Norman Levine was a permanent outsider, by temperament and by choice—as immigrant, as resident alien, as writer, as Jew—and he observed life from the margins with an unsentimental eye. Born in Canada, after serving in the Royal Air Force during the Second World war he lived an itinerant life for a time before settling down in the community of St. Ives in England, becoming close friends with painters such as Francis Bacon and Patrick Heron. Impressed by the emotional immediacy of their abstract work, he tried to do the same in his writing, with his words aimed to sear his readers’ nervous systems. In the process Levine developed the minimalist style, using a lean, fragmentary, suggestive language which served to heighten the emotional charges laden in his work, for which he became so rightly celebrated and emulated by other writers.
Gathered together at last in a single volume, the stories in I Don’t Want to Know Anyone Too Well present the best work of one of the great English prose stylists of the last half of the twentieth century. These stories evince a vivid texture and sensibility and are elegaic in their exploration of alienation, impermanence and the fragility of human hopes, while forcing the reader through his imagistic approach into a new and uneasy relationship with language and, through it, life.
Praise for Norman Levine
“… a masterly touch.”—Times Literary Supplement
“Levine’s stories are made of things that stick, unexpectedly, in the imagination.”—Globe and Mail
“Norman Levine stands at the very centre of achievement in Canadian short story writing.”—John Metcalf
“For me, Norman Levine’s stories are about the fleeting and yet durable moments between strangers—or among family, who are another kind of unknown … He is a master at recording the intimate particulars of one person meeting another, at exploring the mystery of what stays in the mind when the other person has gone.”—Andre Alexis, Fifteen Dogs
“A marvellous style. His stories are spare but there is so much hidden beneath the surface of them.”—Robert Weaver
“Mr. Levine is a true artist, who grinds his bones—and anything else he can lay his hands on—to make his bread.”—Bernard Levin, The Sunday Times
“Norman Levine sees with a clear eye a good deal of the tragic comedy of human life. And he writes in a marvellously clean, naked prose which is a joy to read.”—Edward Mccourt, The Montrealer
“Levine’s is a subtle, penetrating and quietly compassionate vision of many sad facets of the human condition.”—The Montreal Gazette