Monday, March 29, 2010

The Last Person in America to Appreciate Lorrie Moore's Descriptive Powers

I had read a few of Lorrie Moore's short stories before I picked up A Gate at the Stairs; a few years ago, I read "The Kid's Guide to Divorce" and "How to Become a Writer." Based on those short stories, I thought of her as an interesting minimalist, witty certainly, but I'd have never put her on my list for best descriptive writers of our time.

I remember a colleague raving about Who Will Run the Frog Hospital?, so I tried to read it in the mid 90's. I loved the witty title, and I wanted to fall in love with it, but I couldn't. I don't remember why.

I'm not very far along in my reading of A Gate at the Stairs, but I'm already enjoying it immensely. Here is how Moore's main character describes a French restaurant: "It was one of those expensive restaurants downtown, every entree freshly hairy with dill, every soup and dessert dripped upon as preciously as a Pollack, filets and cutlets sprinkled with lavender dust once owned by pixies . . . " (17).

A few pages before, she's described the best restaurant back in her hometown this way: "On Sunday's there was not only marshmallow and maraschino cherry salad and something called 'Grandma Jell-O,' but 'prime rib with au jus,' a precise knowledge of French--or English or even food coloring--not being the restaurant's strong point" (7).

And these examples are just the ones where Moore says a lot about restaurants with just a bit of description. I can't wait to see what's ahead!

I love the main character, a young college girl. I'm afraid she's going to have a very rough time, based on what I've read about other Lorrie Moore characters, but I'm willing to go along for this ride, especially if I continue to get such witty, wonderful descriptions of modern life.

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