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Barney's Version

Cover of Barney's Version

Barney's Version

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Charged with comic energy and a steely disregard for any pieties whatsoever, Barney's Version is a major Richler novel, the most personal and feeling book of a long and distinguished career.

Told in the first person, it gives us the life (and what a life!) of Barney Panofsky--whose trashy TV company, Totally Useless Productions, has made him a small fortune; whose three wives include a martyred feminist icon, a quintessential JCP (Jewish-Canadian Princess), and the incomparable Miriam, the perfect wife, lover, and mother--alas, now married to another man; who recalls with nostalgia and pain his young manhood in the Paris of the early fifties, and his lifelong passion for wine, women, and the Montreal Canadiens; who either did or didn't murder his best friend, Boogie, after discovering him in bed with The Second Mrs. Panofsky; whose satirical eye for the idiocies of today's Quebec separatists (as well as for every other kind of political correctness) manages to offend his entire acquaintanceship (and will soon be offending readers everywhere); and whose memory--though not his bile--is, in his sixty-seventh year, definitely slipping . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

Charged with comic energy and a steely disregard for any pieties whatsoever, Barney's Version is a major Richler novel, the most personal and feeling book of a long and distinguished career.

Told in the first person, it gives us the life (and what a life!) of Barney Panofsky--whose trashy TV company, Totally Useless Productions, has made him a small fortune; whose three wives include a martyred feminist icon, a quintessential JCP (Jewish-Canadian Princess), and the incomparable Miriam, the perfect wife, lover, and mother--alas, now married to another man; who recalls with nostalgia and pain his young manhood in the Paris of the early fifties, and his lifelong passion for wine, women, and the Montreal Canadiens; who either did or didn't murder his best friend, Boogie, after discovering him in bed with The Second Mrs. Panofsky; whose satirical eye for the idiocies of today's Quebec separatists (as well as for every other kind of political correctness) manages to offend his entire acquaintanceship (and will soon be offending readers everywhere); and whose memory--though not his bile--is, in his sixty-seventh year, definitely slipping . . .

From the Hardcover edition.

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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    Clara 1950--1952

    1

    Terry's the spur. The splinter under my fingernail. To come clean, I'm starting on this shambles that is the true story of my wasted life (violating a solemn pledge, scribbling a first book at my advanced age), as a riposte to the scurrilous charges Terry McIver has made in his forthcoming autobiography: about me, my three wives, a.k.a. Barney Panofsky's troika, the nature of my friendship with Boogie, and, of course, the scandal I will carry to my grave like a humpback. Terry's sound of two hands clapping, Of Time and Fevers, will shortly be launched by The Group (sorry, the group), a government-subsidized small press, rooted in Toronto, that also publishes a monthly journal, the good earth, printed on recycled paper, you bet your life.

    Terry McIver and I, both Montrealers born and bred, were in Paris together in the early fifties. Poor Terry was no more than tolerated by my bunch, a pride of impecunious, horny young writers awash in rejection slips, yet ostensibly confident that everything was possible -- fame, adoring bimbos, and fortune lying in wait around the corner, just like that legendary Wrigley's shill of my boyhood. The shill, according to report, would surprise you on the street to reward you with a crisp new dollar bill, provided you had a Wrigley's chewing-gum wrapper in your pocket. Mr. Wrigley's big giver never caught up with me. But fame did find several of my bunch: the driven Leo Bishinsky; Cedric Richardson, albeit under another name; and, of course, Clara. Clara, who now enjoys posthumous fame as a feminist icon, beaten on the anvil of male-chauvinist insentience. My anvil, so they say.

