Does it make me un-Canadian to have never read anything by Mordecai Richler? If anything, I think it probably makes me MORE Canadian but I do feel a certain qualm at having missed out on the entire body of work from the Giller Prize winning author of Barney's Version
. Happily, I will soon be able to see Richard Lewis' film version and do what all good high school students do: Fake it. Here's how Amazon describes the book:
Barney Panofsky smokes too many cigars, drinks too much whiskey, and is
obsessed with two things: the Montreal Canadiens hockey team and his
ex-wife Miriam. An acquaintance from his youthful years in Paris, Terry
McIver, is about to publish his autobiography. In its pages he accuses
Barney of an assortment of sins, including murder. It's time, Barney
decides, to present the world with his own version of events. Barney's Version
is his memoir, a rambling, digressive rant, full of revisions and
factual errors (corrected in footnotes written by his son) and enough
insults for everyone, particularly vegetarians and Quebec separatists.
But Barney does get around to telling his life story, a desperately
funny but sad series of bungled relationships. His first wife, an
artist and poet, commits suicide and becomes--à la Sylvia Plath--a
feminist icon, and Barney is widely reviled for goading her toward
death, if not actually murdering her. He marries the second Mrs.
Panofsky, whom he calls a "Jewish-Canadian Princess," as an antidote to
the first; it turns out to be a horrible mistake. The third, "Miriam,
my heart's desire," is quite possibly his soul mate, but Barney botches
this one, too. It's painful to watch him ruin everything, and even
more painful to bear witness to his deteriorating memory. The mystery
at the heart of Barney's story--did he or did he not kill his friend
Boogie?--provides enough forward momentum to propel the reader through
endless digressions, all three wives, and every one of Barney's nearly
heartbreaking episodes of forgetfulness. Barney's Version, winner of Canada's 1997 Giller Prize, is Richler's 10th novel, and a dense, energetic, and ultimately poignant read.
With the film arriving soon you can check out the trailer for the film - starring Paul Giamatti, Scott Speedman, Dustin Hoffman and Minnie Driver - below.
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