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Reading Glamour in Phyllis Brett Young’s The Torontonians

Kathryn Franklin

Abstract | This arti­cle explores the rela­tion­ships between fash­ion, glam­our, celebri­ty, and Cana­di­an lit­er­a­ture, focus­ing specif­i­cal­ly on Toron­to, Cana­da. I argue for the val­ue of “read­ing glam­our” into Toronto’s lit­er­a­ture by exam­in­ing how glam­our pro­vides a socio-cul­tur­al insight into char­ac­ter and plot devel­op­ment and, more­over, ele­vates the char­ac­ter of the city itself. No doubt cer­tain authors con­jure up a glam­orous cachet with their coterie of bohemi­an intel­lec­tu­al and lit­er­ary salons but the writ­ing itself rarely approach­es the same lev­el of glam­orous cel­e­bra­tion. How­ev­er, read­ing glamour—that is, fol­low­ing Brown, trac­ing the lan­guage and gram­mar of glam­our as a lit­er­ary form linked to mod­ern mass culture—extends the poten­tial for lit­er­ary and cul­tur­al expres­sion of the text. As Gun­dle and Castel­li argue, glam­our is typ­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with the urban and cos­mopoli­tan, and this paper explores how Toron­to has his­tor­i­cal­ly engaged with its own sense of bur­geon­ing celebri­ty, fash­ion, and glam­our. By focus­ing on the work of Phyl­lis Brett Young’s The Toron­to­ni­ans (1960), I exam­ine how glam­our as a corol­lary to fash­ion chal­lenges pre­con­cep­tions of “Toron­to the Good,” not only with­in the local urban imag­i­nary but also on nation­al and glob­al levels.

Résumé | Cet arti­cle explore les rela­tions entre mode, glam­our, célébrité et lit­téra­ture cana­di­enne en se con­cen­trant plus spé­ci­fique­ment sur Toron­to. J’entends prou­ver la valeur de la lec­ture du glam­our dans la lit­téra­ture de Toron­to en exam­i­nant com­ment le glam­our offre une inter­pré­ta­tion socio-cul­turelle du développe­ment de l’intrigue et des per­son­nages  et, de sur­croît, élève le per­son­nage de la ville elle-même. Il va sans dire que cer­tains auteurs créent un cachet glam­our grâce à leur coterie de salons intel­lectuels et bohémiens, mais l’écriture elle-même atteint rarement le même niveau de célébra­tion glam­our. Cepen­dant, lire le glamour—c’est-à-dire, à la suite de Brown, suiv­re le lan­gage et la gram­maire du glam­our comme une forme lit­téraire liée à la cul­ture de masse moderne—élargit le poten­tiel d’expression lit­téraire et cul­turelle du texte. Comme le mon­trent Gun­dell et Castel­li, le glam­our est typ­ique­ment asso­cié à l’urbain et au cos­mopoli­tain, et cette com­mu­ni­ca­tion explore com­ment Toron­to s’est his­torique­ment impliqué dans son pro­pre sen­ti­ment gran­dis­sant de célébrité, de mode et de glam­our. En me con­cen­trant sur le livre de Phyl­lis Brett Young, The Toron­to­ni­ans (1960), j’examine com­ment le glam­our, comme corol­laire de la mode, chal­lenge les pré­con­cep­tions de ”Toron­to la bonne” non seule­ment à l’intérieur même de l’imaginaire urbain local, mais aus­si aux niveaux nation­al et global.

And all the time, you pound your lit­tle Rem­ing­ton amid the office debris and push your copy through the cig­a­rette-smoke bar­rage encir­cling the city editor’s desk—and won­der, “What do they mean GLAMOUR?” — Niel­sine Hansen, “What About Glam­our?” (1929)

Introduction: The Language, Grammar and Challenges of Reading Glamour

The rela­tion­ship between glam­our and lit­er­a­ture is not often imme­di­ate­ly appar­ent. Glam­our, for one, is not so easy to pin down. It is often referred to as an “elu­sive con­cept” (Wil­son, “A Note on Glam­our” 95) or more defin­i­tive­ly as “a for­mal cat­e­go­ry and an expe­ri­en­tial site of con­sumer desire, fan­ta­sy, sex­u­al­i­ty, class, and racial iden­ti­ty” (Brown 1). The gram­mar of glam­our inserts itself into the rhetoric of those intan­gi­ble qual­i­ties that once demand and defy def­i­n­i­tion. Glamour’s asso­cia­tive range of qual­i­ties com­pli­cate its mean­ing. For all its vivid depic­tions in mag­a­zines, film, and art, the realm of glam­our is exclu­sive to the broad scope of the imag­i­na­tion, lend­ing its essence to works that reflect its ephemer­al­i­ty. Indeed, glam­our has his­tor­i­cal­ly been linked with sor­cery and meta­mor­phoses; it is pre­cise­ly glamour’s manip­u­la­tion of real­i­ty that makes its essence so seductive.

Glamour’s ety­mol­o­gy traces back to the old word “gra­marye,” an alter­ation of the word gram­mar that con­notes learn­ing as well as the mys­ti­fy­ing effects of mag­ic or the act of being charmed. The word glam­our was pop­u­lar­ized in Eng­lish by Sir Wal­ter Scott in 1805 with the pub­li­ca­tion of his long nar­ra­tive poem, “The Lay of the Last Min­strel.” Glam­our, Scott wrote, “Could make a lady seem a knight; / The cob­webs on a dun­geon wall / Seem tapes­try in lord­ly hall.” Scott’s use of glam­our was an Angli­cized ver­sion of “glamer,” which accord­ing to An Ety­mo­log­i­cal Dic­tio­nary of the Scot­tish Lan­guage (1897) referred to “the sup­posed influ­ence of a charm on the eye, caus­ing it to see objects dif­fer­ent­ly from what they real­ly are” (qtd. in Gun­dle and Castel­li 3). In trac­ing glamour’s ori­gins, its lit­er­ary con­nec­tions are evi­dent. Glam­our emerges as a lit­er­ary form (Brown 9) in the mod­ern era that com­mu­ni­cates the lan­guage and gram­mar of trans­for­ma­tion through its abil­i­ty to stir desire and cre­ate the illu­sion of an eter­nal moment. In a New York­er arti­cle dis­cussing the glam­our of famed Brazil­ian author, Clarice Lispec­tor, Ben­jamin Moser affirms glamour’s pow­er of trans­fig­u­ra­tion by reflect­ing upon Lispector’s par­tic­u­lar lit­er­ary glam­our. He notes that her dis­tinct brand is “dan­ger­ous” cit­ing an anec­dote from one of her friends that warned her read­ers that “it’s not lit­er­a­ture. It’s witch­craft” (“The True Glam­our of Clarice Lispector”).

