just finished it. not mordy's best - kind of plodded in a few places - but a snazzy read nonetheless. i <3 the inclusion of duddy, too.
ive also been rereading The Street, and love it more each time.
thought id be useful and contribute a book review i wrote because im a talentless creative writing hack and have the worlds most obese writing block ;)
Mordecai and Me : An Appreciation of a Kind (Hardcover)
by Joel Yanofsky
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Red Deer Press; 1 edition (Sep 8 2003)
In June of 2001, Mordecai Richler, one of Canada's most loved (and, at times, most hated) novelists, essayists, and generally cantankerous critic of all things Canuck, puffed his last Cuban, sipped his last scotch - neat? - and bowed out, no doubt with his trademark scowl smeared across his face. After over fifty years, ten novels, about as many non-fiction tomes, two books for children, and countless snide, off-the-cuff politically incorrect comments on topics ranging from his take on the French-Canadian language laws he considered laughable to his smug contempt for practically all things Jewish, Richler's passing left a smoking crater in the Canadian cultural landscape.
Has any Canadian ever painted such vivid pictures of the country's urban locales? And could anyone compete with Richler's ability to undress politicians at the scratch of a pen? Or his Swiftian knack for offending everyone in the room?
Despite a subject matter that Richler constantly referred to as being 'his place' and 'his time,' namely Montreal's Jewish quarter in general and St. Urbain Street in particular, Richler, an author of the old school, strongly believed that one's writing should speak for itself. Unlike most 'celebrities,' literary (if such a thing can exist) or otherwise, Richler was adept at keeping his private life under the covers. But now that the big guy is gone and Canadians have had a chance to catch their breath, the questions remain: Who was Mordecai Richler? And, perhaps the more pressing, 'Why was he so pissed off all the time?'
Joel Yanofsky, in his potent mix of memoir and biography, Mordecai & Me: An Appreciation of a Kind, takes a gamer's shot at providing answers. The title, of course, is telling. An appreciation? Isn't that kind of thing saved for pimple-faced, giggling adolescents and their pop-icon heroes? Perhaps, but Yanofsky expands on the definition, offering an unconventional spin on the biography that resists the genre's thirst for complete authorial objectivity. Yanofsky wisely asserts that his book will never be christened the 'be all, end all' of Richler scholarship. But as Mordecai & Me speeds along along, it becomes even more clear that it doesn't have to be.
The book itself traces Richler's life in four sections, staying roughly on track chronologically, while occasional drifting back and forth through time. Such chicanery could wear on the nerves, especially for someone accustomed to cut-and-dry linear biography, but Yanofsky manipulates the strings like a seasoned puppeteer, distracting us with one hand while setting the table with the other. On one page he serves up a conversation he had with an irate rabbi who felt that Mordecai has betrayed his race beyond redemption, while on the next he recounts Richler's disgust at what he sees as Ian Fleming's vulgar anti-semetism in the James Bond series of books and film.
A long-time book review and veteran interviewer (and apparently a sadist, too, having suffered through multiple interviews with the notoriously anti-social Richler), Yanofsky has the literary chops to take on Richler's ouvre. He's not afraid, for example, to say that The Acrobats, Richler's first novel, inspired one of his contemporaries, who couldn't believe something so bad had been published, to write. The next three novels don't come off much better. It is Yanofsky's unflinching honesty that gives Mordecai and Me much of its credibility.
The self-deprecating tone is also pitch-perfect. We all keep our fingers crossed when Yanofsky's novel, Jacob's Ladder, is nominated for a prank-turned-literary prize donated by Richler himself. Our hopes fall, too, when he doesn't win. Worse still: Mordecai was the one to vote his novel down. Amidst the disappointment, however, we smile because Yanofsky resists applying a sugar glaze to his relationship with Richler. Aside from interviews, the two barely shared words. Still, Yanofsky has done his homework and can tell a good yarn.
