Robertson, Ray 1966-
ROBERTSON, Ray 1966-
PERSONAL: Born May 15, 1966, in Chatham, Ontario, Canada; married Mary Korkola (a painter), August 15, 1992. Education: University of Toronto, B.A. (with high distinction), 1993; Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, M.F.A., 1997. Politics: "Socialist with a sense of humour" Religion: Agnostic. Hobbies and other interests: "Dog walking, hockey watching, beer drinking, collecting first editions of Edmund Wilson."
ADDRESSES: Home—81 Parkway Ave., Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6R 1T6. E-mail—[email protected] simpatico.ca
CAREER: Author. Toronto Star, book reviewer, 1997—; University of Toronto, St. Michael's Classical Pursuits Program, tutor, 1999, School of Continuing Studies, creative writing instructor, 1997—.
AWARDS, HONORS: Georgeanna McInnes Scholarship for distinguished work in creative writing and Helen Maude Vokes Scholarship for postgraduate study, University of Toronto, 1993; Alta Lynd Cooke Prize, University of Toronto, 1997, for Home Movies; Writer's reserve grant, Ontario Arts Council, 1998-99, 2000-01; Toronto Arts Council grant, 2001.
Home Movies, Cormorant Books (Dunvegan, Canada), 1997.
Heroes, Simon & Pierre (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
Moody Food, Doubleday (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Mental Hygiene: Essays on Writers and Writing, Insomniac Press, 2003.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Gently down the Stream, a novel.
SIDELIGHTS: Novelist and literary journalist Ray Robertson's debut novel Home Movies explores the topics of ennui and longing through the eyes of James Thompson, a Toronto-based country singer forced to leave the city and return to his small-town roots to rekindle inspiration and confront old family secrets. The book "could be read as an attempt to forge a new independent Canadian film sub-genre: urban cowboy loser noir," wrote Quill & Quire contributor Michael Holmes. Noting Robertson's "lush, extravagant prose style," Canadian Book Review Annual contributor Martha Wilson wrote, "Sometimes it seems he's trying to wear the reader out. On the whole, though, Home Movies is a delightful debut."
In his next novel, Heroes, Robertson tells the story of another urban "refugee," this time a young philosophy student fleeing the need to defend his doctoral dissertation by taking an assignment to cover hockey in the American Midwest. "There is some good writing in Heroes. Robertson captures the bleak landscapes of Kansas and is at his best evoking small-town arenas," wrote National Post contributor Kathryn Morris. But, she concluded, "Such moments are lost, however, in a novel that never quite dramatizes its intellectual concerns." For Quill & Quire reviewer Robert Wiersema, however, it "unfolds with the complexity and emotional richness of a life actually being lived after years of going through the motions."
In his novel Moody Food Robertson tells the story of Thomas Graham, a doomed young rock musician in mid-1960s Toronto who is, strongly based on Gram Parsons. A fictional biography, it is also an evocation of the scene that gave birth where Parsons, the pop music group the Byrds, and fellow musician Neil Young first flourished. "A certain breed of rock buff, of whom one suspects Ray Robertson to be a member, loves to play 'What if?' . . . The question 'What if someone were to write a Sixties novel worthy of its subject?' need no longer be asked," wrote novelist Ian McGillis in his review of Moody Food for Books in Canada.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Canadian Book Review Annual, 1998, Martha Wilson, review of Home Movies, p. 195.
National Post, May 13, 2000, Kathryn Morris, review of Heroes, p. B8.
Quill & Quire, April, 1997, Michael Holmes, review of Home Movies, p. 28; February, 2000, Robert Wiersema, review of Heroes, p. 38.