Cer­tain­ly, cel­e­brat­ed works of fic­tion car­ry glamour’s lex­i­cal charm. In her study of glam­our as an aes­thet­ic sym­bol of moder­ni­ty that emerged out of the indus­tri­al rev­o­lu­tion, Judith Brown main­tains that glam­our has ties to progress and mass cul­ture and can be used as a method­olog­i­cal tool to assess lit­er­a­ture, pho­tog­ra­phy, celebri­ty and com­mod­i­ty cul­ture. She makes the case for read­ing glam­our in works of mod­ernist lit­er­a­ture by argu­ing that:

If crit­ics have gen­er­al­ly ignored the con­cept of glam­our, mod­ern writ­ers at times explic­it­ly invoked its mag­i­cal pow­ers, find­ing in its effect an expres­sive capac­i­ty akin to that of lit­er­a­ture; among those who actu­al­ly use the word and invoke its pow­er are Joseph Con­rad, D. H. Lawrence, and Vir­ginia Woolf (9).

For Brown, glam­our is an aes­thet­ic prop­er­ty of mod­ernist lit­er­a­ture that has come out of the Unit­ed King­dom and the Unit­ed States; yet her prac­tice of read­ing glam­our extends the poten­tial for read­ing prac­tices across lit­er­ary move­ments, tem­po­ral­i­ties, and nation­al­i­ties. This arti­cle builds upon the com­plex­i­ties and prac­tice of read­ing glam­our, as sug­gest­ed by Brown, and turns toward a Cana­di­an con­text that focus­es on read­ing glam­our in Phyl­lis Brett Young’s 1960 nov­el The Toron­to­ni­ans. Young’s text offers a par­tic­u­lar­ly strik­ing start­ing point into the dis­cus­sion con­cern­ing glamour’s expres­sion in the city by focus­ing on a mon­eyed and upper-class Toron­to of the 1950s. As Coral Ann How­ells argues, we can under­stand that “The Toron­to­ni­ans [is] a prod­uct of Cana­di­an cul­tur­al nation­al­ism of the ’50s and ’60s, reflect­ing a new era of pros­per­i­ty and con­sumerism” (56). I would extend her point to include glam­our as a par­tic­u­lar­ly nation­al com­po­nent of Young’s text and one that chal­lenges the 1960s per­cep­tion of “Toron­to the Good.”1 To be sure, glamour’s tal­is­man-like qual­i­ty often lends itself to nar­ra­tives that seek to chal­lenge the bor­ders of con­ven­tion and good taste. Glam­our, there­fore, is Janus-faced. On one hand, it is rou­tine­ly yoked togeth­er with celebri­ty cul­ture, which con­jures up nos­tal­gia for images of Hollywood’s Gold­en Age, and on the oth­er hand, glam­our belies a gen­uine ter­ror for the nat­ur­al world. Glamour’s out­ward appear­ance is gen­er­al­ly a reac­tion against the seem­ing­ly mun­dane or the absolute­ly hor­rif­ic, recall­ing Shakespeare’s famous line from the Mer­chant of Venice that “All that glit­ters is not gold” (2.7.73).

This arti­cle, there­fore, con­sid­ers how read­ing glam­our in The Toron­to­ni­ans is an exer­cise in chal­leng­ing the pre­con­cep­tions of the city, as the lan­guage, gram­mar, and chal­lenges of glam­our are used to de-sta­bi­lize assump­tions and atti­tudes sur­round­ing post-war Toron­to while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly acknowl­edg­ing the anx­i­ety of the devel­op­ing mod­ern city. Through Young’s pro­tag­o­nist, Karen, a fem­i­nized urbane glam­our emerges, thus build­ing and expand­ing upon the dimen­sions of Cana­di­an urban writing.

Finding Glamour in the Margins in Toronto’s Literature

Northrop Frye’s con­cep­tion of the “gar­ri­son men­tal­i­ty,” that is, the sense of hos­til­i­ty towards nature by ear­li­er Cana­di­an set­tlers, has had a pro­found influ­ence on the country’s lit­er­a­ture. While the trope of the Cana­di­an land­scape and wilder­ness has long dom­i­nat­ed lit­er­ary dis­course, the Cana­di­an urban nov­el has had a pow­er­ful, albeit often invis­i­ble, his­to­ry, artic­u­lat­ing a counter-nar­ra­tive to the myth of the land (Ivi­son and Edwards 10). Nev­er­the­less, for many years Toron­to­ni­ans main­tained an intense bias against their own writ­ers result­ing in a cul­tur­al nega­tion of the city’s lit­er­ary her­itage. This “per­sis­tent self-loathing” (Har­ris 19) extends as far back to the turn of the cen­tu­ry, as out­lined in “Lit­er­a­ture in Cana­da” (1899), an essay by nov­el­ist and crit­ic Robert Barr:

The bald truth is that Cana­da has the mon­ey, but would rather spend it on whiskey than on books. […]. What chance has Cana­da, then, of rais­ing a Sir Wal­ter Scott? I main­tain that she has but very lit­tle chance, because she won’t pay the mon­ey, and mon­ey is the root of all lit­er­a­ture. The new Sir Wal­ter is prob­a­bly tramp­ing the streets of Toron­to to-day, look­ing vain­ly for some­thing to do. But Toron­to will rec­og­nize him when he comes back from New York or Lon­don, and will give him a din­ner when he doesn’t need it. (qtd. in Har­ris 19)

In sum­mon­ing Scott, the patron of glam­our, Barr inad­ver­tent­ly address­es a long­ing for glamour’s expres­sion to radi­ate not sim­ply with­in the pages of the city’s lit­er­a­ture but also in its cel­e­bra­tion of lit­er­a­ture as a nation­al good.

