Stories

In 2006, Mosaic Press published I Remember the Location Exactly, thirty stories covering the period from my birth in Frankfurt, Germany, in August 1919 until my release from an internment camp in Canada as an “enemy alien” in December 1941.

A second set of 30 stories, set in Canada covering the period from 1942 until 1968, dealt with events I observed, whether I participated in them or not. I made up a new narrator, a well-endowed Toronto adventurer I would have liked to have been. I called him Quentin Moyne and gave him an interest in the future, specifically the ability to predict the Sixties. I had I hoped to publish these stories as a book with the title Tales of Three Cities: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa.

Some of these short stories have been posted here. I cannot understand why the book was rejected by eighteen publishers. Can you?

Maureen (pdf)
In his search for evidence of the forthcoming revolution in Montreal, my invented narrator Quentin Moyne’s path crossed with the extraordinary young singer Maureen Forrester at the very beginning of her career, when she was in great need of financial support to continue her studies. He witnessed the amazing way the problem was solved, as related in this story.

Glenn Gould: The Last Puritan (pdf)
In 1957, the Toronto pianist Glenn Gould was twenty-five when he made a sensational debut in Moscow, at the height of the Cold War. To convey the effect he had on his audience, I invented a Soviet pianist, Dmitri Yaminsky, and his mother, Tatyana Yaminskaya.

Understanding Marshall (pdf)
My invented narrator, Quentin Moyne, was an inveterate “entrepreneur,” a word that only became popular a litte later, thanks to the Reagan–Thatcher revolution. Moyne could never resist taking advantage of something new and exciting in his life to make money. In the ’sixties, who was more exciting than Marshall McLuhan? He mesmerized an entire generation of people like him. As for me, I was a product of the allegedly disappearing print culture, and of radio, and was naturally a McLuhan-skeptic at first. But I soon found muself under his spell. I met him a few times and am even mentioned in the index of one of his books. But whenever he met me, he had forgotten my name and I am sure thought I was somebody else. When I wanted to write a story about Marshall, I decided it was entirely plausible that a man like Quentin Moyne would try to make a little money out of him.

Murmur of the Heart (pdf)
When trying to convey the atmosphere at the University of Toronto in 1942 and 1943, I had to give my adventurous narrator a plausible reason for not being in the army. So I invented a medical condition – a murmur of the heart. At the same time I was determined to portray him as a true patriot, anxious to make a greater contribution to the war effort than he could conceivably have made as a common soldier. This story is the result. (A video about Koch’s experience at the University of Toronto, Toronto in 1942, has been posted on YouTube.)

Two Preparations for the Revolution (pdf)
The philosophy student Quentin Moyne, my fictitious narrator, was convinced there would be radical changes in French and English Canada after the war. He actually called them “revolutions.” His conviction was inspired by a trip to Montreal where he was led to believe that there would be a revolution against the Church and the English after the war. He had already decided that in Ontario the revolutionaries would turf out the Puritans. This conviction was not unrelated to his experience as a teacher at a private school modelled on Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario.

Tommy (pdf)
In 1943, Tommy Douglas was a lively CCF MP in Saskatchewan, not yet a figure on the national scene. However, to write a story about the kind of thinking that was going on – not only among students – about the kind of Canada that was likely to emerge from the war, I thought he would be a useful character. So I constructed an encounter between Quentin Moyne and Tommy during a students’ expedition to Saskatchewan in the fall of 1943 to help with the harvest. (Koch’s trip to Saskatchewan is described in “An ‘Enemy Alien’ Searches for a Career,” also on YouTube.)

The Shape of Things to Come (pdf)
Since D Day in June 1944, it was becoming increasingly clear that the Allies were going to win the war. Finally, on May 6, 1945, VE Day arrived. Everybody’s immense joy and relief was somewhat tempered by the riots in Halifax, when frustrated navy-personnel and civilians went on a rampage. In the final phase of the war, questions about the shape of postwar Canada had become increasingly acute.

The Cold War Breaks Out in Ottawa (pdf)
In September 1945, Igor Gouzenko, an obscure cipher clerk in the Soviet emnbassy in Ottawa, defected with 109 documents, incriminating many people in Canadian public life who were alleged to have been giving sensitive information to the Soviets. At last Canada had arrived. It had a first-class spy scandal on its hands and made headlines all over the world.

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One response to “Stories

  1. Eric,
    The McLuhan story was downright fantastic. As you have probably discerned from our earlier interaction, I have a nearly fetishistic love of McLuhan’s work. That being said, there is something truly wonderful about seeing ideas you believe assailed in such a genuinely creative and witty way. I was able to laugh loudly and often at many of the ideas that I have come to believe to be unimpeachable truths. The piece is a spectacularly enjoyable broadside against the cult of McLuhan (of which I am proudly a Kool-Aid drinking member). Thank you for the gift of helping me not take my ideas so seriously!

    -Keith