STANLEY FEFFERMAN -PROFESSOR,
Part of being a shy person is that secretly you wish everyone could know what you are thinking about. I’m like that. That is the core of the journalist-in-me.
I didn’t acheive a voice in elementary school, though when I did read an essay out loud, I usually enjoyed the attention. In high school my essays and wisecracking got me an invitation to work in the “Wit and Humour” department of our Class Annual.
At McGill University, I was invited to join the editorial board of the McGill Daily; I wrote essays about campus life that were published. I liked that. While in graduate-school at University of Toronto, I found time to write a few book reviews and was surprised when both “dailys,” the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail accepted them and paid me. I liked the money, but not enough to take the focus off my studies.
My career as a book reviewer, literary critic and writer about the arts, took off in 1966, through a connection with a good friend who became editor of the Toronto Telegram’s weekend magazine, Showcase. For Showcase, I interviewed personalities in the news like Marshall McLuhan and Timothy Leary, reviewed new books by the philosopher Bertrand Russell, the playwright Arthur Miller, the Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Eli Wiesel, and I wrote impressions of the work of many stars of Canadian literature, among them Austin Clarke, Al Purdy, Joyce Carol Oates, Milton Acorn, and Morley Callaghan.
Around 1970, after my first divorce, I needed to supplement my income, so I began to put my energy into Broadcast Journalism because it was new territory and it paid better than newspapers. I made a connection with a producer of national morning show of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and he bought a series of ten talks on Canadian Literature. I had also become something of an expert on literature and ‘the non-medical use of drugs.’
My work in that area with a Federal Royal Commission yielded three CBC broadcasts in the summer of 1970. Drugs and literature became central to the project of my first sabbatical from York University. My researches in Mexico and Central American were given nine shows, and my researches in the Middle East were featured in a three-part series. A bit later, the CBC bought a twelve-talk series I did on “The Mythology of the Zodiac.
In 1973, I was offered a full-time position as Critic-About-Town for Toronto’s largest private television station, CFRB, for which I had done a couple of live broadcasts about books and plays. At that time, I had begun working intensely on meditation practice with a Tibetan Lama who was starting up a Centre; I decided to cut my ties to the world of ‘entertainment’ and (while maintaining my commitment to York University) I committed to the world of Tibetan Buddhism.
I returned to journalism in 2004, after I retired from Tibetan Buddhist organizations, from teaching at York, and from an alternative medical practice I had established during the early 90’s. On your way to reading about my experience of Web Journalism, run your eye down these lists detailing my work in print and broadcast journalism.
“The Diarist of Paris:Anais Nin.” SHOWCASE, October 15, 1966
“Fixing The Fixer,” SHOWCASE, October 22, 1966
“The Price of Kelp in Connemarra: The Prose of J. M. Synge. SHOWCASE, October 29, 1966.
” Yankee Nomad: Donald Duncan.” SHOWCASE, November 5, 1966.
“Robert Frost Remembers”. SHOWCASE, Dec. 10, 1
“Two Interviews with Timothy Leary”SHOWCASE, December 17, 1966.
“Marshall McLuhan in New York. SHOWCASE, December 31, 1966.
“The Psychedelic Revolution . SHOWCASE, January 14, 1966.
“The Death of a President”.SHOWCASE, January, 28, 1968.
“Stephen Spender! A Double Portrait. SHOWCASE, February 18 1967.
” Four Poets of York University.” SHOWCASE, April 8, 1967.
” The Jews of Silence:” Elie Wiesel. SHOWCASE, April 15, 1967.
“The Prose Fiction of Arthur Miller” SHOWCASE, April 22, 1967.
“The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell. ” SHOWCASE, May 6, 1967.
“0. Henry Prize Story Winner J.C. Oates.” SHOWCASE, May 20, 1967.
“The Meeting Point”: Austin Clarke. SHOWCASE, May 27, 1967.
“The Man in the Glass Booth”:Robert Shaw, SHOWCASE, June 10,1967.
“The Unquiet Bed”. SHOWCASE, June 24, 1967.
“North of Summer:the Poetry of Al Purdy.” SHOWCASE, July 15, 1967
“A Modern Faust and a Great Director.” SHOWCASE, July 22, 1967.
“The Achievement of Sherwood Anderson. SHOWCASE, July 29, 1
“Total War : Three Canadian Poets”. September 21 1967
“Eskimo Printmaking and James Houston.” SHOWCASE, October 71 1967.
“The Absolute Smile”: Three Canadian Poets. SHOWCASE, October 21, 196
“The Soviet State versus Abram Tertz. ” SHOWCASE, October 28, 1967.
“The Tender Tyranny of Christmas.” SHOWCASE, December 23, 1967:
“Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. ” SHOWCASE, February 3, 1968.
“No Clouds of Glory:Marian Engel”. Toronto Telegram, February 17,1968.
“Red Dirt Marijuana and other Tastes: Terry Southern.” SHOWCASE, February 24, 1968.
“Wild Grapevine and For All the Annettes: Al Purdy. SHOWCASE, March 7, 1968.
“No Laughing-Matter.” SHOWCASE, March 23, 1968.
“The Ghost of’Sarah Binks and the League of,Canadian Poets.” SHOWCASE, March 30, 1968.
“Killing the Time with Kildaire”. SHOWCASE, March 30, 1968′.