Pri­or to the 1970s very lit­tle Cana­di­an fic­tion was active­ly sit­u­at­ed in Toron­to. For exam­ple, Mar­garet Atwood’s The Edi­ble Woman (1969) is noto­ri­ous for tak­ing place in a non­de­script and anony­mous urban land­scape only vague­ly hint­ing that the down­town she describes may be Toron­to and not a name­less Amer­i­can metrop­o­lis. Yet in the decades after, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the ear­ly aughts, Toron­to as a tan­gi­ble space imbued with its own sense of cul­ture and mythol­o­gy became increas­ing­ly pop­u­lar in fic­tion by Toron­to authors.2 Justin D. Edwards and Dou­glas Ivi­son, the edi­tors of Down­town Cana­da: Writ­ing Cana­di­an Cities (2005), sim­i­lar­ly cham­pi­on the rise of the Cana­di­an urban nov­el with their cri de cœur to hon­our the country’s down­town spaces in its nation­al literature:

No longer are we con­tent to engage in the­mat­ic stud­ies which priv­i­lege the wilder­ness, rur­al areas, or the small town as the place upon which Cana­di­an iden­ti­ty is con­struct­ed. Instead we seek to bridge the gap that exists between the lived expe­ri­ences of most Cana­di­ans, who over­whelm­ing­ly live in urban envi­ron­ments, and the pub­lic mythol­o­gy of Cana­da and crit­i­cal pro­duc­tion on Cana­di­an lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture, which has, until recent­ly, large­ly focused on rur­al and wilder­ness spaces and small towns. (6)

The lit­er­ary shift that began to assert itself toward the lat­ter part of the 20th cen­tu­ry to the present high­lights Cana­di­an cities as spaces equal­ly wor­thy of cel­e­bra­tion and crit­i­cal dis­course. Toron­to-based lit­er­a­ture con­tin­ues to con­tribute and shape the pro­duc­tion of the city, and arguably the city has con­tributed and shaped the pro­duc­tion of lit­er­a­ture (Edwards and Ivi­son 9). A sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment is tak­en up in Amy Laven­der Har­ris’ Imag­in­ing Toron­to, argu­ing that Toron­to is a tex­tu­al city, and her work seeks to inter­pret Toron­to lit­er­a­ture against the back­drop of the city itself. Har­ris writes in her introduction:

This book is pred­i­cat­ed on a belief that rather than com­par­ing Toron­to to the world’s oth­er great lit­er­ary cities and find­ing it want­i­ng, we should instead real­ize that Toronto’s lit­er­a­ture reflects an entire­ly new kind of city, a city where iden­ti­ty emerges not from shared tra­di­tion or a long his­to­ry but rather is forged out of com­mit­ment to the virtues of diver­si­ty, tol­er­ance and cul­tur­al under­stand­ing. (14)

Har­ris’ approach to the city reflects my inter­pre­ta­tion of the rela­tion­ship between glam­our and Toron­to. Where­as promi­nent tex­tu­al cities such as Paris, Lon­don, New York City, and Los Ange­les are instinc­tive­ly asso­ci­at­ed with glam­our in the glob­al imag­i­na­tion, Toron­to is con­sis­tent­ly nego­ti­at­ing its lit­er­ary glam­our as the city con­tin­ues to devel­op and change.

Glam­our, of course, is not a word that imme­di­ate­ly comes to mind in dis­cus­sions of Toron­to lit­er­a­ture. At one point in The Toron­to­ni­ans, Karen jok­ing­ly remarks, “Toron­to itself, in spite of what the rest of Cana­da seemed to think of it, had been a love­ly city to live in. At the time nobody would have dreamed of call­ing it the New York of Cana­da” (101). Car­o­line Rosen­thal fur­ther cor­rob­o­rates this claim: “In an inter­na­tion­al per­spec­tive, Toron­to lacks not only the glam­our but also the dark­er aspects of New York. It is com­mon­ly regard­ed as the safer, clean­er, and more tol­er­ant, albeit duller, of the two cities” (31). The use of “glam­our” in this con­text is clear­ly instruc­tive in its sug­ges­tion that Toron­to, with­in the urban imag­i­nary, is com­plete­ly devoid of glam­our, espe­cial­ly com­pared to the much-mythol­o­gized New York City. Rosen­thal con­tin­ues: “As an imag­i­na­tive city, Toron­to is still in the process of becom­ing, not because there has been no fic­tion set in Toron­to ear­li­er in the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, but because it is only now that it is being dis­cussed as a sig­nif­i­cant cor­pus of lit­er­a­ture and as a way of sym­bol­i­cal­ly build­ing the city” (33). Read­ing glam­our, there­fore, in Toron­to lit­er­a­ture becomes an exer­cise in chal­leng­ing these pre­con­cep­tions of the city and of the city’s lit­er­a­ture entirely.

In the Sum­mer 2017 issue of Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Quar­ter­ly, Bran­don McFar­lane dis­cuss­es the emer­gent Cana­di­an fic­tion of 2015 and its ten­den­cy toward post-indus­tri­al­ist fic­tion. McFar­lane draws upon Richard Lloyd’s inves­ti­ga­tion into the rise of neo-bohemi­an spaces under the “grit-as-glam­our” aes­thet­ic that “sug­gests that some [Cana­di­an] authors are breath­ing new life into old myths while cre­at­ing rad­i­cal­ly new, transna­tion­al aes­thet­ics that can medi­ate the dis­rup­tions and oppor­tu­ni­ties pre­sent­ed by the era of post-indus­tri­al­ism” (4). Nev­er­the­less, pri­or to the grit-as-glam­our prose, which has become more per­va­sive in recent Cana­di­an fic­tion as the country’s major cities have become more glob­al, Phyl­lis Brett Young was embark­ing upon her own cre­ation myth for Toron­to, using the trans­for­ma­tive lan­guage of glam­our to demon­strate how Toron­to was a bur­geon­ing city with a new sense of iden­ti­ty “perched at the edge of moder­ni­ty” (Har­ris 289).

