Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Auster as on-topic

From: Sean Shapiro (
Date: 22 Jan 2009

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    Never thought I'd get to discuss Richler on Rara-Avis.

    Thanks for the insightful comments, Kerry.

    Sean Shapiro

    ________________________________ From: "" <> To: Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 6:59:22 PM Subject: Re: RARA-AVIS: Re: Auster as on-topic

    By association is fine by me. My evaluation of Richler as a crime-novelist is more a statement of personal preference. He's a great satirist for certain, but I guess my point would be that much of his satire involves our notions of criminality (and morality) and not only our failure to live up to them, but how we exalt those who successfully circumvent them.

    But I am surprised you've overlooked Duddy Kravitz, and the activities of The Boy Wonder, the mobster Duddy manages to defeat in his pursuit of land because Duddy's ethical and highly respected grandfather told Duddy a man without land is nobody.. Boy Wonder uses Duddy as an unwitting drug mule on a trip to the US. Then there's the crooked gaming wheel the other staff at the mountain holiday lodge use to fleece Duddy of his tips. Or the thieving staff who work with Duddy at his uncle's sweat shop. Or the advice he receives from successful business men, Jewish and Anglo, until finally he forges cheques to steal money from his epileptic friend and loyal employee to make the last payment on the land he covets. Wait--I forgot the scam of stealing players' hockey sticks for resale during Duddy's brief sojurn at The Forum.

    The full title is The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, and we can guess what trade Duddy was apprenticing to join. He goes on to make cameo appearances in other Richler books, and you're right in that Richler's technique was to subvert crime into the regular activities of his characters who, of course, did not think of themselves as criminals even as they committed crimes. I think Richler would say there's some criminality in all of us, and that makes any credible fiction a crime story to me.

    Always nice to meet another Richler fan. God how I wish he were still writing. I believe Barney's (Barney's Version) falling in love with another woman on his wedding night, between the toasts and trying to catch highlights of Hab's Stanley Cup play on the bar telly, one of the funniest episodes in literature. And I've always felt Neil Simon's semi-autobiographic al depiction of learning that his father is a cab driver is a somewhat bland nod to Richler's depiction of Duddy learning his cab-driver father is, in fact, a pimp.

    Pimping is still a crime most places, I understand.

    Best, Kerry

    ----- Original Message ----- From: ssshapir To: rara-avis-l@ yahoogroups. com Sent: Wednesday, January 21, 2009 12:59 PM Subject: RARA-AVIS: Re: Auster as on-topic

    > Every yarn that involves crime is crime fiction to me. I expect
    others will suggest some arbitrary level of centrality to the plot, or some such, but I take the simpler route, perhaps because I like to think of Mordecai Richler as a crime writer. Many of his books are not about crime, but almost all reflect on some element of criminality among their characters.

    You make some very interesting observations about Richler. I hadn't really thought about how the theme of criminality and power recurs in his books. The bootleggers in 'Solomon Gursky Was Here' and Joshua's father in 'Joshua Then and Now' spring immediately to mind.

    I still don't think of him as a crime writer. With the exception of 'Barney's Version'. Which in my view is a wonderful subversion of the crime thriller -- particularly the 'solving' of Boogie's death. Which is way he is still, as far as I'm concerned, one of the great satirists.

    That said, Richler has admitted a fondness for crime fiction in interviews and there are some very funny bits about Barney's cop father's fondness for 'Black Mask' pulps in 'Barney's Version'. I'd say he's not a crime writer by trade but he might be one by association.

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