Reviews

Working for the Weekend

Thad McIlroy

A weekend man, we are told in the early pages of The Weekend Man, Richard B. Wright’s 1970 novel (Perennial), “is a person who has abandoned the present in favour of the past or the future. He is really more interested in what happened to him twenty years ago or in what is going to happen to him next week than he is in what is happening to him today.” Wright’s 2001 novel Clara Callan won the trifecta: the Giller Prize, the Trillium Book Award and the Governor General’s Award. This is his first novel, drawn from his time as a sales rep for the then prestigious publisher Macmillan Company of Canada. Wright’s fictional Macmillan is called Westchester House, located in “a long low cement block building on Britannia Road” in a Toronto suburb called Union Place, which surely is Don Mills. A key subplot is whether the publisher will be sold to the American conglomerate Universal Electronics Corporation (UEC), shades of RCA’s acquisition of Random House in 1965, part of the vertical integration strategies then popular amongst multinational media companies. Wright’s fictional self is Wes Wakeham, working at Westchester as a sales rep of college textbooks. Wes is a weekend man, he tells us, “by all accounts… a likeable fellow. Most people I meet take to me and, without saying as much, let it be known that I am A-Okay.” As he seldom has an opinion on anything, he easily avoids arguments, except with his wife, from whom he is separated. The book shows its age in a graceful way. Suburban & sexist, its characters smoke and drink more than they actually publish or sell books. Kind of Mad Men-ish, but set in the early modern days of Canadian publishing, Toronto flavour. If you were there or (for some obscure reason) wish you had been, The Weekend Man is a fine aide-mémoire.

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Thad McIlroy

Thad McIlroy is an electronic publishing analyst and consultant, and author of more than two hundred articles and several books on the subject. He lives in Vancouver and at thefutureofpublishing.com.


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