Upon first blush, the lan­guage of glam­our mixed with the spir­it of moder­ni­ty may make for strange bed­fel­lows, yet the two are intrin­si­cal­ly tied. Charles Baude­laire famous­ly coined the term “moder­ni­ty” in “The Painter of Mod­ern Life” (1864) to con­vey the aes­thet­ic and rel­a­tive nature of time: “By ‘moder­ni­ty’ I mean the ephemer­al, the fugi­tive, the con­tin­gent, the half of art whose oth­er half is the eter­nal and the immutable” (13). Glam­our, as Brown states, is “pro­duced in the glance back­ward, now cedes itself to the future, where it may acquire new dimen­sions in a dif­fer­ent lan­guage” (19). Both con­cepts are fur­ther reflect­ed in the “men­tal life” that Georg Sim­mel out­lined in, “The Metrop­o­lis and Men­tal Life,” con­cern­ing the mod­ern urban metrop­o­lis and how indus­tri­al­ism and rapid urban­iza­tion affects the spaces, both men­tal and phys­i­cal, of its cit­i­zens. Cer­tain­ly, Baudelaire’s Paris and Simmel’s Berlin occu­py dif­fer­ing con­cerns from their sep­a­rate geo­gra­phies and eras, yet the 1950s post-war cul­ture in Toron­to exhib­it­ed in Young’s text brims with cau­tious opti­mism and gen­uine desire to embrace the mod­ern:3

Toron­to was a boom town where, with the eas­ing of the liquor laws, you could at last buy a drink in pub­lic. That is, a real drink, some­thing stronger than four-point beer. A cock­tail in a place like the Cork Room, or the Sil­ver Rail, cost you three times what it would have cost you at home, but you went to the bars in spite of this because the bars rep­re­sent­ed glam­our and nov­el­ty. (60)

Glam­our is broad­ly defined by its var­i­ous com­bi­na­tions of fash­ion, beau­ty, lux­u­ry, celebri­ty, and wealth; how­ev­er, ear­ly con­cep­tions of glam­our were asso­ci­at­ed with the fas­ci­na­tion of the ear­ly mod­ern city and moder­ni­ty itself (see Gun­dle and Castel­li). Young acknowl­edges Toronto’s puri­tan­i­cal past by high­light­ing its harsh liquor laws but invokes the glam­our of the bar as a fash­ion­able space of con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion that reflects the chang­ing mores of the mod­ern city.4 While The Toron­to­ni­ans is not con­sid­ered a mod­ernist text, albeit, it is a text that con­sid­ers mod­ern themes, it nonethe­less bris­tles with domes­tic exis­ten­tial­ism as Karen, too, rec­og­nizes the poten­tial for her own per­son­al glam­our that cor­re­lates with­in the fash­ion­able space that Toron­to portends.

Phyllis Brett Young and the Glamour of The Torontonians

In 2007, McGill-Queen’s Press re-issued The Toron­to­ni­ans, thus reviv­ing the name Phyl­lis Brett Young in Cana­di­an lit­er­ary dis­course. In the intro­duc­tion to the nov­el, Nathalie Cooke and Suzanne Mor­ton demon­strate that while Phyl­lis Brett Young is not a com­mon name in the Cana­di­an lit­er­ary canon, in the ear­ly 1960s she was an inter­na­tion­al­ly regard­ed author along­side notable Cana­di­an writ­ers of the time such as Hugh McLen­nan and Morde­cai Rich­ler. Young was born in Toron­to in 1914 and between the years 1959 and 1969 she pub­lished four nov­els, a mem­oir, and a thriller pub­lished under the pseu­do­nym Kendal Young. The Toron­to­ni­ans, her sec­ond nov­el, was an instant best­seller both in Cana­da and the Unit­ed States, where it first appeared in hard­copy in Octo­ber 1960. Cer­tain­ly, this was no small feat for a book that is exclu­sive­ly and unre­served­ly very much about late-1950s sub­ur­ban Toron­to. Young was so deeply com­mit­ted to show­cas­ing Toron­to as a vibrant city that she had to fight with her pub­lish­ers to keep the title. Amer­i­can and British pub­lish­ers, how­ev­er, were not per­suad­ed. Accord­ing to Young’s daugh­ter, Valerie Argue, “In those days for a nov­el, or movie, to be set in Cana­da (and espe­cial­ly Toron­to!) was the kiss of death for inter­na­tion­al sales” (x). Instead, Young’s nov­el was renamed for the inter­na­tion­al mar­ket under two dif­fer­ent titles, Gift of Time in the U.S and Europe and The Com­muters in Aus­tralia, ensur­ing no imme­di­ate ref­er­ence to Canada’s largest city (Argue xi). Nev­er­the­less, when the nov­el was released local Toron­to book­stores were expe­ri­enc­ing “unusu­al­ly large sales” (Ful­ford qtd. in Gre­w­al) and The New York Times pro­fessed: “In a grow­ing cat­a­logue of books that have been prov­ing the sweet life of sub­ur­bia, Mrs. Young’s stand out as both wise and wit­ty” (qtd. in Gre­w­al), thus guar­an­tee­ing Young a mod­icum of celebrity.

