Just a note to let folks know I’ll be doing one more talk this fall as part of the Imagined City series I’ve been doing for the Toronto Public Library throughout 2011. The final talk, titled “Will the Real Cabbagetown Please Stand up: Regent Park, St. Jamestown and Cabbagetown in the Literary Imagination,” will be held at the Parliament Street Branch, 269 Gerrard Street East, today, Tuesday 18 October 2011 from 7:00 to 8:30 pm.
Beginning with Hugh Garner’s well-known novel Cabbagetown (1950; 1968) and going on to discuss a diverse list of works ranging from journalist J.V. McAree’s memoir Cabbagetown Store (1953) to Juan Butler’s occasionally scatological Cabbagetown Diary (1970) and Tim Wynne-Jones urban fantasy The Knot (1982), my talk will argue that Cabbagetown’s boundaries have shifted in ways that emphasize architectural cohesion while suppressing social and cultural difference.
This phenomenon, in which local historians have steadily relocated Cabbagetown from the district south of Gerrard Street (an area once known as “North America’s largest Anglo-Saxon slum”) to a gentrified area north and east of the corner of Parliament and Gerrard, has turned Regent Park — the original site of Cabbagetown — into a kind of cultural Other. I’ll then turn to representations of Regent Park, Moss Park and St. Jamestown to explore how these neighbourhoods are represented as a kind of contrast class to contemporary Cabbagetown — even though these run-down neighbourhoods have more in common with literary Cabbagetown than the quaintly gentrified Heritage Conservation District that has since claimed the name. Works I’ll discuss here include Mark Thurman’s Cabbagetown Gang (1987), Deborah Ellis’ Looking for X (1999) and Rabindranath Maharaj’s The Amazing Absorbing Boy (2010).
Slides for tonight’s talk are available here: Will the Real Cabbagetown Please Stand Up Toronto Public Library 18 October 2011
For those interested in further reading, here is a list of literary representations of Cabbagetown and environs:
Butler, Juan, 1970. Cabbagetown Diary: A Documentary. Toronto: Peter Martin Associates Limited.
Cornish, John, 1968. Sherbourne Street. Toronto: Clarke Irwin.
Ellis, Deborah, 1999. Looking For X. Toronto: Groundwood.
Garner, Hugh, 1950; 968. Cabbagetown. Toronto: White Circle; Ryerson Press.
Garner, Hugh [under the pseudonym Jarvis Warwick], 1950. Waste No Tears. News Stand / Export Publishing.
Garner, Hugh, 1976. The Intruders. Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson. (A follow-up, in some ways, to Cabbagetown.)
Jewinski, Hans, 1975. Poet Cop. Markham, ON: Simon & Schuster / Pocket Books. [poetry]
Lapp, Dave, 2008. Drop-In. Montreal: Conundrum Press. [graphic novel/memoir]
Matheson, George, 1996. Hogs and Cabbages. Lumby, British Columbia: Kettle Valley Publishing.
McAree, J.V., 1953. Cabbagetown Store. (memoir). Toronto: Ryerson Press.
Plantos, Ted, 1977. The Universe Ends at Sherbourne & Queen. Toronto: Steel Rail Publishing.
Plantos, Ted, 2000. The Shanghai Noodle Killing. Toronto: Seraphim.
Rosen, Eric S., 1991. The Banker of Cabbagetown. Toronto: Eric S. Rosen. [play / theatre and history]
Thurman, Mark, 1987. Cabbagetown Gang. Toronto: NC Press. [children’s / young adult]
Type, David, 1979. Cabbagetown Plays (Diamond Cutters, Snow Birds and The Travesty and the Fruit Fly). Toronto: Playwrights Co-Op.
Type, David, 1984. Just Us Indians. Toronto: Playwrights Canada Press. [play; also set in Cabbagetown]
Wynne-Jones, Tim, 1982. The Knot. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. [fiction]
And a list of non-fiction commentaries on the district:
Cabbagetown Preservation Association, 1992. Touring Old Cabbagetown. Toronto: Cabbagetown Preservation Association.
Coopersmith, Penina [photographs by Vincenzo Pietropaolo], 1998. Cabbagetown: The Story of a Victorian Neighbourhood. Toronto: James Lorimer.
Farewell Oak Street [documentary], 1953. Grant McLean/ NFB.
Kelly, Colleen, 1984. Cabbagetown in Pictures. Local History Handbook No. 4. Toronto: Toronto Public Library Board.
Lorimer, James and Myfanwy Phillips, 1971. Working People: Life in a Downtown City Neighbourhood. Toronto: James Lewis & Samuel Ltd. [narratives of Cabbagetown]
Return to Regent Park [film], 1994. Close-up Films/NFB.
Rose, Albert, 1958. Regent Park: A Study in Slum Clearance. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Rust-D’Eye, George,  1993. Cabbagetown Remembered. Toronto: Stoddart. [local history]
Wiley, James [photographs by James Wiley; Foreward by George Rust-D’Eye], 1994. Images of Cabbagetown. Toronto: V.A. Gates.
[Images: top left image is from Hugh Garner’s Cabbagetown (Ryerson Press, 1969); bottom image is from Mark Thurman’s Cabbagetown Gang (NC Press, 1987).]