And who sounded it for me? Lorrie Moore, that's who.
For various reasons I got on the hold list pretty early for her new novel, A Gate at the Stairs. And none of them were bad reasons. For one, if I can remember correctly, I actually kind of enjoyed her novel Who Will Run the Frog Hospital? For another, she works in the city where I live. Also? I write for a reader's advisory database (the fabulous Reader's Advisor Online--and yes, I'm completely unbiased*) and I thought this would be a big fiction title that I should know something about. The consequences of all of those reasons were that my Friday night reading was given over to this book, and what a waste of a night it was. Folks,** this novel is one hot mess.
And somehow? With all that? I was so bored I kept falling asleep, and I never could remember if the main character's name was Tessie or Tassie. Those don't seem like good signs.
Thank you, Lorrie Moore.*** I am officially off fiction until further notice.
*I went to journalism school, people, and if there's one thing you learn, it's that you must at all costs act like you are objective, even when we all know that's impossible.
**The second thing you learn in journalism school is to put a human face on your stories and never, never to sound too elite; hence, "folks." Don't knock it. It got George W. Bush elected twice, and he didn't even have to go to j-school to learn it.
***Moore also didn't have the balls just to set the book in Madison, Wisconsin, although there's some pretty clear references to the city. (Other reviewers have pointed out her "isn't it so cute?" attitude toward Madison in interviews like this one, as well.) Okay. The next time you have your characters visiting a sex supply store in a fictional city, Ms. Moore, at least don't give it the same name as the most well-known erotica shop in the city you're NOT setting your novel in.
This just in: It hurts me to disagree with Bookslut, but I don't think I can agree with Amy Hanridge's review of this book. At one point she even compares Moore to Carol Shields, which also hurts me. It's like comparing Jodi Picoult favorably with Anne Tyler. Yikes. Do yourself a favor; skip this book and read anything by Carol Shields instead.