In the fore­word to the 2007 reis­sue, Valerie Argue writes, “It was not just Toron­to and Toron­to­ni­ans but Cana­da and Cana­di­ans that Phyl­lis Brett Young want­ed to put on the map, and in each of her works she tries to do just that. As she said in an Ottawa Cit­i­zen inter­view (7 April 1960), ‘I write because I love Cana­da and I wish more and more peo­ple would write about Cana­da as it is today’” (xi). Through Karen, Young offers med­i­ta­tions upon the devel­op­ment of the city that are filled with world­ly insight and sol­id crit­i­cism acknowl­edg­ing that Toron­to is in the process of becom­ing a city of the imagination:

After Gene­va, you were more crit­i­cal of Toron­to than you had been in the past, but para­dox­i­cal­ly you loved it more than you ever had, and you were damn proud of it. It was not Lon­don, and it was not Paris, but it was Toron­to, and that was more than good enough for you. You were ter­ri­bly excit­ed about this St. Lawrence Sea­way thing they had start­ed to talk about, because you could see that if it went through, your city, your Toron­to, could become one of the great inland sea­ports of the world. (149)

Through Karen’s judi­cious per­spec­tive, The Toron­to­ni­ans unfolds like a cre­ation myth that explains the essence of the city to the rest of the world offer­ing a glimpse of its own par­tic­u­lar urbane glamour.

Young’s nov­el begins: “Ear­ly morn­ing sun­light warm against the thin, smooth con­tour of one cheek, Karen sat in the break­fast-room and thought about sui­cide” (7). This open­ing sen­tence faint­ly echoes Ezra’s Pound’s famous imag­ist poem “In a Sta­tion of the Metro”5 with its sim­ple yet pro­found med­i­ta­tion of the morn­ing. The cool, detached nar­ra­tive style and stony prose devel­op like a pho­to­graph in a dark room, slow­ly set­ting the tone for the rest of the nov­el. The inher­ent sheen of glam­our is appar­ent in the untouched beau­ty of the “Ear­ly morn­ing sun­light,” an allur­ing spec­tre, fol­lowed by the descrip­tion of Karen’s slick cheek as if she were a brand-new sports­car. Mean­while, Young’s open­ing line hints at the sin­is­ter ele­ments of the nov­el with its casu­al sug­ges­tion of sui­cide reveal­ing Karen’s dark­er desires. The non­cha­lant approach to self-harm is faint­ly rem­i­nis­cent of a 1929 jour­nal arti­cle from The Iowa Home­mak­er titled, “What About the Glam­our?” in which the author Niel­sine Hansen bemoans that “there will be days when your pub­lic will ring in kicks from morn­ing until night until sui­cide looks like the prim­rose path” (3); yet despite the annoy­ance and despair she con­cludes “Isn’t there some glam­our in that?” (3).

Phyl­lis Brett Young’s Toron­to exists through a lens of post-war ennui, where ladies lunch and men work on Bay Street and come home to cooked din­ners made by their wives—living up to its rep­u­ta­tion as “Toron­to the Good.” Karen Whit­ney, the pro­tag­o­nist of Young’s pro­to-fem­i­nist nov­el,6 dreams of being more than just a moth­er and wife in a nice­ly man­i­cured, Lea­side-type home. Her psy­cho­log­i­cal strug­gle to achieve a sense of pur­pose beyond her social­ly pre­scribed role forces her to reflect upon cer­tain events that hap­pened in her life while grow­ing up in the city. As Karen care­ful­ly exam­ines her past, Young expert­ly weaves Toron­to devel­op­men­tal mile­stones into the nar­ra­tive, such as the open­ing of the Yonge sub­way line in 1954 and plans to con­struct the new City Hall. This pas de deux reveals as much about Karen’s per­son­al growth as that of the city’s, intrin­si­cal­ly link­ing the two. The sense of opti­mism that con­cludes the nov­el reads as a fore­cast for the city that insists there is poten­tial beyond Toronto’s sim­ple “good” moniker.7

Fig. 1 Cover of the 1960 Canadian version of The Torontonians

Fig. 1 Cov­er of the 1960 Cana­di­an ver­sion of The Torontonians

The cov­er of the 1960 Cana­di­an ver­sion of The Toron­to­ni­ans (Fig. 1) fea­tures a sketch of the new Toron­to City Hall in the back­ground while at the fore is an out­line of a styl­ish woman drink­ing from a mar­ti­ni glass. The con­struc­tion of the new city hall in 1965 by the Finnish archi­tect Viljo Rev­ell was a feat of mod­ernist archi­tec­ture and a nod toward the future of the city. With its two curved asym­met­ric tow­ers, the new City Hall ush­ered in an era of enthu­si­asm and pride for the city. Rev­ell had won an inter­na­tion­al com­pe­ti­tion to con­struct the build­ing that would define the city. Many Toron­to firms had put forth their own designs but were rebuffed by the pub­lic for look­ing too plain and bor­ing.8 In a Toron­to Star arti­cle cel­e­brat­ing the 50th anniver­sary of the con­struc­tion of the new City Hall, Ryer­son Uni­ver­si­ty archi­tec­ture pro­fes­sor George Kape­los explained why the com­pe­ti­tion was so impor­tant for the city:

It wasn’t just about Toron­to, but a con­ver­gence of a whole lot of issues that cat­alyzed here in this city. Peo­ple were agi­tat­ing for new­ness and moder­ni­ty. Around the globe, inter­est in rebuild­ing cities was intense. Issues such as decol­o­niza­tion, mon­u­men­tal­i­ty and nation­al iden­ti­ty were on everyone’s mind. The tim­ing was amaz­ing. (qtd. in Hume)

The jux­ta­po­si­tion of City Hall’s blue­prints along­side the sil­hou­ette of a woman in the fore­ground con­veys the gram­mar of glam­our in its nod toward futu­ri­ty and inac­ces­si­bil­i­ty. The woman is pre­sent­ed as an ephemer­al fig­ure of beau­ty and fash­ion, yet “glam­our goes beyond mere fash­ion. Although the con­cept of glam­our includes fash­ion, it ulti­mate­ly involves more than what a woman puts on her body. It deals with the lady her­self” (Basinger qtd. in Steele 38). The Toron­to­ni­ans is a text that deals with the trans­for­ma­tion of a city and the anx­i­eties and desires that lie with­in. Indeed, both City Hall and the woman on the cov­er of The Toron­to­ni­ans are ren­dered as appari­tions that are wait­ing to be.

