Lorrie Moore's French

A couple of years ago, Lorrie Moore insisted to the Isthmus that the town of Troy in her novel A Gate At The Stairs was not and could not be Madison, Wisconsin, and caught some flak over this.  I understand on the one hand that it's only natural to want a chance to be REPRESENTED, to feel some sense of civic pride, especially since the sheer fact of Lorrie Moore living and teaching here is way above par in terms of usual Madison bragging rights (I'm sorry, but it is).  I got such a kick out of reading it myself, thinking, is this how people in New York feel all the time?  On the other hand, I could get into the moral and theoretical side of it, like for example of course it's not Madison because even if she had called it "Madison" it would still be a fictionalized version of Madison, because it's fiction.  

The Isthmus has argued that Otis Redding's death and The Freedom From Religion Foundation are both mentioned in connection with Troy, and since these are properties of Madison, A plus B equals C.  Or "sea," when all we really have available is a couple of big lakes.  It seems that this isn't really about much more than hurt feelings over the fact that Ms. Moore did not fall all over herself insisting that the unique character of the city of Madison inspired her to write the book in the first place.  But assuming that the amassed parallels do actually count for something here, I have a single thought to share on the matter:  Near the end of the novel, Tassie, the main character, goes into Le Petit Moulin--the restaurant that was ostensibly based on Madison's L'Étoile--and is said to be drinking a glass of Prairie Fumé.  Prairie Fumé is a wine put out by Wollersheim, a Wisconsin winery, and it is NOT a fine-dining wine.  It is, however, local.  And considering the amount of attention given to local sourcing by both the real and fictional versions of L'Étoile, it amuses me to think that perhaps in the world of A Gate At The Stairs, there exists a local wine that is really good enough to be served in a restaurant like Le Petit Moulin.

This speculation means nothing, of course.  The question of why and how an author chooses to mix and match events, names, and places may be infuriating to some people, but insofar as these items may be recognized (which in this case is probably not even an issue for most people who have read the book), I find it fun to see how they have been re-purposed.  After all, in the real world, we have Lorrie Moore, we still have L'Étoile (while Le Petit Moulin ends up closed), we have Lombardino's as a wonderful Italian restaurant in Madison (rather than a supper club in Green Bay) and we have many locations in the city where both good wine and wine from Wisconsin can be purchased.  No need to get selfish.

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