Yanosky's only failures come in the form sporadic digressions on his personal life, which often come in the form of dreams recollections so drab and unoriginal that I wonder why they are there at all. As Yanofsky says himself, dreams are boring; yet he clings firm to the belief that we, as readers, will find the contents of his psyche as fascinating as he claims to. These stumbling blocks, ostensibly about Yanofsky's growing preoccupation with Richler, were likely added as filler to boost the book's word count, so feel free to skim them over. That being said, however, when Yanofsky focuses on the real matter at hand - and not himself - the results are studded with moments reminiscent of Richler's wit and irreverence.
Is Mordecai & Me the definitive Richler biography? Likely not. Musing about whether or not Richler himself would have approved, Yanofsky is quick to admit that the old buzzard likely would have hated it. In fact, in the first chapter Yanofsky quotes Jake Hersh, a Samuel Johnson fan and Richler's beleaguered hero from the novel St. Urbain's Horseman: "I keep wondering, if I had lived in his time, would he have liked me? Would Dr. Johnson have invited me to sit at his table?"
On the subject of sharing the company of an admired writer, Yanofsky, ever the cynic, has his own response: "I'm lucky, I guess. I know the answer to whether Mordecai Richler would have asked me to sit at his table. I know because he never did."
But at least he came within spitting distance, and that view, quite nice if a little fuzzy, is worth sharing.
Just a little bit about me
. I was thinking that posting a short backdrop about who we are and how we got here might help us know each other a bit, might create some comfort with each other, generate some discussion.
I'm enamoured with lost causes I suppose.
At any rate, I'll introduce myself for anyone who cares. I'm shalilajupiter
, and I'm your community maintainer. Yay!
Yes, no one cares. I realise this.
Most people online address me as Shally, or Shal. I'm currently 23 years old and slowly but surely finishing a BA of English at Brescia University College (affiliated with UWO). Chose Brescia for the smaller campus, and like Brescia a good deal better than main. I like to call myself a writer. An as of yet unpublished writer though I can currently claim it is
for lack of trying. I'm currently editing my first novel which should be done sometime before the apocalypse at the rate I'm going.
I lead a fairly busy life. As grand master and supreme ruler of "the world" (see: my personal life) I get very little time to myself. I have a live in boyfriend, two rats, two cats and an untamable addiction to FFXI. I'm a pianist/flautist though I haven't done the former for a while due to a lack of an available instrument in my apartment and I haven't done the latter for a while due to a lack of available sheet music. I also make claim to being some sort of hack vocalist which I do on a regular basis much to the woe of my boyfriend's bleeding ears. Used to swim. Used to play softball. Have gotten soft and round in the last four years since I left highschool.
Currently moving in August to a cute little apartment which I hope to claim as my sanctuary and which I plan to fill quite gloriously with books and notepads. Absolutely in love with stationary.
Beyond all of that I'm really quite dull.
Anyway feel free to introduce yourselves, or to post something talking about any random Richler thing that strikes your interest or comes into your head.
Well, holy crap. I think that's the only expression I can appropriately muster here.
We have, get this, a new member
So welcome, semiotik
Sometime last year I picked up Son of a Smaller Hero
and Joshua Then and Now
and I haven't read either of them. One of the problems I find is that there are so many books I want to read that I keep buying new books. And so the Richler books (and many of the other books I've picked up) sit on my shelf unread as I plow my way through a summer of pop fiction.
Let's face it. I'll read anything I can get my hands on for the most part. If I'm really being honest here.
Which, for anyone who's lived the life of an English major, I suppose you can understand the need to get away from the real high brow stuff for a while after the phenomenal rate they pump it through you during the 8 months that is the school year and yet at the same time I sit there, my thumb smudging the ink on the page and detesting the lack of style and depth in some certain novel I've stolen from the boyfriend's collection or what have you.
And the two Richler titles I bought a year ago sit on my shelf and remain completely unread which is a far cry from when I sat in my boyfriend's bedroom at his apartment in Etobicoke plowing my way through The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
because it was easier to read than to worry about him because he forgot to call to tell me he was working late.
Not all the books I've read come with specific memories. All the Richler ones seem to. Memories of where I was when I read it or why. Memories of how I felt about the book when I read it, or the characters. I suppose that's what I like so much about the Richler fiction I've read so far. It's memorable
. It stands out. It makes an impact. I guess I'm of the opinion where it's the sort of work where you can love it, or you can hate it, but above all things you can't forget it.
