JOSHUA THEN AND NOW by Mordecai Richler
Kirkus Star


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The years have lopped an edge off the lean, hungry, zinger-ish striving of Richler's fiction, but they've added on a certain girth: this novel, recapitulating much of Richler's previous core material, is funny, of course, but wistful too, rounded as well as raucous. Joshua Shapiro, a well-known Montreal sports columnist and TV commentator, looks back at his life. Never was it ""normal""--nor is it now. His father was Reuben, prizefighter and bootlegger and mob handbreaker and marvelous interpreter (to 14-year-old Josh) of Bible stories and the facts of life. His mother was Esther, a.k.a. Esty Blossom, an exotic dancer who gave the boy-guests at Josh's bar mitzvah a thrill they would never forget. The Spanish Civil War (though slightly before his time) is a moral benchmark in the lives of Joshua and his high-school gang. (And once a year the gang, now adults, gets together to be ""Jewy"" with a vengeance, singing ""Safe in the Arms of Jesus"" in Yiddish.) And Richler comes closest to a conventional plot with Joshua's position as an outsider in the WASP society of wife Pauline--especially his antipathy to Pauline's old rival Jane and her brother, the ne'er-do-well, tragedy-destined Kevin. But narrative attack is mostly a rarity here. Instead there's a wonderful abundance of rich novel pieces: Josh, with novelist-pal Sidney Murdoch, running a manuscripts-for-sale seam; the humiliations of success that attend Josh's highschool buddies in middle-age; life among the artistic left-wing in London of the Fifties. All these vignettes are joyous and smooth, oiled with the good-grade, Canadian-Jewish cynical-yet-feeling humor that Richler has mastered. Don't expect a novel's reach or depth, then; this fiction just keeps looping in and around, a circular display. But enjoy, enjoy it--as a loose but richly bursting package.

Pub Date: June 6th, 1980
Publisher: Knopf