The Modes of Female Glamour

The Toron­to­ni­ans was seri­al­ized in the pages of Chate­laine appear­ing in three instal­ments in the Octo­ber, Novem­ber, and Decem­ber issues of 1960. Accord­ing to Cooke and Mor­ton, “in the 1960s Chate­laine explored the very issues at the heart of Young’s novel—the roles and choic­es avail­able for women in a chang­ing world and the pos­si­bil­i­ties and anx­i­eties caused by change—in a num­ber of for­mats with­in each issue” (xxv). As a dis­tinct­ly fem­i­nine text—one that was fea­tured in a woman’s mag­a­zine devot­ed to “female issues,”9 includ­ing fash­ion and lifestyle advice — The Toron­to­ni­ans exem­pli­fies a glam­our that is specif­i­cal­ly female.

Glam­our, I pro­pose, man­i­fests itself dif­fer­ent­ly in male- and female-dri­ven nar­ra­tives. For men, glam­our is typ­i­fied by a desire for suc­cess. Arguably, one of the most glam­orous char­ac­ters in the Eng­lish-speak­ing lan­guage from the past one hun­dred years would be Oscar Wilde’s demon­ic dandy, Dori­an Gray. For Dori­an, suc­cess is mea­sured by his eter­nal youth and beau­ty: “And when win­ter came upon [the por­trait], he would still be stand­ing where spring trem­bles on the verge of sum­mer. When the blood crept from its face, and left behind a pal­lid mask of chalk with lead­en eyes, he would keep the glam­our of boy­hood” (72). A com­pa­ra­ble Amer­i­can coun­ter­point would be the icon­ic Jay Gats­by who relies on glam­orous excess in order to entice his beloved Daisy Buchanan with his suc­cess: “To the young Gatz, rest­ing on his oars and look­ing up at the railed deck, the yacht rep­re­sent­ed all the beau­ty and glam­our in the world” (107). A sim­i­lar­ly clas­sic exam­ple of a Cana­di­an exhi­bi­tion of male glam­our with­in the country’s lit­er­ary canon is Robert­son Davies’ Dus­tan Ram­say in Fifth Busi­ness. The entire­ty of the text reads as a defence of Ramsay’s suc­cess while cel­e­brat­ing his glam­orous exploits.

The modes of glam­our take on a dif­fer­ent nar­ra­tive when the cen­tral char­ac­ter is a woman. Female glam­our is made evi­dent by the character’s long­ing for cir­cum­stances dif­fer­ent from her own. Car­ol Dyhouse notes, “glam­our was often linked to a dream of trans­for­ma­tion, a desire for some­thing out of the ordi­nary, a form of aspi­ra­tion, a fic­tion of female becom­ing” (3, added empha­sis). One may be remind­ed of Gus­tave Flaubert’s Emma Bovary por­ing through fash­ion mag­a­zines day-dream­ing of a more glam­orous life away from her bor­ing hus­band. That The Toron­to­ni­ans appeared in the pages of a fash­ion mag­a­zine is by no means inci­den­tal. As How­ells argues, “Young’s empha­sis is on fash­ion­able body images of women and glam­our” (58), the sta­ple fea­tures of women’s fash­ion mag­a­zines. More to the point, Young empha­sizes women in Toron­to in the 1950s who occu­py one of Canada’s pre­em­i­nent cos­mopoli­tan spaces. For women read­ing Young’s text in the pages of Chate­laine mag­a­zine in the far reach­es of Canada’s small-er town and rur­al com­mu­ni­ties, Toronto’s glam­orous posi­tion as a grow­ing mod­ern cos­mopo­lis would have been keen­ly under­stood. In Rough­ing it in the Sub­urbs: Read­ing Chate­laine Mag­a­zine in the Fifties and Six­ties, Valerie Korinek goes into detail about one par­tic­u­lar arti­cle from 1954 that describes how a young woman from north­east­ern Nova Sco­tia was mag­i­cal­ly trans­formed into “The Cin­derel­la from Pug­wash” while get­ting a head-to-toe makeover in Toron­to. When she returns to her small town with her new hair­do and sophis­ti­cat­ed fash­ion her fam­i­ly is shocked by her trans­for­ma­tion, if not a lit­tle put off by her new cos­mopoli­tan style. As Korinek remarks, “the mean­ing was obvi­ous in this piece: style and glam­our tri­umphed over down-home val­ues and the nat­ur­al look” (201). So too, does Young’s text reveal the ways in which glam­our in the city is a chimera that is both fan­ci­ful and fright­en­ing in its abil­i­ty to change pub­lic per­sonas and ambitions.

Much of the nar­ra­tive focus­es on Karen fan­ta­siz­ing about her life as a younger woman with her lover in Gene­va when the world seemed to be full of pos­si­bil­i­ty instead of lim­it­ed by her cur­rent life cir­cum­stances as a home­mak­er in the fic­tion­al Toron­to sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hood of Rowan­wood. Cer­tain­ly, The Toron­to­ni­ans would have res­onat­ed with the read­ers of Chate­laine at the time, many of whom would sure­ly have shared Karen’s frustrations:

If you had been a stranger from anoth­er plan­et, you might have won­dered if Rowan­wood was inhab­it­ed at all. You would not have under­stood the phe­nom­e­non of mid-morn­ing dol­drums. You had to live in Rowan­wood to know that the men had all left the box­es in which they lived for oth­er box­es in the busi­ness sec­tion down­town; to know that the women were either hid­den inside clean­ing the for­mer, or had gone off in small­er mech­a­nized box­es to the shop­ping plaza. These things explained to you, you, the stranger from anoth­er plan­et, would still fail to under­stand why the women should spend so much time shut up in their box­es. You would, if you had come equipped with any knowl­edge of the civ­i­liza­tion you had invad­ed, won­der how on Earth women had allowed them­selves to be hood­winked into believ­ing what the man­u­fac­tur­ers want­ed them to believe—that they had nev­er had it so good. (55)

