Friday, September 11, 2009

I Want Less Moore

Finally got around to reading "Childcare," the New Yorker excerpt from Lorrie Moore's new novel A Gate at the Stairs, which has been getting fairly positive reviews lately.

I liked it moment by moment, but I agree with Clifford Garstang that it doesn't stand alone very well. My other gripe is that at times the narrator's observations are way more sophisticated and worldly than this character, who grew up on a fairly isolated farm, could possibly be at this stage in her life. For instance, this description of her employer's restaurant:

It was one of those expensive restaurants downtown, every entrée freshly hairy with dill, every soup and dessert dripped upon as preciously as a Pollock, fillets and cutlets sprinkled with lavender dust once owned by pixies—restaurants to which students never went, unless newly pinned to a fraternity boy or dating an assistant dean or hosting a visit from concerned suburban parents. I knew that Petit Moulin served things that sounded like instruments—timbales, quenelles. God only knew what they were. I had once tried to study the menu in its lit case near the entrance, and as I stared at the words the sting of my own exile had moistened my eyes. The lowest price for an entrée was twenty-two dollars, the highest, forty-five. Forty-five! You could get a Taiwanese oil-and-water bra for that price!

Good writing, but Lorrie Moore's wit, intelligence, and eye are intruding far too much here. I don't believe in this character.

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