Saturday, August 21, 2010

Peter Gzowski biography peels back and reveals a flawed and troubled man

A biography of the late Peter Gzowski (magazine writer and editor, renowned broadcaster and champion of literacy) is out now from Dundurn Press. And the hefty book is a warts-and-all story, according to a review in the Winnipeg Free Press. The writer, Rae Fleming, is a frequent writer of historical books and articles, including for Canada's History magazine and for the Canadian Encyclopedia.
If ever a cherished Canadian public figure had feet of clay, it was Peter Gzowski [says the review by Terry McLeod, who is the co-host of CBC Winnipeg's Information Radio and who was a producer for Gzowski's Morningside program from 1988 to 1993.]
Many of us knew the late great broadcaster and author as a massive talent. And, no surprise, biographer R.B. (Rae) Fleming charts chapter and verse the story of Gzowski's path to that success in this thorough and revealing effort.
What is surprising, however, is Fleming's revelation of Gzowski's flaws and the price that he, and those around him, paid for them.
For many people who have been around magazines for some years, Gzowski is still well-remembered as an editor (Star Weekly, Maclean's) and prolific writer. For many more people, he is better remembered for his stellar radio career (This Country in the Morning, Morningside).
The book deals with not only Gzowski's fame but also his dark side including alcoholism and his failures as a husband and father, including an all-but-unacknowledged child he sired in 1960 in an affair with an editorial researcher. 
Fleming says that, while there was an outpouring of grief for Gzowski on his death in 2002, millions of English speaking Canadians and most French speakers never listened to him.
"Peter's Canada of small town and essentially good-hearted white people had long ago been replaced by a cosmopolitan, polyglot urban nation," he writes.
"What Peter represented was nostalgia for a self-confident decent and compassionate Canada that had all but vanished except in the memory of his listeners."

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