, she has her protagonist in her German high school class drawing pictures of Hitler and panzer tanks (she seems to hark back to the Nazi era "You may not be old enough, but you'll come to realize that the Nazis always win".) What high school teacher lets that stuff fly? The older generation should know that they have no idea what happens in college these days, admit that they don’t understand the humor, the nuance. I’m not at all stating that its sophisticated in every aspect, or that there aren’t shallow and idiotic individuals, but Moore and Wolfe just don’t get it.

The narrative was all over the place. The characters were unbelievable. The attempt at half-noir failed. I received an email from a proprietor of a bookstore claiming that this book was by far the best of the year. He obviously hasn’t read anything else or is looking at this thing as the absurd.
37 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read A Gate at the Stairs.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

01/31/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Patrice Fitzgerald Great review. You should fix the odd situation where your review begins again in the fifth line and then the missing part shows up at the end. Very Tarentino of you!

(And I agree, as a 54-year-old, that Moore doesn't really know what goes on in college these days. On the other hand, she knows what SHE felt like back when she was in school -- we've been where you are. Though it is no doubt different now... you haven't yet been where we are.)

Lauren Thanks, unfortunately I have nothing on Tarentio. There were also a lot of grammar mistakes. I wrote it when I was a bit irritated.

When you say we haven't been where you are, I know what you mean, but I wonder if that is an excuse for not doing proper research. Is this book meant to be a book read by older adults about college now or is it meant to be for all readers. If it is meant to be for us all, and there are those of us who lived on September 11th when it happened, shouldn't the writer be able to understand what a college student had felt at the time. I feel like her comment was a reflection of current political trends that have critized the emphasis on 9/11 in terms of policy decisions while President Bush was in office.

I'm a writer. I'm currently writing about a story about young adults and suicide etc, but I research everything I write. I mentioned Modest Mouse in the above review. I realized after I wrote it that Modest Mouse wasn't really on the charts in 2001. They really burst forth as a a big name in 2004 with their hit Float On. I didn't really get the feeling that the character knew a lot about indie music. I also play bass. Her description was not too accurate. I appreciate you comment. I always love discussing books with people who have different perspectives.

Anastasia I agree with these comments. I don't know what people are raving about WRT this book! I don't find any of the characters believable or likeable. Another thing that bothers me: Some parts of the book are written as though for a screen play, as when the protagonist repeatedly describes her discomfort with her boss and various un/half-formed laughs/smiles/replies in such a way that a real person wouldn't really have an awareness of and would be viewed from afar rather than experienced.

Lauren I opened the NYT and saw that it was considered one of the top ten books of the year. Who deciedes this stuff? It's nice to hear that I'm not crazy. :)

message 5: by AJ (last edited Feb 27, 2010 09:46PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

AJ Lauren, I really enjoyed reading the first hundred or so pages. Otherwise, I'm right with you. There is quite a bit to be said for Moore's writing. I enjoy many aspects of her prose, but the story mechanics in this one simply cannot be compensated for. The result of Moore clumsily describing the final act's string of left-field disasters has left me cold to her style. I enjoyed 'Self-Help' and was looking forward to this one. This is Lorrie Moore's 9/11.

Emily Dobbs I have yet to read it but she's a college professor, I think that's where she thinks she thinks she can glean information about today's undergrad. but let's see what I think of the novel. I just wanted to put it out there that just because you're 52 that doesn't mean you can't write about being a young person. I'm pretty sure adult authors do it all the time in children's lit. But I also understand that you mean that she just doesn't do it well.

Lauren I realize that just because your 52 doesn't mean you can't write about a young person. I've read much better attempts at this. As I believe I wrote above, I was in school in DC on September 11th. I think she treats it callously and this is coming from someone who is liberal and doesn't get crazy about this kind of thing usually. I'll be interested to see what you think. Are you a Moore fan? This was my first experience with her. I've heard she's much better with short stories.

message 8: by Carri (new)

Carri I'm about 100 pages in and I am not a fan so far. I'm going to keep slogging along, but I also keep thinking that a 20 year old - especially a sheltered 20 year-old - would NEVER have the experience for some of these lines of thought. I hope it gets better.

Bonnie I have issues with the book, but this is not one of them. I wrote a scathing review of Charlotte Simmons which was largely about the fact that Wolfe does not know a thing about young people, but I don't think that is the case here. Moore has been teaching at UW Madison for 30 years, she has bonded relationships with many of her students. I agree that Tassie is preternaturally wise and also unbearably naive, and as much as I love Moore's stories I think this a sign or laziness rather than ignorance of the inner life of 20 year olds. Moore makes Tassie wise when the story needs it and clueless when that is required.

Bonnie Oh, also, the various remarks abotu Hitler and such are designed to show how complacent we (including we Jews) have become about racial hatred. They are not a dig at young people. Also all of Moore's work addresses how we use humor to avoid really processing things we find too difficult. The entire career of Mel Brooks (whom I also love) stands as testimony to this concept. That is not a dig against young people, just an exploration of a common coping mechanism

back to top