Cristín Leach’s Negative Space is a brave endeavour whose complex tapestry is woven of essays, poetry, notes, reviews, songs and philosophical reflection. At the outset, signaling what is to come, the author states: ‘A writer is not a person whose writing is published. A writer is someone who writes because words are part of who they are.’ True to this statement, what follows in this eclectic assemblage is a remarkable and unexpected memoir, one which explores intense emotions and personal growth.
It is palpable how cathartic writing this book must have been for Leach. Yet it can present an occasionally perplexing read. For instance, Leach will muse on themes such as ‘Woman as body and weapon’ without offering much further exploration. Moreover, the changes in tempo wrought by the variance in material referenced – review snippets and lyrics, for example – risk disrupting the book’s coherence. But perhaps these are the ‘negative spaces’ that we must infer for ourselves as readers.
Negative Space offers moments of intense beauty and clarity of expression that subvert expectation. Leach writes: ‘The gaps between us lie in the gap between emotions expressed and emotions hidden.’ Read in light of the breakdown of her marriage, this sentence can be understood as salient advice, not just for relationships, but for life in a complex world.
Words: Holly Gash