Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More vintage Toronto bashing by Wyndham Lewis and now Hemingway, too

I picked up William Burrill's book on Hemingway's years in Toronto, when Hemingway wrote for the Toronto Star. Curious as to whether Hemingway had crossed paths with Wyndham Lewis, I checked the index for Lewis' name. Unfortunately, it appears that they didn't meet. In fact, it doesn't look like their stays in Toronto overlapped -- Hemingway lived here (Toronto) only in 1919-20.

Lewis, though, is quoted by Burrill as calling Toronto a 'sanctimonious icebox.' Burrill then quotes Lewis as follows:

If New York is brutal and babylonian, in this place [Toronto] it is as if someone were sitting on your chest -- having taken the care to gag you first -- and were croaking out [hymns] ... from dawn to dayshut.
                                                    --p,. 153 of Hemingway: the Toronto Years, William Burrill

As for Hemingway, well, Robert Fulford quotes him as remarking of Toronto (in a letter to Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas), 'What bothers me is why with my fine intelligence I ever came out here.'


Heather said...

I must admit, I have never read anything from Lewis, so I guess that's why I'm asking - what lead him to have such a negative view of Toronto?

I really can't think of any major negative similarities between NY and Toronto.

praymont said...

Heather -- He's talking about Toronto during WWII, when it was culturally much less diverse. Also, Lewis was a snob who resented his association with 'the colonies'.

Anonymous said...

Could be Canada today, no difference.

praymont said...

Anon -- Canada's come a long way since then.