About this book
Helen Weinzweig • Jim Polk
In this brilliant debut novel by Helen Weinzweig, the award-winning author of Basic Black With Pearls, a wedding reception becomes a gothic dream in which the bride, groom, family, and guests struggle with private obsessions, guilty fantasies of sex and power, and the constant failure of love. The bride is not all she seems and there is something ambiguous about the groom — and about everyone else at the surreal and strangely moving wedding.
Like a piece of music, Passing Ceremony is composed of brief, suggestive fragments that grow into a tightly integrated whole. There are bits of real and imagined conversation; polite dialogues that slide into mad comic banality; and scenes that could be quiet nightmares out of Borges.
A satire and a rueful mediation on the ways people hurt one another, Weinzweig gives us a world suspended in time, an uneasy territory of the soul, which we all inhabit.
This edition features a new introduction by Jim Polk.
You sit there, father of the bride, you sit there straight and proud. In the middle of a middle row to the right of the aisle. How is it you are not in your rightful place, in the second pew to the left, beside the mother of the bride? It is your son Thomas who sits there in your stead.
You are being examined: more eyes are on you than on your daughter repeating her vows. Speculations. You are taking an awful risk being here. And if you had to bring your little dark wife, poor child, so young, why did you not dress her properly?
And as sensitive observers we should be registering your deeply moving feelings, or, at the very least, some sentimental reflections. You are being stubborn. We cannot read you. Give us something to go on: some memories, a few regrets. Alternatively, cogent theories on marriage gleaned from your vast studies: references to tribal customs would be acceptable. Yet nothing of literary interest comes through. No philosophies? We remember you as quite a philosopher, with a tendency to place mundane events in historical, usually ancient Greek, perspective. Surely, this is the very moment . . . ah . . . a passing thought: the groom appears to you as a man without bones, the kind whose flesh is as yielding as a woman’s; and the idea of those two softnesses copulating is disgusting to you. Too strong? Offensive, merely, then. That will have to do for now. Perhaps, later, at the reception, after a few drinks, we’ll get back to you.
About the Author
Helen Weinzweig is the author of the novels Passing Ceremony and Basic Black with Pearls, winner of the Toronto Book Award. Her short story collection, A View from the Roof, was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction. Helen Weinzweig died in Toronto in 2010.
Awards and Praise
Praise for Helen Weinzweig and Passing Ceremony:
“[Passing Ceremony] crackles with the energy of chance. Its form seems built from mysterious, unconscious forces . . . As a whole, the powerful novel resembles a shattered reflection in a mirror, each page a different-sized shard of a splintered psyche . . . There’s a reason people are returning to [Helen Weinzweig’s] work now. Her art was committed to unshackling us from the illusion of any form of certainty — to keeping the unknown, unknown.” — Literary Review of Canada
“A remarkable piece of writing.” — Toronto Star
“Polished, forceful, and poetic.” — Ottawa Citizen
“An unmistakable signature of a true artist.” — Books In Canada
“Handled with skill.” — Chatelaine
“A brilliant first work of fiction.” — Edmonton Journal
“Challenging and sophisticated.” — Quarry
Praise for Helen Weinzweig and Basic Black with Pearls:
Toronto Book Award Winner
“Thirty-five years after its initial publication and a hundred years since Weinzweig’s birth, Basic Black with Pearls is getting an admirable posthumous reissue via House of Anansi’s A-List series, asserting its relevance decades after it won the 1981 Toronto Book Award.” — Globe and Mail
“I must concede that Basic Black with Pearls is so good as to have been well worth the exhilarating wait.” — National Post
“[Basic Black With Pearls] is being rediscovered and acclaimed as a milestone in the history of Canadian women writers.” — Toronto Star
“Glittering, uncomfortable, one-of-a-kind fiction . . . a daydream-spectacular, heavy on scenes from a rotten childhood and lightly dipped in madness — all of it delivered with spotlight-sharp images and iron-grey wit.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A funny and smart feminist classic that begs for rediscovery.” — 49th Shelf
Praise for Helen Weinzweig and A View From the Roof:
Finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction
“A neat juggling of actuality and surreality is one of the things that makes [Helen Weinzweig] such an extraordinary writer.” — Globe and Mail