A Gate at the Stairs: Hello

Hey, everyone:

I’m Gary Ryan, and I will be hosting this month’s edition of Real Simple’s No-Obligation Book Club. Two things: First, I’m a woman despite the boy’s name, which happens to be my middle name AND my mother’s name (my first name is Mina—also my mother’s—but I’ve been called Gary from day one). Second, I think I’m one of the first noneditorial members of the Real Simple staff to host this book discussion. I am thrilled. I love books, particularly modern fiction. I can’t walk into a bookstore without at least two new books in my possession when I leave. Some of them sit for years on my bookshelf or bedside table before I finally read them, and then usually I wonder what took me so long. Given the fact that these book stacks have been growing rather than shrinking recently, I’ve refrained from entering bookstores. So thanks for voting for Lorrie Moore’s new book, A Gate at the Stairs, because not only have the reviews been great, but also it was fun to go book shopping again. And, yes, I bought more than her book.

I am pleased you chose A Gate at the Stairs for us to read because Moore’s much-heralded collection of short stories, Birds of America, is one of the books that has been sitting unread on my bookshelf. I’ve been feeling guilty about this because it was (a) a Christmas present from my sister many moons ago and (b) very well received. Neither reason compelled me to read it. I think it was the short-story piece that was stopping me. I enjoy getting caught up in a story that will last longer than one sitting. I’m in search of reading experiences that are engrossing and habit-changing—those that make me take the book with me on the train or wake up on a Saturday and read it rather than the newspaper with my morning coffee. I am hoping A Gate at the Stairs is this type of book.

A little background about Lorrie Moore, the author: She is in her early fifties and a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She has won lots of awards for her writing. She last published about 10 years ago.

A Gate at the Stairs has six chapters. We are going to start by reading the first two chapters (pages 1 to 70), and will read about a chapter a week (ranging between 50 to 90 pages) in order to get through the entire book this month. I’ll try to post my thoughts and questions at the Friday of each week, and look forward to your responses, comments, and questions.