Saturday, April 13, 2013

`What I See Is Still So Controlled by My Memory'

In 1979, three years before his death, pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982) wrote the script for a television documentary about Toronto, his native city.  Glenn Gould’s Toronto was directed by John McGreevey as part of the thirteen-episode Cities series (Studs Terkel’s Chicago, Jonathan Miller’s London, etc.). Gould’s narration begins with these words (collected in The Glenn Gould Reader, 1984): 

“I was born in Toronto, and it’s been home base all my life. I’m not quite sure why; it’s primarily a matter of convenience, I suppose. I’m not really cut out for city living, and given my druthers I’d avoid all cities and simply live in the country. 

“Toronto does belongs on a very short list of cities which I’ve visited and that seem to offer – to me, at any rate – peace of mind -- cities which, for want of a better definition, do not impose their `cityness’ upon you.”

And concludes with these: 

“But perhaps I see it through rose-colored glasses; perhaps what I see is still so controlled by my memory that it’s nothing more than a mirage. I hope not, though, because if that mirage were ever to evaporate, I should have no alternative but to leave town.” 

In Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Glenn Gould (2004), Kevin Bazzana writes: “…Toronto, for all its provincialism, and despite its reputation for being inhospitable to artists and intellectuals, was the ideal city to nourish an artist as iconoclastic as Gould.” Bazzana also quotes literary scholar Northrop Frye as saying: “Toronto is an excellent town to mind one’s business in.”

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