he Ability to Forget is one of those books I've been trying to get through for months. I'll review it this month for sure, I'd say to myself, and then decide that I simply didn't have the energy or attention span at the moment to give over to Levine's stories.
But I love Norman Levine. His stories are harsh and insightful, burrowing to the core of his characters, presenting us with bleak and stressful moments of life. There is simplicity, too, though. As well, there is resolution and growth in his characters. It is this that makes Levine's writing so hard to pick up and even more difficult to put down.
Levine's literary philosophy would seem to be summed up by a character in "Tricks":
"Take things from life," Adolphe said. "Bad experience is better than no experience. Invent as little as possible. You are inventing the piece the way you use words and the way you are telling it. Wherever you go you will notice things.
These stories, as the title suggests, have a great deal to do with memory. This book feels as though it is more about Levine's memories, an attempt to fill stories with the stuff of life before he disappears as his characters always seem to. The feeling I have is that these stories are closer to the 'real' Norman Levine than his early work.
As always, his writing is brilliant and filled with detail. Sometimes, though, I find this detail a little overwhelming. It is as though the sheer volume of interconnections between memories becomes too much. The narrative fragments, fractures, and disintegrates before it dissolves completely. The book as a whole, however, resolves these feelings. I'm left with an appreciation and understanding of Levine's world, hoping that I may also one day have as much experience to reflect on, and do it so beautifully.
published by Key Porter Books