By MARTIN C. BARRY
Cartoon sparks anger among Layton associates
Aislin cartoon a ‘cheap shot’, says woman who cared for Layton at Maimonides
Courtesy, Rami Negev Standing before a template of the new bilingual street sign for Irving Layton Avenue are (left to right) councillors Allan J. Levine, Ruth Kovac, Mike Cohen, Mayor Anthony Housefather and Director of Library Services Tanya Abramovitch. In the back row are: councillors Sam Goldbloom, Dida Berku and Acting City Manager Ken Lerner.
A cartoon ridiculing the designation of a Côte St. Luc street in honour of celebrated poet and former resident Irving Layton has aroused the anger of two longtime Layton associates.
“Displeasure is a mild word,” said Musia Schwartz, who was mandated to attend to many of Layton’s needs at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Côte St. Luc during the last seven years of his life. Schwartz was reacting to an Aislin editorial cartoon, published in The Gazette last week.
In it, a street post is shown, on top of which are two signs bearing the names ‘Côte St. Luc’ and ‘Lust’ — a reference to a recurring erotic theme in Layton’s earlier work. To Schwartz, however, it was a cheap shot. In addition, she said the Montreal daily heavily edited a letter she submitted to them.
“Irreverence is one thing,” Schwartz said in an interview. But “I mean, please, ‘lust.’ ... I know he (Aislin) is entitled to his satires and the rest of it, but this is such gratuitous mockery and so unimaginative.
“Layton would really chuckle at the thought that he’s being remembered for this,” she added. But “it’s the ungenerosity of spirit ... This sort of idiotic cliché that I thought that now that he’s dead would be over.”
Anna Pottier, Layton’s widow from his last marriage, agreed wholeheartedly. “There is so much more to Irving than that hoary old stereotype, which is so passé,” she said in an e-mail. “Granted, back two or three decades ago, Irving didn’t mind putting that image out there — with the hope that, once having gotten people’s attention, they would turn to the work ... For Aislin to try and limit Irving to that old cliché shows how out-of-synch Aislin is.”
Last week, Côte St. Luc city council adopted a resolution to name a new residential street after Layton, who died last January at the age of 93. Irving Layton Avenue will be situated behind St. Richard’s Church and Maimonide School, bordering Guelph Road, Parkhaven Avenue and Chamberland Crescent. Twelve new homes are presently under construction and are expected to be ready for occupancy in early winter.
An extraordinarily prolific writer and poet, Layton published 50 books between 1945 and 1992. His poetry had a lyrical and romantic style. He taught at Concordia University (then Sir George Williams) from 1950 to 1964, and returned in 1989 for a year as writer-in-residence.
“In terms of toponomy it is our objective to recognize individuals with a direct connection to Côte St. Luc, who in their lifetime made significant contributions to both society and their community,” said Councillor Mike Cohen, who chairs the city’s toponomy commission.
“We are proud that Irving Layton lived for long periods of his life in Côte St. Luc, brought up two of his children in our community and spent his last years here,” added Mayor Anthony Housefather.