Book Diary: A Gate at the Stairs (Lorrie Moore)


(finished reading on 21/10/2012)

I picked this book up at the library, after reading a short story by Lorrie Moore in Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules.  I admired the story, though it wasn’t my favourite in the anthology, perhaps because it was about sick babies, a theme that wouldn’t normally make me pick up a book.  It was impossible not to admire Moore’s style though and I thought it was funny too (despite the sad subject).  A Gate at the Stairs is about loss, which as well as being a more universal subject (perhaps), appeals to me particularly.

Stylistically it reminded me of the John Updike I read recently, in the use of language and unusual, unexpected (but perfect) descriptions.  Here are some of my favourites:

Once I woke with the feeling that I had actually died in the night.  I awoke with a sense that during ostensible sleep I had encountered not just life’s brevity but it’s speed! and its noise and its irrelevance and its close.  How we glamorized our lives! our bodies! which were nothing more than – potatoes! with a potato’s flat eyes and pale pink snappable roots.


Fear and sorrow flared up simultaneously like fires that put each other out.


I ran north and north and north and could perhaps have run all the way to Canada, where, paralyzed with sadness and exhaustion, my arms and fingers would stiffen upward and I would, in one of grief’s mythic transformations, become a maple tree, my sappy tears cooked down to syrup for someone’s flapjacks.


I would get out of bed with the scary meat-step of a foot that had gone to sleep.

I’ve got the feeling that I’ve been collecting more and more quotes in these book diary posts, which was never my intention really, because what’s the point of just transcribing?  Although, who am I even writing this to anyway?

Some of the sentences I find tell such beautiful truths, that I just have to have them, even if their mythicality means they can’t really be true, or what they describe is gruesome, so that perhaps they can’t really be beautiful.  However, I seem to need to record these magnificent, incredible quotes that I come across.  In order to own them somehow, make them concrete and organised, like my own bible – and what good is a diary (my diary), if it can’t do that?


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