    I was an anomaly. No, an anomie. A natural-born entrepreneur. I hadn't won awards at McGill, like Terry, or been to Harvard or Columbia, like some of the others. I had barely squeezed through high school, having invested more time at the tables of the Mount Royal Billiards Academy than in classes, playing snooker with Duddy Kravitz. Couldn't write. Didn't paint. Had no artistic pretensions whatsoever, unless you count my fantasy of becoming a music-hall song-and-dance man, tipping my straw boater to the good folks in the balcony as I fluttered off stage in my taps, yielding to Peaches, Ann Corio, Lili St. Cyr, or some other exotic dancer, who would bring her act to a drum-throbbing climax with a thrilling flash of bare tit, in days long before lap-dancers had become the norm in Montreal.

    I was a voracious reader, but you would be mistaken if you took that as evidence of my quality. Or sensibility. At bottom, I am obliged to acknowledge, with a nod to Clara, the baseness of my soul. My ugly competitive nature. What got me started was not Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, or Conrad's The Secret Agent, but the old Liberty magazine, which prefaced each of its articles with a headnote saying how long it would take to read it: say, five minutes and thirty-five seconds. Setting my Mickey Mouse wristwatch on our kitchen table with the checkered oilcloth, I would zip through the piece in question in, say, four minutes and three seconds, and consider myself an intellectual. From Liberty, I graduated to a paperback John Marquand "Mr. Moto" novel, selling for twenty-five cents at the time in Jack and Moe's Barbershop, corner of Park Avenue and Laurier in the heart of Montreal's old working-class Jewish quarter, where I was raised. A neighbourhood that had elected the only Communist (Fred Rose) ever to serve as a member of Parliament, produced a couple of decent club fighters Louis Alter, Maxie Berger), the obligatory number of doctors and dentists, a celebrated gambler--cum--casino owner, more...

About the Author-
  • Mordecai Richler was born in Montreal in 1931. Among his most successful novels are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, St. Urbain's Horseman, and Solomon Gursky Was Here. He divides his time between Canada (Montreal and Lake Memphre-magog) and London.

Reviews-
  • Los Angeles Times

    "Richler's great achievement. . . . Ebullient, manic, over the top."

  • The Dallas Morning News "At once falling-down funny, angry, and heartbreakingly poignant."
  • Time "Cunningly designed for maximum suspense and beaucoup laughs. . . . Exuberant."
  • San Francisco Examiner "Vintage Richler: funny, tough, and touching."
  • The New York Times Book Review "Richler's aim is still deadly. . . . [With] a caustic wit and Falstaffian charm."
  • The New York Times "A fine, funny novel. . . . Deft, irreverent, and affecting."
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch "A satisfying experience; this is a masterfully executed novel--a funny, touching, mature work."
  • The Washington Times "[Richler's] best. . . . It is time to recognize Mr. Richler as one of North America's most powerful novelists."
  • The Wall Street Journal "Grossly funny. . . . A rousing spectacle. . . . A novelist at the top of his game."
  • Washington Post Book World "Funny and engaging. . . . Richler's admirers will not want to miss it."
  • The Boston Globe "Richler brings off one of the most difficult feats of a satirical novelist--winning the affection of the reader for a character who is a world-class vulgarian. Barney is very, very funny."
  • New York Review of Books "Wildly comic. . . The years . . . have added depth to Richler's power to outrage and amuse."
  • Minneapolis Star Tribune "Hilarious. . . . Barney Panofsky is right up there with such creations as Moses Herzog and Randle Patrick McMurphy as outrageous swimmers against the tide of conformity. His wicked sense of humor will endear him to all but the most censorious."
  • Entertainment Weekly "A brilliantly slapdash fictional memoir. . . Hilarious. . . . Raucous but elegiac."
  • The New Yorker "A rollicking novel laden with rue, a self-portrait of a creative personality who never found a creative outlet he could respect, a paean to the pleasures and perils of drink, a celebration of ice hockey and tap dancing . . . [and] a murder mystery with an uproarious solution."
  • Toronto Star "A touching human work [which] celebrates the power of love, the importance of family, the value of work, and the frightening process of aging. . . . [An] eloquent portrait of an impossible man."
Title Information+
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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