Lorrie Moore Made My Year

Last Thursday, I rushed out to buy the latest book from one of my favorite authors, Lorrie Moore. The book is called A Gate at the Stairs.

I met Lorrie Moore once, but she's never met me. We were both speaking at The New Yorker Festival a few years ago. I was riding the hotel elevator from the lobby up to my room. On some intermittent stop, between my floor and my destination, the doors opened and Moore stepped in. Then, for the next 10 seconds, I bludgeoned her with verbal praise, spewed forth at an incoherent high pitch, doing my best imitation of a dog's squeak toy. When she stepped off the elevator, my only hope for salvation was that Lorrie Moore had been drunk, or that there was something I didn't know about her, like perhaps that she was deaf.

But despite that moment of weakness on my part, and the subsequent lesson that it taught me — keep your love to yourself — I moved on and continued to admire Moore's work from afar.

Then, something amazing happened.

On page 27 of A Gate at the Stairs — a book I had barely begun reading, yet was already certain I would reread and promote and gift-wrap numerous copies of come Christmas time — there were two words I never expected to see: "Sleater" and "Kinney."

Wait? What! Yes, it was true!

Reading my own band name within the book's pages was like having a movie character turn toward you, say your name and confer with you on the plot. It was a personalized fortune cookie. It was having a park named after you without first having to die.

For all I know, Lorrie Moore stumbled upon my band in a used CD bin, did a little Wikipedia research and called it a day. Or one of her students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison walked into class wearing a faded S-K T-shirt and Moore inquired as to why this kid felt so passionately about a law firm (and why that law firm used imagery of cats and monkeys). In other words, I have no illusions; Lorrie Moore is probably not at home listening to The Woods.

Nevertheless, I didn't read beyond page 27 for two whole days. Okay, partly because I got a cold, but also because I wanted to press pause on the story, so that it would always be about me and Lorrie Moore and the character she created who likes Sleater-Kinney.

By the time Saturday came around, I kept reading. I moved beyond the strange electricity of page 27 and beyond the silly, childlike elation that I had felt by reading it. And I love A Gate at the Stairs thus far, and I would love it without page 27. But I'll be honest: Even better than being momentarily trapped in an elevator with Lorrie Moore is being sealed forever within the pages of one of her novels.

Any stories about meeting someone you admire? Please share.

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