Saturday, April 09, 2016

This Globe & Mail review made me entirely verklempt!

"some of the freshest and most whimsical English ever contained between covers"

This Globe and Mail review of Yiddish for Pirates rendered me smobgacked. I was really delighted, overwhelmed really, by the kind words, of course, but especially by the fact that the reviewer, S. Bear Bergman really seemed to "get" the book, and indeed made some points which I hadn't quite considered or thought of in the way that he framed them. I found it really moving that he was engaged in this way.

Review: Gary Barwin’s Yiddish for Pirates is unlike anything else you’ll read this year.

The book received another review today, also, this one from the Winnipeg Free Press. 
Here is that one.

And finally for today, the writer/critic Jeanie MacFarlane has this great blog where she writes about things to do with the neighbourhood that we both live in, as well as about Hamilton, and lately, some amazing memoir-like writing.

She recently asked me to add to her series "Where I Write" where she asks other writers to answer that question. I guess I should have cleaned up my desk, but I wrote this piece in answer, speaking about our neighbourhood, city, and even, Facebook as a place where writing happens. Thanks for the opportunity, Jeanie. (And actually, I DID clean up my desk & yeah, I know...)


Eccentric Scholar said...

Re: the Winnipeg Free Press review, "too clever for its own good"??? Someone actually wrote that sentence? I did a web search to see if James Joyce had ever been called too clever for his own good. One person said that Joyce "seems to expect you to understand the language with him. Some would say 'too smart for his own good.'" What's with these damned genius writers who use words right and left and seemingly expect their readers to keep up? The nerve! [End sarcasm and eye rolling.] Oh, here's a revision idea that might make the W.F.P. review more accurate and more fair: "Too clever for the Winnipeg Free Press."

gary barwin said...

Ha! I wonder if there is a website of "corrected" reviews of authors' work? Probably!

One thing I liked about the review is that he got into the spirit of the book and used Yiddish to make it funny. (And he did say some nice things about the book, too. I am grateful for that.) I am also glad that he quoted from the book--like "showing your work" in math class -- so the reader can get a sense of whether THEY think he got the answer that they might if they read it. Of course, truly, everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I don't expect that everyone will like the book. I know that people might even dislike the book in different ways! (Right, mom?) Really, since there are so very few reviews these days, I am grateful for any reviews and for anyone who reads and considers the book. I mean he didn't say, "Let's just build a wall around this book and make Barwin pay!"

Eccentric Scholar said...

Yes, readers and reviews are rare. It's just ... the very idea of "too clever." The world needs MORE cleverness, not less. But there's yet something to ponder: what exactly is a book's "own good"? Can an author be a disservice to his book's own good? Is it like Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome, in which a reasonably prosaic book has excessive alliteration and metaphor overlaid upon it by an author with a poetic disorder? I wonder.

Eccentric Scholar said...

Perhaps those who fear clever books long for the "silent masterpieces" of the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, "without words and without voice ... stone books [with] sculptured letters—their phrases in bas relief and their thoughts in pointed arches ... They are clearer than their younger brothers—the manuscripts and printed books. They have the advantage over them in being translateable only in a single, absolute sense. It is simple in expression, naîve and picturesque in interpretation; a sense purged of subtleties, of allusions, of literary ambiguities" (Fulcanelli, Le Mystère des Cathèdrales). Meanwhile, Gary, you noted that everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I wonder if criticism of cleverness doesn't self-cancel a reviewer's credibility.

Emily Saso said...

Just read the Globe review. SOLD! Running to my local bookstore tonight. Sounds wonderful.