Jonathan Webb selected and arranged the excerpts in Mordecai Richler Was Here: Selected Writings. The anthology, with illustrations by Terry Mosher a.k.a. Aislin and an introduction by New Yorker staffer, Adam Gopnik, was published by Madison Press in 2006. The selection highlighted some of Richler’s best writing while demonstrating the interrelationship between his life, his non-fiction work and his fiction. The original “Note on the Selection,” which was truncated before publication, explained the editorial approach.
Note on the Selection
Mordecai Richler wrote ten novels: all are represented in these pages. A handful of the excerpts, including Noah’s raid on the Restricted Beach in Prevost, “The March of the Fletcher’s Cadets,” “Ormsby-Fletcher,” and “A Ball Game on Hampstead Heath” were published separately in magazines. All or most of the remaining excerpts have been, as it were, torn from the fabric of the novels of which they were a part. While, in the nature of things, this is bound to be somewhat unsatisfactory, it is also the case that Richler’s novels are mainly episodic in structure: it is surprising how easily pieces can be carved out and yet retain their integrity.
In addition to the novels, Richler wrote a vast quantity of non-fiction including feature articles, book reviews, regular columns, and travel pieces. He also wrote three non-fiction books, edited three anthologies, and wrote the introduction to a book of photographs of Spain. (See the Annotated Bibliography for details.) The selection of non-fiction pieces included here has been made entirely from these and a handful of other published books. The interested reader can fairly easily track down the books from which the pieces were taken (although some are out of print).
In making the selection and arranging them for this book, the editor was guided by the material itself. The themes around which the parts have been constructed spring from the texts. Running through them, there can just be discerned a rough trajectory that mirrors Richler’s life. Certainly, everything starts in the Montreal of his youth. The expatriate years were both a formative stage in his life and a source of material for his writing. Even his keen interest in sports reflects life changes: baseball and hockey begin when he is small; fishing comes later. And so on. In general, in the arrangement of excerpts, an attempt has been made to show how the life and the writing reflect one another.
The fiction and non-fiction reflect one another too. When Richler is writing about either Montreal or family, whether in fiction or in memoir, the voice is virtually the same. The overlap does not end there. Richler happily acknowledged that magazine assignments yielded useful material that he re-fashioned as art. So fiction and non-fiction, excerpts from novels and chunks of magazine pieces, are laid side-by-side in these pages in the hope that each will illuminate and enrich the other.
An attempt has been made to keep editorial intervention to a minimum. Occasionally, a line or two has been inserted at the head of an excerpt to provide context. (The few footnotes are transcribed from the original works: none has been added by the editor.) Overall, the aim has been to let Richler speak for himself.