Lance Blomgren’s Walkups was originally published in 2000. Nine years later and this short, so-called “novella” is every bit as original and ingenious as when it first appeared. Here’s the basic set-up. The book is divided into 91sections; each titled as a real residential street address in Montreal. Call them vignettes, short stories, snapshots, flash fiction, ruminations or paranoid observations–any title will do. Sometimes they’re letters, sometimes newspaper clippings. The sections shift from first to second to third person without unsettling the measured, exceptionally precise tone–a unity of voice that perhaps indicates a character-asnarrator, rather than an unnoticed omniscience, leading us from door to door, room to room.
The world of Blomgren’s Montreal is one of short days and little sunlight, narrators or characters dwelling in drafty apartments who seem to spend most of their time in bed, confused by cloudy, disorienting dreams. We find, as we would in any city, a complete spectrum of actors: solitary students, alternatively fucking and feuding lovers, playing children, ancient men and women. There are even moments of Borgesian surrealism– houses that seem to digest their occupants; a warehouse that turns out to be the structure of one’s own body.
However, the most striking quality of Walkups is its rejection of the seeming bedrock of most conventional fiction– character arcs, courses of rising action, climaxes, even conclusions. There is indeed a recurring narrator and small cast of secondary characters–all dwelling in the Apt. d’Amours, the only habitation we see more than once–but the real pleasure of the text is not in the familiar or even the plotted, but in venturing into new lives and new possibilities with each page. And while some passages are perhaps too brief, asking too much of the reader to assume profundity through an omission of detail, Blomgren’s “rooms” typically rise toward a sense of awe or mystery, inviting readers to re-think and savour their quiet, insistent guides. It’s a shame that so few works of Canadian fiction in the last nine years have been as ambitiously original. Perhaps conundrum press will release a third edition in 2018; if so, watch this book remain a marvel, and remain–as the post-script indicates–unfinished. (Spencer Gordon)
by Lance Blomgren $15, 123 pgs., conundrum press, P.O. Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, QC, H2T 3E2, conundrumpress.com