“In the Balance: M. E. White.” SHOWCASE, April 6, 1968.
“The Shield of Achilles: Essays on Canadian History.”SHOWCASE, April 20, 1968.
“Above Ground”: Fiction of Jack Ludwig.” SHOWCASE, May 11, 1968.
“The Taste of Power: Ladislaw Mnacke.” SHOWCASE, January 17, 1969.
“The Adventures of Menachem Mendel.” SHOWCASE, May 16, 1969.
“I’ve Tasted My Blood: Milton acorn.” SHOWCASE, AUGUST 15, 1969.
“Rocky Mountain Foot :George Bowering.” SHOWCASE, September 19, 1969.
“The Streets of Summer : David Helwig. ” SHOWCASE, October 10, 1969.
“The Further Confessions of Zeno: Italo Svevo.” SHOWCASE, February 7, 1970.
“John Glassco’s Dubious Paris”. SHOWCASE. February 14, 1970.
“Morley Callaghan’s Strange Fugitive. ” SHOWCASE, March 21, 1970.
“Drugs and World Literature,”, a report to the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Non-Medical Use of Drugs, February 1971.
“Multicultural Power Politics,” Invited Paper presented at the ¬International Sangha Conference, Halifax, 1984.
“An Overview of Buddhist-Christian Dialogue,” Invited Paper presented at the International Buddhist-Christian Theological Encounter , UBC, Vancouver, March, 1985.
“The Black Humour of Thomas Pynchon,” CBC, Matinee, April 12, 1970.
“Bernard Malamud’s case for Survival”. CBC, Matinee, May 5, 1970.
A series of ten talks on Canadian literature:
“Drugs and the Working Writer,” A Two Part Series, CBC Matinee, June 16, 1970.
“Drugs, Folkways, and a Sacramental View of Modern Literature,” CBC Matinee,June 29, 1970.
“The Search for- Divinatory Substances in Mexico: A Five Part Series, CBC, This Land, October 4, 1971;
“Ancient Sculpture and the Lost Generation,” CBC This Land, October 11,1971
“Prehistoric Cave Writings,” CBC This Land, October 19, 1971
“The Secret of the Andes,” CBC This Land, October 27, 1971
“Finding the Sacred Mushrooms of Mexico,” CBC This Land, November 3, 1971
“My Quest For Absalom Fineberg”A Three Part Series. CBC National Radio, September, 1972
“The Mythology Of The Zodiac:”12 talks June – September-December,1973, CBC National Radio.
“Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance,”June, 1975, CBC National Radio.
Between 2004 and 2015 I published upwards of 500 reviews of musical performances in online journals: The Live Music Report.com, ShowtimeMagazine.ca , OpusOneReview.com, and Bachtrack.com. I started out just photographing shows at the Toronto International Jazz Festival, hoping to get some of my shots posted on the Jazz Festival Website. My work proved good enough to get me a press pass as an accredited photographer, but I wanted more exposure.
I decided to make my own website where I could post all the photographs I took at the Festival, and the jazz and folk clubs I hung out in. I partnered with an acquaintance who had web-skills: out of his tech know-how, my media contacts and public relations skills, The Live Music Report.com was born. On the strength of my work on the Live Music Report, I was accredited to the Ottawa International Chambermusic Festival. Photographing chambermusic was a challenge I met, but the music demanded more than just pictures, so I decided to begin writing reviews as well–for sometimes up to four performances a day.
I posted my work on the Festival website and on The Live Music Report. That was satisfying.
By 2006 my interest in classical and new music, theatre and dance led me away from the more popular approach of the Live Music Report. I developed web-skills of my own and started ShowtimeMagazine.ca for which I continued to take in-performance photographs, but concentrated my energies on writing more in-depth reviews. The work I posted in Showtimemagazine.ca got me 2 on-the-aisle preferred seats in every major concert hall and music festival in Toronto.
I made it a policy to maintain a level of anonymity to keep me objective, however I did get to enjoy a certain celebrity among the local arts administrators and artists at the receptions, both public and private, that frequently followed concerts. Excerpts from my reviews were reprinted in publicity handouts all over Toronto, and all over the web for ensembles that were touring the world.
In 2011, I gave Showtimemagazine.ca a complete graphic makeover and a new name: OpusOneReview.com. I continued my policy of reviewing performances only in venues where food and drink are not served, meaning in concert-halls rather than clubs, and added a module devoted to CD recordings that kept me in touch with a wider spectrum of developments in the musical scene.
In 2012, I received an offer from Bachtrack.com, the U.K. based classical review site that covers the entire English-speaking world, to be their man-in-Toronto, mostly for Opera, and for live performances by high profile artists such as Lang Lang, the Tokyo String Quartet, or John Malkovich.
In 2014, my reviews of opera attracted the attention of Opera News, an organ of the New York’s Metropolitan Opera. The editors invited me to write for them. The invitation alone was a great feather in my cap, but I declined because I had decided to stop reviewing the work of other people and to concentrate on my own writing—poetry and autobiographical essays.
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Home page photo credits: “Professor” Dale Hildebrand, “Poet” Eric Fefferman Photography, “Journalist” Eric Fefferman Photography, “Photographer” Marisa Macri-Fefferman, “Get in Touch” Eric Fefferman Photography