Judith Brown refers to “The Moment of Glam­our,” the point where the char­ac­ter exists as a moment dis­tinct from the ordi­nary pas­sage of time: “There will be no reck­less gal­lop­ing for­ward of nar­ra­tive time but the unsteady inter­play of past, present, and future that become lay­ered, almost insep­a­ra­ble” (78). Young’s nar­ra­tor often breaks into the sec­ond per­son, effec­tive­ly blend­ing the pas­sage of time and sense of place. The speaker’s tone is at once sym­pa­thet­ic and accusato­ry, prompt­ing us to won­der if the speak­er is admon­ish­ing Karen or the read­er when she reflects:

You did not at the time real­ize what was hap­pen­ing to you, because when you were real­ly young, rather than “still young” as the mag­a­zines now put it, you were resilient. Incred­i­bly so. It wasn’t until much lat­er, when you found your­self think­ing of death as a rest­ful state, and saw your friends lean­ing on bar­bi­tu­rates, whiskey, and tran­quil­liz­ers, that you began to under­stand that, some­how, mechan­i­cal evo­lu­tion had out­stripped any social evo­lu­tion as it might apply to you and most of your gen­er­a­tion. (13)

The nar­ra­tive shift from omni­scient to sec­ond per­son is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly inti­mate and alienating—an effect that reveals part of the gram­mar of glam­our in its “unsteady inter­play” of nar­ra­tive points of view. Ilya Parkins sim­i­lar­ly mus­es that “the glam­orous fem­i­nine fig­ure might be bet­ter under­stood to com­pli­cate the chain of bina­ries on which moder­ni­ty rests” (192). In this regard, Karen’s slow men­tal break­down ulti­mate­ly chal­lenges the pre­vail­ing asso­ci­a­tions and bina­ries of man/culture/city and woman/nature/home.

Glam­our, Brown notes, is “the ache for the beau­ti­ful thing just out of reach” (87) and in read­ing glam­our the nar­ra­tive must effec­tive­ly con­vey the “beau­ti­ful thing” as far from the reader’s grasp as pos­si­ble. Brown fur­ther argues “Glam­our is stark­ly aligned with the cold­ness of tech­nol­o­gy, the rush into the future […], and there­fore bears a rela­tion­ship to real­i­ty, although its real­i­ty is nev­er­the­less one of masks and illu­sion” (106). The Toron­to­ni­ans, at its core, is about the “mechan­i­cal evo­lu­tion” of the city and the hes­i­tan­cy with which the char­ac­ters accept its steady devel­op­ment into a cos­mopoli­tan urban cen­tre. In this, the read­er can­not ful­ly iden­ti­fy with Karen with­out poten­tial­ly acknowl­edg­ing their own deep­er desires and anx­i­eties that the sec­ond-per­son nar­ra­tive demands.

Glam­our, no doubt, can be cru­el and oppres­sive to women. At the start of the nov­el Karen is 40-years old and has two grown daugh­ters who are away in uni­ver­si­ty. She mar­ried her hus­band, Rick, right out of col­lege and imme­di­ate­ly had chil­dren at a young age. She then stayed home to take care of her chil­dren while her hus­band was away, all the while look­ing the part of the “executive’s wife in a fish blue cot­ton dress, its util­i­ty denied by a wide col­lar and a friv­o­lous­ly full skirt” (46). Karen’s speech is often imbued with the tropes of glam­our: fash­ion, beau­ty, and youth. At one point she looks in the mir­ror and remarks: “I look […] as if I had stepped out of Vogue. A card­board doll cut out of noth­ing. I am a suc­cess. I have con­formed to the pat­tern, and I wish to God I hadn’t. How have I let this thing hap­pen to me? When did it begin, and where?” (47). Karen’s frus­tra­tions were cer­tain­ly not endem­ic to Toron­to women of the 1950s, but the acknowl­edge­ment that she was “sim­ply los­ing a bat­tle with Hele­na Rubin­stein” (47) demon­strates that Toron­ton­ian women shared a sophis­ti­cat­ed knowl­edge of the pun­ish­ments and indig­ni­ties that they often must endure.10

Glamour’s Blithe Spirit

Cer­tain­ly, The Toron­to­ni­ans exhibits a very white and wealthy expres­sion of glam­our echoed by Karen’s rec­ol­lec­tion of some social dog­ger­el she reads in Sat­ur­day Night: “Toron­to has no class­es, / Only the Masseys and the mass­es” (144). Indeed, who are the Toron­to­ni­ans in The Toron­to­ni­ans? How­ells fur­ther asks, “who are these peo­ple des­ig­nat­ed by the nov­el­ist as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the city and its val­ues?” (58). Cer­tain­ly, there is a whiff of chutz­pah in a title that sug­gests the defin­i­tive text of the city. More­over, How­ells’ work sug­gests that Young’s title is iron­ic giv­en that “the spa­tial con­cep­tion of Toron­to is focused almost entire­ly on the new bur­geon­ing sur­bur­bia” (59). Karen refers to this area as “The Hill,” refer­ring to the geog­ra­phy of the neigh­bour­hoods north of Bloor Street. Rowan­wood, while fic­tion­al, would have resem­bled the tonier uptown neigh­bour­hoods such as Rosedale, For­est Hill, and Leaside.

The con­cept of glam­our has right­ly been crit­i­cized for its focus on wealth, and white­ness, and the exoti­ciza­tion of cer­tain cul­tures and peo­ple,11 but of course, The Toron­to­ni­ans is also a prod­uct of its time. Lau­ra Mul­vey pro­vides fur­ther con­text by ref­er­enc­ing Amer­i­can mass con­sump­tion in the 1950s:

It was a time when, in the con­text of the cold war, adver­tis­ing, movies and the actu­al pack­ag­ing and seduc­tive­ness of com­modi­ties all mar­ket­ed glam­our. Glam­our pro­claimed the desir­abil­i­ty of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ism to the out­side world and, inside, secured Amer­i­can­ness as inspi­ra­tion for the new­ly sub­ur­ban­ized white pop­u­la­tion as it buried incom­pat­i­ble mem­o­ries of immi­grant ori­gins. (96)

