A Gate at the Stairs: Lorrie Moore Answers Your Questions

Hello, book clubbers:

There was a lot of discussion about the perceived themes of the book: gates and stairs and death and…snakes. And readers were curious about author Lorrie Moore’s writing process. Discussion leader Gary Ryan even wondered to what extent Moore embroiders her writing with themes once she has written a first draft, to which Moore replied: “To some extent. That is, one often discovers metaphors and motifs after reading what one has initially written. Then one can remove, emphasize, or refine them.” Read on for more answers to a selection of your questions.

Question for the author: Does Tassie’s costume at the farm have any additional meaning other than her desire to escape/fly from her life?

Posted by: VaniSan| Monday, November 02, 2009 at 01:50 PM

Though it is actually literally useful for chasing rodents out of lettuces, I suppose her get-up also emphasizes her eccentricity and isolation. Because this is initially done with her dad, she herself makes a reference to Icarus.

I am still wondering what was the meaning of the rotting food in Tassie’s apartment and the moldy cheese in the restaurant window. Maybe Ms. Moore can shed some light on that. I would also like to ask her if several of us got the theme of the book right when it was suggested that gates and stairs seperate the innocence of youth from the sins of adulthood and that this story was about Tassie’s journey overcoming these obstacles into the next phase of her life.

Posted by: John H.| Monday, November 02, 2009 at 04:30 PM

There is much astonishment at the precariousness of living things. As for the gates and stairs there are also many examples, some that you have named above. A gate is a barrier to ascension and also to descension. I think Tassie largely wishes that gates would swing open more, that there would be no racial divide, no blockage to love, no obstacle to happiness. That is the gist of her songwriting.

Thanks to Ms Moore for answering our questions. Mine is, were the characters of Sarah and Edward created with love/sympathy or hate/disgust?

Posted by: Chris H| Wednesday, November 04, 2009 at 04:18 PM

Neither, really. I was interested in them both, perhaps more in Sarah who is a more sympathetic character than Edward though complex and so not wholly so.

What are you currently reading, and do you keep a daily journal?

Posted by: Cari Fallis| Friday, November 06, 2009 at 01:04 PM

I don’t keep a daily journal. Right now I’m reading Henry James.