Book reviews by author Jeffrey Round
Keith Garebian — Fragments of an Autobiography
Poet, critic, teacher, actor and cancer survivor, Keith Garebian has spent more than half a century helping carve out Canada’s identity, particularly in theatre, while also carving out an identity for himself. Born in Bombay to Anglo-Indian and Armenian parents in 1943, Garebian moved to Montreal in 1961, one month before his eighteenth birthday, when his family chose Canada as a second home in the hopes it would offer them better financial prospects.
His second home was not entirely the promised land it was heralded to be, bringing with it the harsh reality of racism, among other things, but the choice also provided him a lifetime of successes, mixed with frustration on one hand and endless fodder for his poetry, opinions and criticism on the other. (His many poetry awards attest to this, and his recent biography of William Hutt is something of a masterpiece.) As Oscar Wilde said of second marriages, they are “the triumph of hope over experience.” Garebian might well agree with that assessment as it applies to his second home.
In Pieces of My Self, subtitled “Fragments of an Autobiography”, Garebian grapples movingly and intelligently with issues of identity, theatre, cancel culture, Shakespeare (a great love), poetry, his fellow thespians (quite a number of them, both large and not-so-large in stature), his long-unresolved issues with his father (a man he couldn’t help wanting to thwart), and his various careers as a teacher, poet and, arguably, one of Canada’s greatest theatre critics. Nor does he hold back on airing his many peeves, a trait he claims to have admired in early mentors such as VS Naipaul.
While it’s impossible to tie up Garebian’s life neatly in any box, it can be said that his has been a life well lived and well felt, both by himself and those he has influenced in his many capacities. A must-read for fans of identity, acting, Shakespeare, poetry, criticism and Canadian culture in general.
Keith Garebian is a widely published, award-winning freelance literary, theatre, and dance critic, biographer, and poet. Among his many awards are the Scarborough Arts Council Poetry Award (2010), the Canadian Authors Association (Niagara Branch) Poetry Award (2009), the Mississauga Arts Award (2000, 2008 and 2013), a Dan Sullivan Memorial Poetry Award (2006), the Lakeshore Arts/Scarborough Arts Council Award for Poetry (2003), and an Ontario Poetry Society Award for Haiku (2003). He is the author of 7 collections of poetry.
About the Author
Jeffrey Round is an award-winning author, filmmaker, and songwriter. His breakout novel, A CAGE OF BONES, was listed on AfterElton’s 50 Best Gay Books. LAKE ON THE MOUNTAIN, the first of seven Dan Sharp mysteries, won a Lambda Award in 2013. His latest book is the poetry collection THREADS from Beautiful Dreamer Press. His fifteenth novel, THE SULPHUR SPRINGS CURE, will be published by Cormorant books in 2024. www.jeffreyround.com