Jonathan Goldstein was one of the people I met during my first year in Montreal. We never really become close, but then most of the people in our class never became too close to him, as far as I know. But he was always cool.
He once explained his theory of fiction. He’d introduced himself as a popcorn maker; he said he wrote popcorn. Little pieces of life, tiny moments that you simply experienced, tiny light moment by moment. You don’t get full, he said, you don’t get nutrition. But one day he explained his theory of fiction; we talked about the Olaf Stapledon novel Star Maker, which I was reading at the time and which he expressed, to my surprise, a great deal of respect. He was talking about how he felt about haiku and how the entrancing, absolute primacy of a given moment can be the structure of a story, this procession of moments that are each just these absolute, isolated experiences, except that together they’re a life.
He talked about things about what philosophers I’d never read said about experience and meaning. But it was his writing that made his theory make sense to me. There’s this moment that has never left my mind, where some character of his is standing in the dark of night, gazing down at the hairs on his legs illuminated by the chill light from the inside of the open fridge.
The last I heard, he had a job with the American NPR. Well, I googled him today and look what I found (which you can listen to using realaudio): a bunch of spots where he was a guest on the radio. This stuff is really great, usually honest and funny… I won’t say poignant, because that word is far and stupid. But I do think I understand his fiction better now. The story in this spot, The Big Night, is like something out of his fiction; Rosh Hashana and Jeopardy and his auntie’s hands in his pockets digging out toilet paper, and the words, “Pinch my butt. You can’t because it’s too hard. Try it! Go on, try it!”
The best quote, I think: “Let’s not even get into the fact that 1) they’re singing Christmas songs in the middle of September, and 2) it’s the holiest night in the Jewish calendar…”
Also wonderful is this discussion of his parents’ music collection, aired on CBC some time ago.
See also: his thoughts on radio, a review of his first novel, and somewhere to buy his writing, not just Lenny Bruce is Dead but also Schmelvis (a book ostensibly about a road trip search for the Jewish elements of Elvis’ background). And there are a wealth of free goodies here.
That’s it. I’m going to order his novel when I put my first order through to Amazon.