Bill Gladstone

Ride ‘Em Jewish Cowboy

Hy Burstein can’t quite explain his passion for riding horses, only that it first hit him as a teenager and that it’s still going strong six decades later. Born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in Toronto in 1928, he recently published Ride ‘em Jewish Cowboy (Devora Publishing, 2005), a book describing his riding experiences. Sometimes known as…

A Toronto doc’s memoir

Barnet Berris, born in Toronto in 1921, became the first Jewish doctor appointed to the full-time staff of the University of Toronto’s department of medicine in 1951. In Medicine: My Story (U. of T. Press, 2002), Dr. Berris tells the story of his career. The book elegantly details the changes he observed in medicine during 46…

Orchestrating the American Dream: Bernstein family history

Sam Bernstein, a New England industrialist who acquired the franchise to the Frederics hair-styling machine in the mid-1920s, became a remarkable overnight success after America was seized by a permanent-wave craze at the height of the flapper era. “One day in 1927, I didn’t have a nickel to my name,” he used to say. “The…

On ‘Max And The Cats’

Brazilian writer Moacyr Scliar, who died earlier this year at the age of 73, was a proponent of “magic realism,” a category of fiction prevalent among South American writers and especially evident in two of Scliar’s best known novels, Max And The Cats (1981) and The Centaur In The Garden (1984). As it happens, the…

Bezmozgis’s The Free World

David Bezmozgis, the Toronto-based author whose 2004 collection Natasha and Other Stories bedazzled critics, has written a first novel, The Free World, that is certain to reinforce his reputation as a fine literary craftsman. Bezmozgis, who is still young enough to be included in the New Yorker’s list of 20 best writers under 40, emigrated…

The Jewish ghetto in literature

An intriguing collection of essays throws a new light into the dark world of the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe as seen by a cavalcade of  Jewish writers including Heinrich Heine and Joseph Roth, and numerous others who have been all but forgotten. Ghetto Writing: Traditional and Eastern Jewry in German-Jewish Literature from Heine to…

The Court Jew (Stern)

The phrase “court Jew” is sometimes facetiously used today to describe the powerful underling of a major political or business leader, who acts obsequiously and with excessive discretion because he is Jewish. If the original Hofjuden or Court Jews of 17th- and 18th-century Europe were sometimes embarrassed by their Hebraic blood, it was because they…

Profile: E. L. Doctorow

In a public discussion in Toronto (1995), New York-based writer E. L. Doctorow likened the process of writing a novel to taking a journey by automobile at night. “You can only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way,” he said. The author of such celebrated works…

Mrs. Zhivago of Queen’s Park

“People often decide that it’s time for them to get married and then marry whomever they happen to be with at that moment . . . so you don’t necessarily marry the right person, you just marry the person who’s there.” That isn’t British novelist Olivia Lichtenstein talking, just the lead character from her first…

Salinger bio is balanced, thorough

Kenneth Slawenski’s J. D. Salinger: A Life, published by Random House just one year after its subject’s death at age 91, is an impressive, balanced, thorough and masterful literary biography of one of America’s most famous — and famously reclusive — authors. Salinger’s most famous character, Holden Caulfield of Catcher in The Rye fame, once…