“Well, hi there… happy Tuesday.” For those of you to whom these first five words sound familiar, the words following will come as no surprise. For the past five and a half years, Jian Ghomeshi has been gaining momentum. His CBC Radio One show, The Q, has garnered him national and international acclaim: it is a praise, well deserved.
Ghomeshi’s interviews are consistently compelling, a perfect balance of informed questions and a sympathetic personality that puts every guest at ease (with the exception of Billy Bob, of course). Ghomeshi’s star has risen on both sides of the 49th. Every morning, starting at 10:00 PST, he introduces Canada’s blossoming, unique culture to our American neighbors… and ourselves. Timing is everything. Jian is the man of our time— he is Canada’s beardless prophet.
With all this momentum, it comes as no surprise that Ghomeshi was offered a book deal. His personality, which is somewhat understated in the oral context of his talk show as he routinely steps aside and allows his guests to shine, has become a subject of great interest in Canada and abroad. We want to know more about this Iranian/Brit./Canadian who rose to fame in the early nineties as the drummer of Moxy Fruvous. We want to know what happened before his fame (Bowie reference intended). With 1982, Ghomeshi finally delivers his big reveal.
As the title of the book suggests, 1982 stops short of providing us with a detailed account of Ghomeshi’s youth and young manhood, much less the past five and a half years of his life. With this book, Ghomeshi chooses to document a single teenage year of his life in all its endearingly awkward detail. He chooses to forgo a ‘womb to tomb’ style biography: the book is more microcosm, less macrocosm. Some of the characters who inhabit this book will be familiar to avid Q listeners, especially Jian’s father who continually asks leading questions after making enthusiastic proclamations such as: “That’s great!”
Such are the characters who took center stage on Tuesday evening in Victoria. Yes, Ghomeshi read from his book, but throughout the two hour long reading it became resoundingly clear that the stories within Ghomeshi’s first published book were stories initially rehearsed and edited around a dinner table with friends and family: these are tales best spoken, and that’s exactly what Ghomeshi did on Tuesday night. Ghomeshi played to his strengths, and held the sold out Victorian venue captive for over two hours. He told stories in elaborate accents, he charmed his way into hearts which were already completely charmed as he seamlessly wove parts of his written narrative into a captivatingly conversational manner of speech.
But the highlight of the evening came near the end. During the question and answer period, an older gentleman ran down the old hall’s center aisle not to ask Ghomeshi a question but to share with him and the rest of us, a truth much more profound than anything you’ll find in Ghomeshi’s first book. The man, a Persian immigrant Victoria via Winnipeg, clearly identified with Ghomeshi’s father: he said as much, prompting Ghomeshi to literally bow at his feet. The unidentified man’s truth is a truth to which we, as Canadians, a fundamentally Métis nation, can surely relate: “Home is where you live long enough to see the trees grow”.
And perhaps this is why so many of us relate to Jian Ghomeshi. While 1982 testifies to Ghomeshi’s initial reluctance to embrace his own convoluted heritage, while he sometimes finds his parents embarrassing and strives to be David Bowie rather than Jian Ghomeshi, 1982 is ultimately an testament to the power of genuine self discovery. Ghomeshi discovers that he ain’t no Bowie; instead, he’s something much more valuable and truly real than the inconsistent branding of his favourite rock star. Indeed, Ghomeshi, like the rest of us, contains a complex amalgam of identities and cultures which populate and continually define and redefine our country. If Ghomeshi can be proud of it, so can we… in fact, we must.