Montreal humorist Jonathan Goldstein, 43, so often pairs kvetching with kvelling that it’s become a signature of the writer, whose joint Canadian and United States citizenship has him bestriding North America’s border. When I arrived to interview him at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., where he produces his meta-reality radio show “WireTap” — in its ninth season of featuring his anxieties, fascinations and phone conversations with his neurotic friends and family — he was warm and engaging, while bemoaning the upcoming shift of his office down to the building’s basement. “The basement is kind of the story of my life,” he said. “I thrive in darkness. Like Batman. And mold.”
But the focus of our conversation isn’t his office, his show or even his kinship with mildew — it’s the release of his new book of essays, “I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow.” Drawn from his weekly humor column for the National Post, the book follows Goldstein through his 39th year as he tries to graduate to adulthood from youth.
The book details his angst — mock or real, you decide — at aging without achieving any of the standard markers of midlife: a wife, children, even, say, a house with a grand piano. Adroitly, the book reveals, too, Goldstein’s awareness of his own satiric shtick: how he mines his lateness to the maturity party for laughs.
Indeed, his introduction, allegedly penned by his friend Gregor, claims that Goldstein was one day dropped on his pal’s front doorstep, fully formed: a “middle-aged-man baby. And one who had not lived well at that. He was doughy, rotund and bald” — sporting a shaved head in place of thinning hair — “and not baby bald, but Ed Asner bald. In fact, the only thing baby-like about this creature were his genitals. Which were small.”
The size of the male organ may be a tapped-out vein for humor. (“You didn’t think that joke is funny? Really?”) But the book achieves a universal truth — and endearing vulnerability — when it captures the absurdity of family dynamics that end in public embarrassment.
Here, Goldstein’s parents, married in 1966, figure prominently. His father, a Brooklyn-born schoolteacher, relocated to Canada for his career and his bride. “I grew up in a family where my mother would sit on the toilet with the door open,” Goldstein said. “There was love, but there weren’t necessarily what you call boundaries.” The situation was similar when they all went out to dine: “She’d show up with a bagful of no-name cola. She didn’t get that she was breaking a code or social taboos.”