Viewing entries tagged
Hannah LeClair

Norah Lange’s <br><i>People in the Room</i>

Norah Lange’s
People in the Room

Reviewed by Hannah LeClair

In the opening pages of Norah Lange’s People in the Room, a flash of lightning blanches all the corners of a young girl’s bedroom on Calle Juramento, and illuminates the mask-like faces of three women sitting in the living room of the house next door. In that instant, recounts Lange’s unnamed narrator, “I saw them for the first time, began to watch them, and as I watched them, slowly examining their three faces in a row, one barely more elevated than the others, it seemed to me that I held—like the suit of clubs in a game of cards—the pale clover of their faces fanned out in my hand.” Lange’s darkly surreal novel crystallizes around this single moment of transfixion. For Lange’s teenaged narrator, the glimpse of these three women’s mysterious faces is like an “indelible first portrait” or “the beginning of an accidental life story” and her longing to uncover their story becomes an obsession that positions her as the protagonist of a strange narrative. Lange’s narrator enthralls—as she is herself enthralled by the women she watches from her window . . .

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...