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Elise Levine

Elise Levine’s <br><i>Blue Field</i>

Elise Levine’s
Blue Field

Reviewed by Hannah LeClair

As a writer, Elise Levine has an affinity for the tightly compressed, and so her novel Blue Field revolves around the exploration of torturously claustrophobic underwater spaces through the risky, physically and mentally challenging practice of “crunch diving.” In the novel, Levine sends her protagonist, Marilyn, into the depths of cenotes, where submarine rivers stream from limestone caverns, and the flooded galleys of shipwrecks. Levine describes these dives in writing that is accordingly elegant and compact. Reading the novel is a sensation akin to drifting weightlessly beneath the surface of the text—”the underside of waves a shimmering twill,” in Levine’s words. In her hands, this description becomes an apt metaphor for her prose: dazzling, textured, tightly woven. Such elegance is the result of careful and unremitting practice. Levine, a transplant to Baltimore from her native Toronto, is an exacting writer whose two other books are a testament to her drive for precision: a 2003 novel entitled Requests and Dedications, and the acclaimed 1995 collection, Driving Men Mad, in which her short stories unfolded across sometimes as few as three or four pages in dense, highly controlled language...