The way I sometimes write about Richard Rohmer you’d be forgiven for thinking that I can’t stand the man. In fact, the opposite is true. Sure, we often disagree, but I like the guy as much as you can like anyone you’ve never met. Generally Speaking makes me like him all the more. Rohmer's story is remarkable, even if the book isn’t. He’s accomplished so very much, is famous in his own right, and yet so often becomes star-struck in the presence of fame. There’s something endearing in that trait, and the effort expended in reproducing grainy video and coffee mug images.
Generally Speaking reads like a self-published memoir written by an amateur and published by a service like My Family Memoirs. Heavy on the positive, light on the negative, Jack Rhind’s autobiography is a good example. You’ll remember the former Confederation Life CEO as one of the men who provided a blurb for Retaliation. What makes this all really interesting is that Rohmer is an old pro, and Dundurn is no vanity press.
Though he doesn’t appear in Generally Speaking, I think Jack Rhind and Richard Rohmer were friends. I’m mentioning this only because it points to one of the more amusing quirks of the book. Friends and good friends populate its pages, they often appear out of nowhere and, once mentioned, usually disappear. This is exactly what happens with “friend King Michael of Rumania” – who comes and goes within a sentence. You want to put on the breaks, and ask Rohmer for more. An editor would do this, but I don’t see one in evidence. It's worth noting that Dundurn routinely credits editors on its copyright pages, but here lists only a copy-editor.
Is this part of a pattern he set with Ultimatum? The book doesn’t say. Having come to the man through his novels – as opposed to, say, his legal work for Bramalea – I found the most disappointing aspect of the biography to be how little attention is paid to his writing career. A few asides aside, it comes late – page 525 – and has to share a chapter – number 78 - with some unrelated stuff about George H.W. Bush and Brian Mulroney.
Generally Speaking numbers 590 pages, but I found myself wanting more. Too often things skim along the surface. You come away wondering why he quit the Progressive Conservatives or how, in late middle-age, he came to see E.P. Taylor as a “father figure”.
There’s a really good biography to be written about Richard Rohmer. He'd be the first to appreciate the amount of work involved.