Thursday, August 25, 2011

"O my tiger city!": A Few Neat Paragraphs From Morley Callaghan

Morley Callaghan
Oooh, cool new discovery. Kevin Plummer is one of the two fellows who writes the always awesome Historicist columns over at Torontoist. And it turns out he's also got a new Toronto history blog, Second Drafts, where he shares tidbits that didn't make it into his Torontoist pieces. He's already got some neat stuff up: super-old aerial photographs of the city here; bits about the old Toronto Maple Leafs baseball team here; a photo of Toronto's old downtown slum, The Ward, here. But I think my favourite post so far is a passage written by Morley Callaghan, which I'm going to shamelessly re-post.

I wrote about Callaghan in the very first story I told on this blog. He was a Toronto writer who became good friends with Ernest Hemingway while they were both living here and working for the Star. They were both in Paris in the '20s, too. That's where Callaghan and Hemingway had a famous boxing match which ended the friendship between Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald (You can read my post about it here.) But after that, Callaghan ended up back in Toronto, where he grew old in Rosedale.

These paragraphs come from an essay he wrote in 1954 called "Why Toronto?":

"To the professor from St. Louis who asked me why I lived in Toronto, I tried saying casually, ‘Why, I was born in Toronto.’ For a moment he was silent and I thought I might have found the right easy answer. ‘How odd,’ he said finally. ‘You’re the only writer I know who lives in the place where he was born.’

The English-speaking people of Montreal are pretty much like the people of Toronto, in fact, walking along the Montreal streets I’m always meeting somebody who used to live in Toronto, and they all swear they are much happier than they were in the Ontario Athens; but they look just the same to me and they talk just the same and they have the same ideas and the intellectual structure of their lives was clearly shaped in Toronto and they can’t get away from it.

But they don’t fool me–Toronto is on the mind. The notion that Montreal has a dazzling intellectual life like that of Paris, which makes the intellectual life of Toronto seem pathetically provincial, is a myth.

[...] but the truth is that the English-speaking people of Montreal and Toronto think the same thoughts. This they refuse to believe.

There is one other aspect of the matter. I have tried wandering into other cities, and pressing on to distant shores, and have found after a few weeks in a strange place, the urge to move on grows strong, the old weariness gripping me, makes me believe that each new place will be charming because it is new. Well, a writer can stand only so much of this restless boredom; he will go and on, once he starts wandering, seeking the unexpected scene, the new lovely face, with the charm of novelty always pulling him on and finally wearying him to death. If you stay in Toronto, the longing remains deep in the soul, and since it can’t be satisfied you can’t be wearied, and your mind and your imagination, should become like a caged tiger. O Toronto! O my tiger city!"

You can check out the original post on Second Drafts here and should absolutely head on over here to check the whole blog out.

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