Sunday, 11 October 2009

Book of the Week - Lorrie Moore, A Gate at the Stairs

Lorrie Moore is best known as a short story writer, and A Gate at the Stairs is her first novel for 15 years. Marie Lorena Moore (nicknamed "Lorrie" by her parents) attended St. Lawrence University and, at 19, she won Seventeen magazine's fiction contest. In 1980, Moore enrolled in Cornell University's M.F.A. program, where she was taught by Alison Lurie. Upon graduation from Cornell, a teacher encouraged her to contact agent Melanie Jackson. Jackson sold her collection, Self-Help, composed almost entirely of stories from her master's thesis, to Knopf in 1983, when she was 26 years old. Subsequently, she has published several volumes of short stories and two previous novels. She won the 1998 O. Henry Award for her short story "People Like That Are the Only People Here," published in The New Yorker on January 27, 1997. In 2004, Moore was selected as winner of the Rea Award for the Short Story, for outstanding achievement in that genre. She is currently a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. A Gate at the Stairs has been very positively reviewed both here and in the US – signed UK firsts do not seem to have hit the market as yet, but are worth watching out for. The novel could be a contender for next year’s Orange Prize.

“With America quietly gearing up for war in the Middle East, twenty-year-old Tassie Keltjin, a 'half-Jewish' farmer's daughter from the plains of the Midwest, has come to university - escaping her provincial home to encounter the complex world of culture and politics. When she takes a job as a part-time nanny to a couple who seem at once mysterious and glamorous, Tassie is drawn into the life of their newly-adopted child and increasingly complicated household. As her past becomes increasingly alien to her - her parents seem older when she visits; her disillusioned brother ever more fixed on joining the military - Tassie finds herself becoming a stranger to herself. As the year unfolds, love leads her to new and formative experiences - but it is then that the past and the future burst forth in dramatic and shocking ways. Refracted through the eyes of this memorable narrator, "A Gate at the Stairs" is a lyrical, beguiling and wise novel of our times”.

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