Cover image for A window across the river
A window across the river
Morton, Brian, 1955-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando : Harcourt, [2003]

Physical Description:
289 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Isaac and Nora haven't seen each other in five years, yet when Nora phones Isaac late one night, he knows who it is before she's spoken a word. Isaac, a photographer, is relinquishing his artistic career, while Nora, a writer, is seeking to rededicate herself to hers.
Fueled by their rediscovered love, Nora is soon on fire with the best work she's ever done, until she realizes that the story she's writing has turned into a fictionalized portrait of Isaac, exposing his frailties and compromises and sure to be viewed by him as a betrayal. How do we remain faithful to our calling if it estranges us from the people we love? How do we remain in love after we have seen the very worst of our loved ones? Brian Morton explores these issues with the same "astonishingly
sensitive appreciation for his characters" (Library Journal) that marks his previous work.

Author Notes

BRIAN MORTONis the author of four previous novels, including Starting Out in the Evening , which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and was made into an acclaimed feature film, and A Window Across the River , which was a Book Club selection of the Today show. He teaches at New York University, the Bennington Writing Seminars, and Sarah Lawrence College, where he also directs the writing program. He lives in New York."

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Creative temperaments seem to impede romantic impulses in Morton's novel of two star-crossed but self-absorbed artists facing crises of the heart and conscience. Nora, a freelance writer, does her best work when she is inspired by the worst in those around her. Basing her short stories on people she knows, Nora leaves behind a string of former friends and lovers when their darkest secrets and unpleasant habits are brutally revealed by Nora's pen. Isaac, her once and former lover, is an accomplished photographer whose creative work has never received the acclaim he feels it deserves, forcing him to support himself by more traditional but less satisfying means. As Isaac retreats further from the art world's heady limelight, Nora achieves her greatest professional success when a prestigious magazine publishes her story based on Isaac's life. He feels betrayed, and his violent reaction brings the couple's fragile relationship to a breaking point. Morton's is an intriguing look at the nature of love and the need for acceptance. --Carol Haggas Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Suffering a "crisis of the spirit" and stagnating in her relationship with an ailing academic, short story writer Nora Howard calls her old flame, photographer Isaac Mitchell, at three a.m. one night, after not having spoken with him for five years. Roused from a dead sleep, he's still happy to hear her voice. Thus Morton reunites a pair of New York lovers in his latest novel, an incisive story of a romance tainted by thwarted artistic ambition and fear of failure. Nora, demoralized by her extended bout with writer's block, and Isaac, who hasn't come to terms with his decision to take a job as a photo editor after years of working as a freelancer, attempt to seek solace in each other. But Nora has a cannibalistic habit of turning friends and lovers into fodder for her short stories, and fears she won't be able to resist making use of Isaac. Morton gracefully choreographs the lovers' wary dance, poignantly capturing Nora's ambivalence and Isaac's guarded adoration. The narrow Manhattan horizons and one-note plot make for an insular story, but Morton's warm yet analytical prose gives the familiar scenes a fresh, revelatory feel, especially when Nora pens a story about Isaac that gets published in a prominent literary magazine. The counterpart to the romance is an elegiac subplot about Nora's beloved Aunt Billie, who is dying of cancer. The modesty of this novel gracefully offsets the delicacy and insight with which Morton writes about the junction of love and art. (Sept.) Forecast: Morton plays to a New York audience, but strong reviews should help build his readership across the country among fans of cerebral romance. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In his new novel, notable editor and author Morton (Starting Out in the Evening) introduces us to Nora, a 35-year-old Manhattan fiction writer, and Isaac, a 40-year-old photographer, as they resume their relationship after five years apart. Their mutual understanding and attraction mainly stem from their common struggle for artistic attainment. Now Nora is realizing that her quest for creative integrity leads her to write devastatingly critical depictions of loved ones (namely Isaac), and Isaac has lost his drive for photography. Their relationships with their families and friends shed further light on their personalities and motivations and expose us to the truths they would both rather hide. As these two people creep toward middle age, can they make the necessary concessions to stay together? Is it worth giving up their quests to expose the truth, no matter how ugly? And how do they stay in love once exposed to that truth? There are no easy answers, according to this novel, which digs deep to sift out what people are made of. Perhaps it cannot ultimately answer the question of what finally matters in life and love, but at least it does try. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Maureen Neville, Trenton P.L., NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



1SOMETIMES YOU LOSE TOUCH with people for no good reason, even people you love. Nora had lost touch with Isaac five years ago, but he kept coming back to her mind. He would appear to her in dreams (usually looking as if he was disappointed in her); things he'd said to her long ago would bob up into her thoughts; and sometimes when she was in a bookstore she'd drift over to the photography section to see if he'd put out another book. Through year after year of silence, she carried on a conversation with him in her mind.Every few months she would pick up the phone with the intention of calling him-and then she'd put the phone back down. She wasn't quite sure why they'd finally stopped talking, but something prevented her from reaching out to him again. Maybe there was a good reason after all.2BUT TONIGHT SHE WAS IN a hotel room in the middle of nowhere; it was one in the morning; she'd been trying to get to sleep for hours and she was still bleakly awake; and it was one of those insomniac nights when it seems clear to you that your life has come to nothing, that you've failed at everything that matters and there's no point in trying again, and you know that it might help to talk to someone but you're not sure there's anyone who'd be willing to listen, and you lie there thinking Is it possible to be any more alone than this?And the only person she wanted to talk to was Isaac.But do you want to get back into that? She didn't know.It had taken her so long to forget him. Not to forget him-she'd never been able to forget him-but to reach a point where the thought of him wasn't troubling her every day.It was three in the morning where he was. He'd always been a night owl. He might still be up.She called Information for the suburb where she'd heard he was living, and she got his phone number.For all she knew he was married by now. It would be incredibly rude to call him at three in the morning.It was the kind of thing she used to do all the time. She would call him at midnight, two in the morning, four, and he'd always be happy to hear from her. Once, when she was just getting to know him, she'd called him at midnight when he had another woman there; he was happy to hear from her even then. The other woman hadn't lasted long after that.But that was a long time ago, when they were psychic twins, sharing every thought. It would be rude to call him now. It would be bratty.She dialed his number.After three rings, he picked up the phone. She could tell from his thick hello that he'd been sleeping.She didn't say anything. Maybe this was all she'd wanted. To hear his voice was enough.She didn't hang up, though."Hello?" he said again.She just kept breathing."Nora?" he said.After five years.3HOW DID YOU KNOW it was me?"She heard him laughing softly. "I recognized your silence. It's different from anyone else's."This might have been the most romantic thing anyone had ever said to her."How are you?" he said. "My Nora." Excerpted from A Window Across the River by Brian Morton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.