Memory loss and selective remembering

June 15 | 2020

In my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, the themes of willed forgetfulness and selective remembering are foremost. Racism, now so much on our minds, entails both of these. In discriminating against others, we “forget” their humanity, their entitlement to equal rights and opportunities, and the suffering they endure. If we remember related history, we are apt to do so selectively, too often eliminating the events that make us ashamed or uncomfortable. The form of racism that afflicts some characters in The Smallest Objective happens to be anti-Semitism, but all forms of discrimination—whether arising from race, colour, gender, or sexual orientation—are to be condemned.  


Seashells by the seashore—my father in Florida

June 11 | 2020

My father was known among his family and friends for “His love of kittens and fledgling birds. His obsessive collecting of seashells,” as detailed in my new book, The Smallest Objective. The shells shown here were both collected and arranged by my father.  It’s on a beach in Florida, when he stoops to “claim a whelk of modest proportions,” that one of the most harrowing moments in the book occurs.


A date at high altitude—my aunt Carol in Mexico City

June 8 | 2020

In my new book, The Smallest Objective, my aunt Carol stars in the chapter titled “Lake Pátzcuaro,” named after a lake with mythical properties in the Mexican highlands. Carol had recently graduated from the physiotherapy program at McGill University https://www.mcgill.ca/spot/ when she and her best friend travelled to Mexico, where they joined two doctors Carol had met while interning. Shown here are Carol and her doctor friend dining in Mexico City in 1959. Inside the cardboard presentation folder for the photo, the young doctor composed a note: I hope that you will never forget this night and your friend, Rafael. 


Ruby Foo’s restaurant—the lowdown

June 4 | 2020

The characters in my new memoir, The Smallest Objective, love to eat and drink—and, most of all, they adore Chinese food. Ruby Foo’s restaurant, opened in Montreal’s west end in the 1950s, quickly became the go-to place for egg rolls and chicken almond guy ding. And for the less adventurous, there was always a club sandwich. This restaurant on the Sunset Strip was where my teenaged mother, Rene, and her sister, Carol, were escorted by their beaus on hot dates. The image here belonged to Carol, a memento of the place where she and her first boyfriend met for special occasions when they were “going steady.”

https://www.hotelrubyfoos.com/dining.html


Jockey Fleming—the jockey without a horse

June 1 | 2020

In my new book, The Smallest Objective, an entire chapter is devoted to my mother’s great-uncle Jockey Fleming, the family black sheep. During his heyday in mid-century Montreal, Jockey earned his keep as a gagman, ticket tout, and holder of bets for hockey games and the racetrack. He was celebrated by many of the most renowned sports and gossip columnists of the era. Al Palmer, in his 1950 book Montreal Confidential, wrote, “[Jockey’s] rise to fame as one of the town’s official meeters and greeters has been meteoric—whatever that means.” https://www.vehiculepress.com/q.php?EAN=9781550652604 The image here is from a period postcard belonging to Jockey’s niece Carol, a genuine rider.


Today belongs to my mother!

May 28 | 2020

To mark today’s official release of my memoir, The Smallest Objective, I’m sharing this picture of my mother, Rene, the book’s central character. Here she is in her late teens (c. 1950), when she confided to her five-year diary: By the time I got in it was 2:30 a.m. Dad was standing with the broomstick. He told me I would have to break my date for tomorrow night & I knew my name would be mud. 


A novel of the immigrant experience in America

May 25 | 2020

The Rise of David Levinsky, published in 1917, is an early example of a novel about the hardships and triumphs of immigration. In The Smallest Objective, the narrator discovers her grandfather’s copy of this book by Abraham Cahan, part of its cover image depicted here. The novel is still a fantastic read! In it, David, a newcomer to New York City, reflects on the real estate boom: “Deals were being closed, and poor men were making thousands of dollars in less time than it took them to drink the glass of tea or the plate of sorrel soup over which the transaction took place.”


It’s a postiche!

May 22 | 2020

Does anyone recognize this 1960s must-have hairpiece? In The Smallest Objective, the narrator recalls, “The postiche gave my mother’s beehive hairdo the thrust of a model skyscraper.” The original beehive was worn by Audrey Hepburn and Dusty Springfield, among others, and more recently by Amy Winehouse and Adele. Shown here is my mother’s postiche, along with the vintage case in its faux alligator finish. 


Preview of The Smallest Objective in OrcaSound arts & entertainment news!

May 20 | 2020

Please enjoy this preview, which does a great job of introducing the book’s central themes and subject matter. You get to hear the publisher’s take on The Smallest Objective, too.

 

 


Rhinestone and Bakelite. Plastic and rubber …

May 14 | 2020

In the opening chapter of The Smallest Objective, the narrator sets aside all ideas of treasure for nine days, focusing on nothing but buttons. Examples like the clovers, football, and flowers illustrated here are called “realistics”—because of their true-to-life shapes. Also known as “goofies,” these kinds of buttons first appeared in the late 1930s. The display you see is from my own collection. Other goofies masquerade as squirrels and Scottie dogs, bowls of fruit, cigarette packets, and even Heinz pickles!