Before we completely move on, I need to admit something: I never finished Solomon Gursky Was Here. So maybe my hatred for Rohmer’s E.P. Taylor comes out of guilt about that. I bought it in 1990 -- Gursky I mean -- thinking “Oh boy!” after Joshua Then and Now, and gave up 20 pages in, thinking: “I can’t follow this and I don’t care.”
As Francine Prose said in the Times Book Review:
“Like certain South American and Victorian novels, it requires some paging back and forth to the accompanying genealogical table and a measure of patience; it works by accretion, accumulating incident and detail, gathering momentum over its first 100 pages as we realize where it's heading - what Mr. Richler appears to be up to.”
Of course, she was paid to keep going.
But I gave up. Still hauled the book around in a box for twenty years though, before I gave it away. Because everyone said it was pretty good, and even bad Mordecai Richler is pretty good, and it was about the Bronfmans, and they’re supposed to be sort of interesting, I guess. I mean, they were always in the paper.
So I kept thinking about how I gave up on Gursky while I kept fighting to not give up on Taylor. The first, a book by a brilliant writer about a Canadian brewing dynasty – with a biographer as a character, repulsed by biographers who sell out – versus a book about Canadian brewers by a biographer who sells out.
Next time I see a copy of Gursky, maybe I’ll give it another try.