So welcome, semiotik
. There are never very many posts here. I don't make many myself and while it's mostly because I'm a slacker, but I think it's really because we have, um, four members.
So if anyone has ideas on things to discuss, it doesn't have to be intelligent. It can just be on where you bought a book, or some odd memory of something else that happened. I might try to be more active myself. I'm actually considering posting a bit of a bio of myself on here in a minute for goodness only knows what reason. Pure vanity would be my guess.
Ha. Ha. Ha . . .
Wow. Look at our sweetly dead little community that I'm clinging to.
Okay. Any Richler recommendations for my summer reading list? Boys? Boys?
I think it's dead. *L* Look at the pretty new layout though.
Wow, well, I must say that I didn't expect to see much love for Richler when I added "Duddy Kravitz" to my list of Interests. I really, really enjoyed the book, as well as St. Urbain's Horseman, which I also read this past summer. A couple of weeks ago, I started and finished my third Richler book, The Incomparable Atuk, or, in America Stick Your Neck Out. Has anyone on this forum read this book? It's pretty funny and exceptionally dark. Great social commentary.
Just a little information that really isn't pertinent to anything.
Do we remember the CBC 'Greatest Canadian' deal?
It would seem that Mordecai Richler is listed in the top 100 greatest Canadians.
Which, of course, makes me happy. He's listed as 98.To see the CBC Greatest Canadian websiteTo see his listing (You may have to scroll down a little)
Alright, I said I would post something here that people could discuss:
How does the diction of Richler's narratives affect the tone of the novel and the reaction to the characters. How does this tone change throughout his novels? Is this change in tone time based, or narrative based (as in, do changes in tone show a development of, or shift in style, or is the tone there to create a certain mood within the work).
I apologize if this seems flat, unoriginal, or schoolish. I'm just trying to generate discussion, and I'm so very used to "schoolish" things.
So, for example, the use of harsher words in novels like Barney's Version suit the narrative because of what is discussed in the novel (memories of an old man) but also because it's a first person narrative. Other novels tend to be in third person so it would be expected that the diction used be harsher. The diction is also relatively harsh (and by that I mean not as politically correct as other works -- part of the reason I love Richler's novels) and loans itself excellently to satire.
As expected the diction, and hence the tone, is also less 'correct' than in the Jacob Two-Two books, but the Jacob Two-Two books are edgier in tone compared to other books by other authors within a comparable genre.
Part of me wants to attribute this to a style element, that it's just the writing style, but how far can writing style be said to facillitate other elements of the novel such as characterization, satire, theme, story, etc.
Who's lost now?
Posts now seem to be operational.
Layout is changed.
Non members can now post.
If posts aren't working try:
a)refreshing the page
b)logging out, and logging back in
If things still aren't working, let me know.
It was pointed out to me that there is a posting issue with the community.
I think I've fixed it now.
I just went over the settings and I've decided to make a few changes according (because this community is less than a month old, and I've never moderated a community before, please bear with me as I fumble through).
Alright, the community was set so that only members may post, and only members may comment, so if you'd currently like to post or comment you have to be a member. I've changed it so that non members can post, however, non members still may not post. I do have my reasons for this, but if anyone feels it should be changed you should be able to comment to this post. If not, again, comment on my personal LJ.
Also, I've been thinking about putting any sort of administrative-ish little posts like this into the community memories. Comment and let me know what you think.
Also, I'm hoping to put up a discussion post sometime before Monday. Just to get some ideas going, and some interest generated. IF ANY INTERESTED MEMBERS HAVE IDEAS THEY'D LIKE TO DISCUSS AND WISH TO TAKE THAT INITIATIVE, FEEL FREE TO POST.
No, I'm not stupidly busy right now, but I am still straightening out things in my new apartment and with my new job (I do have a life beyond LJ, believe it or not) and as such, probably won't get around to any discussing until Monday. I was also hoping for more members and some idea of what people had read so that I could make a poast on a certain book or something.
However, since this doesn't seem to be happening, I'm going to take the weekend and think up something on theme or style or something.
I'm also thinking of expanding this community to include biographical information as well. If anything thinks that may be of interest to them, let me know.
Thanks, and take care everyone.