|"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin' dirt 'n' gritty...." The Lovin' Spoonful's song might easily be the anthem for Elizabeth Hall, the protagonist of Lynne Tillman's fourth novel, No Lease on Life. Elizabeth lives in the hottest, grittiest city of all, New York, and Tillman's novel follows 24 hours in the life of this urban heroine. Unlike many novels set in New York's mean streets, Elizabeth is neither rich nor poor, and she isn't particularly alienated or particularly crazy; her charm lies precisely in her ordinariness; she's well educated, has a job, and lives with a boyfriend she loves in a rent-controlled apartment that she likes. Elizabeth even likes her neighborhood, the rundown drug-infested East Village, and has befriended a prostitute named Jeanine and a bag lady called Gisela among others. But lately the noise in the streets--the car alarms, the breaking glass, the relentless high-decibel hijinx of the junkies and dealers in the wee small hours of the morning--has been getting to her. Elizabeth can't sleep, and as she sits staring out her window at the "morons" below, violent fantasies flit through her head. |
Readers expecting a buildup to shattering violence will be disappointed. Instead Tillman delivers a quirky, tough tale of a resilient woman having a bad day. When, at the end, Elizabeth takes a little naughty revenge on her tormentors, readers can rest assured that this slightly-frayed-around-the-edges heroine will live to fight another day.