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John Ginsburg

By MYRON LOVE

For 30 years John Ginsburg was a respected professor of the University of Winnipeg. Since he retired in 2010, his interest has shifted from number to words. Over the past eight years, Ginsburg has turned out six novels, one book of short stories and one of children’s stories – with more on the way.

 

Originally from Flin Flon – where his father operated a pharmacy –Ginsburg recalls that words were his first love. “I had wanted to write since I was a teenager,” he says. “We always had a lot of books in the house when I was growing up. I used to write poetry in high school.”
He became a math professor rather than an author, though, because, as he says, “I was always good at math. My university tuition was funded largely by scholarships. And once you go down a particular career path, it is tough to switch.”
Now, Ginsubrg the writer – who is also the father of sports radio personality Ezra Ginsburg – is making up for lost time.


Ginsburg’s novels reflect his own life and take place for the most part in Winnipeg and Manitoba.  Take, for example, “20 Mile”. The 200-page novel is centered around Ben Arenberg, a middle-aged Jewish math professor at the University of Winnipeg who has grownk up in Flin Flon. He is on his second marriage – to Riva, a materialistic Jewish doctor. His best friend is  his colleague, Isaac Feller, a much-married Jewish philosophy professor.
The plot revolves around Arenberg’s attraction to a 30ish Aboriginal woman, Judy Star, who signs up for one of his classes. While not quite a case of a university prof having an illicit affair with a student, the two have a close call which leaves Arenberg riddled with guilt – not only about nearly jeopardizing his marriage and career, but also about the student’s own goals. He also regrets missing out on the opportunity to learn more about the Aborginal condition. Having an Aboriginal student signing up for his class is almost unheard of.
And, Judy Star’s presence in his class makes him aware how little he knows about Aboriginal people despite growing up in northern Manitoba.
Ginsburg demonstrates in his writing an eye for detail and character and a good ear for dialogue and humour. “20 Mile” flows easily and features many locations and landmarks that will be familiar to readers.
Like “20 Mile”, “PHiDelity” and “The Case for Barbara” are all set within the world of the university and revolve around relationships between professor and student, and professor and professor.


“Loretta and the Drones” and “Fine Times” both have connections to the world of rock bands – another subject of which Ginsburg knows a thing or two. Ginsburg was a drummer in rock bands in his youth and, in recent years, he has been part of a quartet called “Derailed”; the other three guys all work for CN.
“We try to get gigs where we can,” he says, “but they are hard to come by.”
“The Last Straw” and “How I almost Married a Russian” have hockey themes. In his younger days, the author played a lot of hockey.
“Appearances”, his book of short stories, include segments about WikiLeaks and Julian Assange; a high school student pretending to be gay while applying for a full-ride scholarship to Harvard; a young woman involved with her identical twin brother; and a rock and roll star having a hard time convincing the manager of a comedy club that he is who he says he is.
“The Honey Bear and Other Children’s Stories”, his most recent book, Ginsburg says he developed over the past three years with his now nine-year-old grandson in mind.
Thus far, Ginsburg has self-published all of his books, all of which arre available on Amazon.
“I am still looking for a publisher,” he says. “I had submitted a couple of my novels with Jewish themes to the New Jewish press. There was some interest – but I have recently learned that the New Jewish Press has been acquired by the University of Toronto Press. I am hoping to receive a positive response.”


He notes that his son, Ezra, has a lot of Twitter followers and is helping to get the word out.
As well, the author himself has a website (johnginsburg.com) and a Facebook page.
He is already at work on his next project – a story about a 20-year-old budding journalist and film festival buff who goes to a film festival in Banff and discovers the film festival is a scam.
“The plot develops around that,” he says.

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