A Memoir of the 1950s
McClelland & Stewart, Paperback, 9780771089152, 296pp.
Publication Date: October 8, 2002
With letters from Mordecai Richler, Mavis Gallant, and Brian Moore
Getting Started is a wonderful memoir, a collection of extraordinary letters, and a brilliant recreation of a time when Canadian writers were set to make their mark in the world for the first time.
Writer Brian Moore emigrated from Ireland to Canada in the late 1940s and found work at the Montreal Gazette, where he also found William Weintraub embarking upon a career as a freelance journalist. When he travelled to Paris, Weintraub saw an old friend and former Gazette writer, Mavis Gallant, who filled him in on the tribulations of the expatriate writer’s life (“My room is enormous and the radiator very small indeed”). Gallant introduced Weintraub to another Montreal writer, Mordecai Richler, also pursuing a career as a novelist while living a gloriously Bohemian life. Weintraub joined Richler for a while in Ibiza (he later introduced him to Brian Moore), and later they kept in touch. (“Dear Bill: I got your highly unintellectual letter yesterday and it confirmed my suspicions that you slipped a chair under your arse in the Deux Magots as soon as you arrived in Paris and probably haven’t moved since.”)
In these years, Gallant had her short stories published for the first time in the New Yorker, Moore methodically churned out money-making thrillers while working on The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, and Richler wrote his first acclaimed book, The Acrobats. Weintraub, meanwhile, returned to Montreal, where he saw published his brilliant comic novel, Why Rock the Boat?
William Weintraub weaves together his own memories of the 1950s with letters both to and from his literary colleagues. The letters and his recollections are always fascinating, often hilarious, and provide intimate insight into the lives and work of some of Canada’s finest contemporary writers.