Thursday, February 11, 2010
It’s hard to know what to say about this book that hasn’t already been said. Moore doesn’t need me to plug it for her. It’s interesting that Jonathan Lethem, writing in the New York Times, says he only knows one person who doesn’t care for Moore’s writing. Actually, I know a lot of people who don’t care for her. Lethem says that Moore is “unpretentious and warm” but I disagree. I always found that her books and stories had an edge of nastiness to them. Friends who read this book before I did were not particularly effusive with their praise either. They pronounced it “not as sour as some of her other stuff,” and “better than expected.”
But I’ll go on record saying that I loved this book. It’s still a bit edgy, and it’s hardly warm. But it’s extremely moving, and the writing is wonderful – I love the way she uses language and humor. The story is about Tassie, a college student who works as a nanny for a neurotic white couple who adopt a mixed-race child. But it’s also a story about class, race, politics, love, lying, and growing up. I could find a little fault with some of the overly long descriptions, the various subplots that don’t quite go anywhere, and the times when Moore seems to be trying a bit too hard to be clever, but those would be really minor points. The book certainly adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
As a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, where this book is set (never mind the fictional city name of Troy) I found it hard not to get a little distracted trying to figure out what (and possibly even whom) Moore was using as models. I thought she did an excellent job of capturing the mostly unacknowledged class divides in a city like Madison: between university faculty (who have moved here from elsewhere), and native Madisonians; between UW students from rural areas of Wisconsin (“Sconnies”) and students from the East Coast (who are often Jewish, and known as“Coasties”) and between blacks and whites in a city with rapidly changing demographics.
The book is long, but it’s a fast read. And I do think Moore deserves her accolades.
(Book 7, 2010)