I serendipitously found a copy of Lorrie Moore's A Gate at the Stairs in someone's giveaway pile on a stoop in Cobble Hill — it was just what I needed on a sweltering day last week. (Have you noticed that the Lenny editors keep talking about the heat? It is hot.) Set in a Midwestern college town just after 9/11, this book brought me selfish pleasures (not the 9/11 part), remembering when drifting through life was kind of OK and how uncertainty about the future of the world almost mandated not having certainty about your own future. The protagonist, Tassie, learns that almost everyone in her new life is not who they seem to be — one of the most painful rites of passage we all go through, and one that reinforces the sense that stability is an illusion and we are always on shifting ground. Rereading A Gate at the Stairs reminded me that the future isn't predetermined, which makes it all the more promising, especially in times of dread.
The Babysitter at Rest is a collection of five short … stories? Or incantations. Or guides. I'm not sure how to classify them. But what I do know is that they are funny — funny because they're true! And also funny because it's so sad it's true! And also just funny-funny. They are strange as heck. But underneath all the weird and the funny and the kinda gross stuff, these stories perfectly capture what it's like being a person in the world who is just trying to figure shit out. Sometimes while reading I had to stop and ask myself, "How does a person write this?" But then I realized that it doesn't actually matter and I am just excited to be fully submerged in these fantastic worlds where time and people and things behave in whatever way they want — not not knowing the consequences, just not caring. I want to say this book is a little like witchcraft, and although I'm not exactly sure it makes sense, I know it also makes perfect sense.