Wex: kvetching all the way to the bank

Bouquets, encomiums, kudos and raves have deservedly been heaped upon Toronto’s own Michael Wex for this splendid and erudite treatise Born to Kvetch: Yiddish Language and Culture in All of Its Moods (HarperCollins softcover) which has catapulted him from near-obscurity onto the New York Times bestseller list.

Some of us know Wex for his storytelling abilities and the deadpan whine in which he relates, for example, his wholly original story of a kugel that comes magically to life: audiences end up rolling in the aisles with laughter.

HarperCollins has produced a softcover edition of Born to Kvetch, which promises “Now with more kvetching!” and includes an additional “study-guide” section on the author and the book’s unanticipated success, which (he says) is “nothing to kvetch about.”

The Lethbridge-born Wex, who moved to Calgary and then to Toronto, said he never dreamt that the Yiddish he spoke at home would ever be useful in the world beyond. “[J]ust as I never studied Yiddish in school, I never could have imagined putting it to any serious use in later life,” he writes.

Lovers of Yiddish, especially those with an affinity for colourful and off-colour phraseology, are well advised to read Born to Kvetch. ♦

© 2005