Monday, May 12, 2008

What The Hell's Hannah Moscovitch Doing Being Jewish In Toronto, Canada?

I saw Hannah Moscovtich's East of Berlin; I liked it. Toronto papers were touting the Ottawa writer as the newest, greatest thing. Canadian theatre could use her--a nice, Jewish playwright. Everyone was so excited: Could this be it? Could this be the Jew we've waited seven years for? (Richler died in 2001. Since then they've been trying to tell us that Stephen Marche is the new Canadian Mel Brooks. Do we need to insert a tube in Neil Simon's vas deferens, jerk him off into a can of Vernor's, then set up an injection clinic at Mount Pleasant and Bloor? I guess this is Year Seven of Forty in the Canadian desert. No one listens...)

Then the Jewish News found her. Her name's Moscovitch; her bat mitzvah picture was in Lifestyles, it wasn't hard. Suddenly she was a star. I asked my mentor, a Canada Research Chair, if he'd ever heard of her. "Who?" he asked. "From the Woody Allen movie?"

"No, the Canadian playwright," I said. "A big success."

"Are you sure she's Jewish?"

"Well, I've never met her--"

"You're Jewish," he shot back.

"I am," I said.

"Give her a call."

"Sure. Just let me get this matzo out of the oven."

"Hey, I think I met her, actually."

"You did?" I asked.

"Yeah. But I don't think she's Jewish...At least I didn't smell anything."

The Russian Play and Essay were both good. So now what?

Good luck to you, Hannah. You're Jewish in Toronto. You're a Jewish writer in Toronto. I'd rather be Germaine Greer's manicurist. I've got lessons to impart. I'm twenty-three, I'm a Canadian writing specialist, and I know our last Canadian Jew right down to Nathan Cohen. Now that's a statement. There's nothing here for Jewish writers; there never has been; there never will be. Every time Jane Urquhart publishes another Canadian best-seller, a Jewish Canadian Jewish writer turns his/her Buick into traffic. (I know she's dead, but that doesn't stop Atwood.) Or, worse, she goes to Hollywood.

And people will say that a good writer, Jewish or otherwise, can make his/her living in this city. S/he can publish; s/he can put it on stage. Adele Wiseman did it. Marian Engel did it. You know that Engel bought so many razor blades that, at one point, Gillette's CEO called her thinking she was their northern distributor? But we've had one funny Jew--an asshole named Mordecai. Want to know how he felt about Canada and Canadians? Eat a broken Crown Royal bottle, then take a Lomatil. That's how he felt.

For crissakes, Moscovitch's Holocaust play's already been written. She's done the campus thing. What's next? What can she do? A Jew in Alberta? A Jew trying to start his own bottle-your-own-wine business? Just wait and see. Jews get one chance in this country. And we're 2.5% of the population. And my father hasn't read a book in thiry years. See where this is going?

The more I think about this, the more rational I get. Every time I read another Louise Erdrich book I save an extra sleeping pill. D.Y. Bechard won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize...Isn't there anyone in this goddamn country who'll take a Jew off the slush pile?

[INT. Publisher's Office. Reader takes MS off an ungodly pile.]

Reader: "What's this? [Reading.] 'By Jonathan Cohen.'"

[Enter Reader 2.]

Reader 2: "What've you got there, Mary?"

Reader: "Oh, hey Chris. It's a book by some Jew. But I'm just on my way to lunch. Can I borrow your F150? I'm going down to get a mayo sub."

Reader 2: "Sure. And leave the MS in there; I lost one of my floor mats. [Beat.] Hey, how was Communion yesterday?"

Zi gezunt. Muzeldick. These goyim down speak Yiddish. So luzem gayne. It'd be easier to say if I didn't want to make a living in this shtuet. Let them Google. Hannah...We'll see what happens.

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