Lance Blomgren’s Walkups is a collection of stories that all take place inside Montreal’s houses, condominiums, and apartments. As the reader advances through the slim novella, a feeling of impending doom sets in; throughout the book, there are freeze frames of uneasy moments lived by the occupants.
Among the many addresses, a recurring one: Apt. d’Amours. Inside these apartments lives a man, Walkups’ regular narrator. He’s a new tenant who starts out as a mildly nervous character whose lucidity matches his feelings of alienation. The scene with the phone technician, an indifferent repairman, sets the tone for a panicky individual whose causes for panic and angst are not identifiable, but are palpable. From then on, even his sexual interactions with his object of affection, Jane, are complex and make the reader uneasy.
But the reader doesn’t take it all in one shot. The narrator’s odd moments are intercut with moments of everyday life in various apartments. From a hipster party to a woman cleaning up her baby, the moments are varied, and very different from one another — except for the fact they are written in an almost epic, dangerous style. The whole book reads like a huge fresco that is about to collapse if you take a look at the big picture instead of the tiny individual pieces that comprise it. Only the recurring narrator eventually expresses the complete paranoia his building inspires in him.
Oh-so-natural snapshots that scream exaggerated artistic sensitivity accompany the often angst-ridden writings, here and there. These black and white pictures are sometimes badly composed, sometimes out of focus, and are often completely unrelated to the already-abstract subject matter. It might be intentional, but it’s still annoying. The image may be of a broken CD, or some coats hanging on a door. Or sometimes, it is more suggestive, like a hole in the wall, or binoculars next to windows. The scarcity of relevant images makes the whole presence of pictures generally useless.
The addresses are real; some of the unnamed characters are people who once knew Lance Blomgren. Except that ten years later, things have changed. According to the author, people have moved and grown distant from one another. The time lapse has allowed the writer to add a level of honesty and truth that a certain self-censorship didn’t allow back when the book was initially published, for obvious reasons. It makes for a daringly unromantic account of Montreal’s residents, summed up perfectly by Jane, the narrator’s unstable love interest: “Imagine what goes on when the doors are closed.” We don’t even have to imagine. Lance Blomgren does it for us. It’s not necessarily a pretty sight.
Joseph Elfassi is a freelance writer and photographer. For more of his writing and photography, please visit www.elfassi.ca/wordpress.