NOTES ON AN ENDANGERED SPECIES AND OTHERS by Mordecai Richler

NOTES ON AN ENDANGERED SPECIES AND OTHERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Reviews and essays by the Canadian novelist who's making a fine name for himself internationally but is still called a pariah at home. For his own part, he's just come grudgingly back to Montreal, after having gone to the ends of the earth to get away -- Hollywood, Oxbridge, the Left Bank, Cannes -- so it's no wonder we now detect signs of conflict and hear several voices on the wire. There's the unsparingly above-it-all observer of chic scenes; the snide debater; the bemused ""reputation"" reviewing his disreputable youth in a rather braggardly vein of repudiation; and, now and then, there's an asocial burst from the beatnikish kid he was. He is, at least, consistently Jewish, alert to the anti-Semitism of the Bond books and the excessive Semitism of others, and to all the devilish nuances of being a Jewish boy. But here, too, there are such a number of delicate contradictions that by the time he gets to Grossinger's, say, he has just about cancelled out any real possibility of comment. A greater identity problem lies in his relationship to the establishment, and his contrary desires to be both epateur and arbiter, which he manages by being essentially just contrary. Thus we learn that Gordon Craig in his dotage is slightly more to be pitied than scorned; that producers are to be regarded the same way; that Joe McCarthy was a ""cultural broom"" and ultimate boon to Hollywood. This negative to outright pugnacious attitude is not necessarily a liability to an essay-reviewer, but with Richler's other, consummate assets it seems gratuitous. His piece on Desmond Morris' Intimate Behavior, for example, is scathingly funny and brilliant; but it could not have been so well executed if it weren't basically a cheap shot. We carp so not because he's bad, but perhaps too good, and he is a great entertainer.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1974
Publisher: Knopf