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July 3, 2001 at 10 PM

St. Urbain is Quiet

Saddened were we to hear this evening of the passing of Mordecai Richler, novelist, essayist, perennial curmudgeon, and one of Montreal’s best-known and most-frequently-honoured sons.

I can only say good things about the two Richler books I’ve read. St. Urbain’s Horseman is often regarded as his most sophisticated work, a strongly autobiographical story featuring a mature protagonist whose complex life is only intensified by the contradictions of his times. Reading it gave me another view on the author; the book is amusing at times, but not by the cranky fashion usually attributed to Richler. The hero is, if anything, earnest. And I didn’t know it at the time, but I would soon move but a block away from St. Urbain Street, right in the heart of Richler’s childhood haunt, allowing me to take a little extra enjoyment in his rich descriptions of the neighbourhood in times past.

More recently, I read Barney’s Version, what was to be his last novel, and some say his best. The youthful earnestness that I enjoyed in Horseman was replaced with something altogether different, and seemingly more Richleresque: the irascible, endearing Barney Panofsky, a man who has lived life at full volume, and who in turn does not hear all that he might. It’s a more mature work. Barney’s hilarious life and questionable narration (a nifty trick for an old dog like Richler) seem all too real — so effortless is Richler’s prose. And at the end, one finds that humour has cleverly masked or perhaps rather augmented a broad portrait of a sad and touching life, a life that offers too many lessons to note.

What better way to remember a talent than to revel in it?

Comments

Wow, how is it you could have missed reading The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz?! You MUST read that book! You have been so commanded. ;-) Seriously, no MR expericene or library could be considered complete without that one novel in it. Go buy that book. Go. Go now! :-)

Lilly | Jul. 5, 2001 — 9 PM

I’ve been reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest since, oh I don’t know, the Paleozoic Era, but I will of course try and boost my Richler prowess in time. Apparently everyone else has the same thoughts though — all of Montreal’s bookstores have sold out of Richler books.

— Luke | Jul. 6, 2001 — 9 AM

In two words, secondhand bookstores. You may even find an original print like I have if you look hard enough. :-)

Lilly | Jul. 6, 2001 — 6 PM

Pretty crappy ass book if you asked me!

— sean | Mar. 4, 2004 — 6 PM

Previously: Remembering Memento II

Subsequently: You’re Not the Milkman!

July 2001
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