Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Gate at the Stairs

[protagonist Tassie describing some of the idiosyncrasies of her hometown in Wisconsin]

Prepositions mystified. Almost everyone said "on" accident instead of "by." They said "I'm bored of that" or "Wanna come with?" They pronounced "milk" to rhyme with "elk" and "milieu" as "miloo," as in skip to my loo--when they said it at all. And they used tenses like "I'd been gonna." As in, "I'd been gonna to do that but then I never got around toot." It was the hypothetical conditional past, time and intention carved so obliquely and fine that I could only almost comprehend it, until, like Einstein's theory of relativity, which also sometimes flashed comet like in my view, it whooshed away again, beyond my grasp. "I'd been gonna to do that" seemed to live in some isolated corner of the grammatical time-space continuum where the language spoken was a kind of Navajo or old, old French. It was part of a language with tenses so countrified and bizarrely conceived, I'm sure there was one that meant, "Hell yes, if I had a time machine!" People here would narrate an ordinary event entirely in the past perfect "I'd been driving to the store, and I'd gotten out, and she'd come up to me and I had said..." It never reached any other tense. All was backstory. All was preamble. The past severed prologue and was never uttered to be anything but. Who else on earth spoke like this?
pg. 67
A Gate at the Stairs
Lorrie Moore

I've actually read this one before, but it's well-written and well-conceived and it'd been long enough (oh so many other reads ago) that I enjoyed the unwinding of the plot and the character development even as I anticipated them.

This lady can write. And, with all that I read, I've come to understand that a lot of the novels written, promoted, reviewed, and revered are not well written. I love words and writers who use them so very well.

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