My rating: 10/10 for her subjects – every one truly fascinating. Discounted heavily for the writing style, which I found frequently rather flat. I’m going to give this one a 7.5/10 overall. 10 for content, 5 for style. Worth a look; maybe you’ll find her easier reading than I did. Her topics are worth exploring.
Would I re-read it? Sure, bits and pieces of it. I wouldn’t tackle it cover to cover again, though. Once was enough for many of the articles, though I’m glad I read what Iglauer had to say. I find her prose hard to absorb – it certainly doesn’t “flow”, being more earnest than sparkling - and it’s a lot of work maintaining concentration, though she covers her subjects extremely thoroughly.
I hesitate to say too thoroughly, because I do believe that her tenacious peering into the heart of each of her topics is what enables her to include so many esoteric and absolutely fascinating details. I do wish that she had just a little more flair in her delivery, though.
Edith Iglauer was alive and well – though showing her age a wee bit, at 93 – and still actively writing the occasional article for Geist magazine in 2012. She was living in her own home with her third husband Frank on the B.C. Coast. Here is a vignette featuring Edith and Frank, by Ted Bishop. An inspiring note: Edith and Frank’s combined age was 189 at the time of the article, and they were both very much “with it” in every conceivable way, barring a few physical infirmities related to their age, like bad knees and failing hearing.
Edith Iglauer is an American journalist with a long and varied history of being present during some very interesting times indeed. Born in Ohio in 1917, she decided while in college that she wanted to become a journalist, and persistently pursued that goal until she achieved it. Unable to stomach the requirements of a newspaper reporter’s job – she jibbed at inquiring of grieving parents as to how they felt about their young son’s tragic death earlier the same day – she was advised that free-lance writing might be her forte. Over the next fifty years Edith pursued interesting stories and people, meticulously researching them and becoming intimately familiar with every aspect of her subjects. Her work was published in leading periodicals of the time, such as The New Yorker, Harper’s, Christian Science Monitor, The Atlantic Monthly, Maclean’s, and many others.
The Strangers Next Door is a retrospective look at her long career, including excerpts from key articles and also her books, with added reflections as to how she came to write the pieces, and anecdotes about her subjects.
Several successful and well regarded books grew out of her articles and experiences, most with Canadian settings and themes. Edith travelled widely through Canada, found the country fascinating, and made her home permanently in British Columbia in the early 1970s, though she retained her American citizenship.
From the Introduction to The Strangers Next Door:
Looking over the pieces I have written, I realize that I have been like someone with family in two countries, attempting to acquaint them with one another. I am not just an American journalist writing in Canada for Americans, but a Canadian journalist writing about America for Canadan as well. Both countries, I have discoverd, still regard their neighbors across our common border as “the strangers next door”, and like any concerned relative, I want them to know and respect one another as much as I do.
The Strangers Next Door covers a broad range of topics.
From the 1940s, articles on:
- Marian Anderson
- Working in the radio-newsroom of the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C., which included weekly chats with Eleanor Roosevelt.
- A posting as a post-World War II correspondent in Yugoslavia, during the rise of Marshal Tito
- The UN Builds Its Home, 1947
From the 1960s, 70s and 80s:
- The Mounted Men – an indepth look at the training of police horses and mounted policemen in New York City, 1962. (My favourite article in this book.)
- The Biggest Foundation, 1972. The building of the World Trade Centre complex in New York.
- Inuit Journey, 1963-1979. The development of Inuit co-operatives for the production and marketing of arts and handicrafts.
- Baker Lake Art, 1964. A unique style of Inuit art from a remote corner of the Northwest Territories.
- The Beautiful Day, 1966. A biographical short story inspired by Edith’s father’s death, published in The New Yorker.
- Denison’s Ice Road, 1975. The article about the men and machines involved in winter-time road building and trucking across a frozen Arctic lake which grew into a bestselling book, and the inspiration for the current “reality” television series, Ice Road Truckers.
- Don Snowden, 1929-1984. The detailed obituary of a man who worked to alleviate the poverty and hardships faced by Canadian Inuit peoples by helping them develop and profit from their unique skills and knowledge.
- Prime Minister, 1969. A first-hand look at what makes Pierre Trudeau tick. Eight days travelling with the Prime Minister and countless hours of background research and interviews resulted in this indepth Profile.
- The Strangers Next Door, 1973. An essay about Canada, for American readers.
- “Capi” Blanchet. The mysterious author, M. Wylie Blanchet, of a British Columbia classic, the memoir The Curve of Time is researched and profiled for The Rainforest Chronicles # 8.
- Seven Stones, 1979. A profile of British Columbia architect Arthur Erickson, the man who planned the University of British Columbia campus, and so many more unique structures . This grew into the 1981 book of the same title.
- Hubert Evans, 1980. Another profile, this one of the esteemed B.C. writer and poet.
- Bill Reid, 1982. A profile on the iconic Haida carver and goldsmith.
- Bella Coola, 1975. Anecdotes of a visit to the fjord-side village, unlikely gem of the BC coast.
- Fishing with John, 1987. An excerpt from the book. In 1974 Edith met and eventually married BC commercial fisherman John Daly. Their happy partnership ended with John’s sudden death only four years later. Fishing with John is Edith’s memorial, started while John was alive as a book about the salmon fishing way of life on the BC coast, and eventually becoming a personal saga.