Beyond glamour’s com­mon mate­r­i­al com­po­nents of beau­ty, youth, and wealth lies less charm­ing ele­ments such as class divi­sion, com­modi­ti­za­tion, and envy. How­ev­er, there are many dif­fer­ent types of glam­our that extend beyond fash­ion and lux­u­ry. As Vir­ginia Postrel notes, “Glam­our is an imag­i­na­tive process that cre­ates a spe­cif­ic emo­tion­al response: a sharp mix­ture of pro­jec­tion, long­ing, admi­ra­tion, and aspi­ra­tion. It evokes an audience’s hopes and dreams and makes them seem attain­able, all the while main­tain­ing enough dis­tance to sus­tain the fan­ta­sy” (140). For Young, writ­ing in the 1950s and 60s, Toron­to had the poten­tial for glam­orous escape much in the same way that nar­ra­tives that fea­ture promi­nent tex­tu­al cities such as New York, Paris, or Lon­don offered its char­ac­ters the expe­ri­ence of seduc­tion and enchant­ment. Nev­er­the­less, Young was also aware of the ten­sions between “old” and “new” Toron­to­ni­ans. In Imag­in­ing Toron­to, Har­ris address­es one of the more overt­ly satir­i­cal moments in the nov­el when one of Karen’s obnox­ious neigh­bours, Mil­li­cent, phones and insists that Karen par­take in the char­i­ty bridge tour­na­ments she’s orga­niz­ing to help “New Canadians”:

You could trace the his­to­ry of the world back across a good many years just by remem­ber­ing Millicent’s brief but force­ful enthu­si­asms. The Kore­ans, the Israelis, the evict­ed Egyp­tians, the Hun­gar­i­ans. With­out even look­ing at a news­pa­per, you could be quite cer­tain that things were rel­a­tive­ly qui­et in for­eign parts if Mil­li­cent could find noth­ing more alarm­ing with which to con­cern her­self than the dif­fi­cul­ties, if any, of New Cana­di­ans. (14)

The joke, Har­ris points out, is that Mil­li­cent fails to rec­og­nize Rowanwood’s homo­ge­neous pop­u­la­tion, made up entire­ly of white Anglo-Sax­ons, where the mot­to of its inhab­i­tants is “every­body should live in ranch-style bun­ga­lows and be just like them­selves” (21).

The Toron­to­ni­ans is indeed a nov­el of man­ners, and arguably, a nov­el of manors as well giv­en how much atten­tion is placed on the nice­ly man­i­cured lawns and inte­ri­or designs of the hous­es in Rowan­wood. The lan­guage exhib­it­ed in the text often verges on high mod­ernism with its change in nar­ra­tive tone and imag­is­tic ten­den­cies, yet simul­ta­ne­ous­ly the text fre­quent­ly reads like a Noël Cow­ard play12 set in the sub­urbs of Toron­to instead of Man­hat­tan, fea­tur­ing a cast of well-heeled sophis­ti­cates exchang­ing wit­ty bon mots:

But don’t you love it darling?”

That might be putting it a lit­tle strong­ly,” Rick said.

You’re not a woman.”

I think some­body once ­point­ed that out to me before.” (70)

The charm­ing inter­play among the char­ac­ters is inter­spersed among the var­i­ous social gath­er­ings they are either host­ing or attend­ing, there­by exhibit­ing a con­stant air of sophis­ti­ca­tion and glam­our. Sophis­ti­ca­tion and glam­our plain­ly share many sim­i­lar traits, although Faye Ham­mill is quick to point out that “The word ‘sophis­ti­ca­tion’ undoubt­ed­ly has a much longer and more ety­mo­log­i­cal­ly com­plex his­to­ry than ‘glam­our’; I would also argue that the idea of sophis­ti­ca­tion as a desir­able qual­i­ty goes back a lit­tle fur­ther than the idea of glam­our” (19-20). Young, for her part, made a point to treat Toron­to as the “sophis­ti­cat­ed, cos­mopoli­tan city it is” (qtd. in Gre­w­al), and as such she cre­at­ed char­ac­ters that reflect a Toron­to imbued with the tenets of glam­our and sophis­ti­ca­tion in pop­u­lar fic­tion. In this regard, she effec­tive­ly shift­ed the dis­course away from the wilder­ness and ravines and embraced the beau­ty, desires, and ten­sions of the mod­ern city.

Conclusion: Finding the Glamour of Home

The Toron­to­ni­ans, for the mod­ern read­er, is a fan­ta­sy of a bygone era in Toron­to that ele­vates the narrative’s tex­tu­al glam­our. Indeed, glam­our and nos­tal­gia share sim­i­lar aes­thet­ic prop­er­ties as expres­sions of the untouch­able and dis­tant past. Eliz­a­beth Wil­son notes, almost tau­to­log­i­cal­ly, that the “long­ing of nos­tal­gia has a glam­our or a sweet­ness of its own” (Cul­tur­al Pas­sions 35), which res­onates in the pages of Young’s text as she gloss­es over decades of the city’s devel­op­ment. The lay­ers of glam­our and nos­tal­gia work in tan­dem in The Toron­to­ni­ans, as the mod­ern read­er may yearn for the glam­our of the past while Karen comes to under­stand that she has glam­or­ized her past in Gene­va and is slow­ly rec­og­niz­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty that the mod­ern city offers. Toward the end of The Toron­to­ni­ans, Karen walks towards Queen’s Park and makes the real­iza­tion that the fresh­ly man­i­cured homes of Rowan­wood are not for her:

A city with a future, like an indi­vid­ual with a future, could nev­er remain sta­t­ic for long, could not afford to expand indef­i­nite­ly along the lines of least resis­tance. The sub­urbs, as they now exist­ed, were the city’s lines of least resis­tance. The tow­er­ing build­ings to the south were the real yard­stick of its stature. (319)

To be sure, Toron­to has had pri­or dif­fi­cul­ty accept­ing its stature and poten­tial as a glam­orous cos­mopoli­tan space. In a Toron­to Star arti­cle dis­cussing the use of the Toron­to Ref­er­ence Library as the site for a music video by The Week­nd, a pop­u­lar Scar­bor­ough-raised singer, Edward Keenan writes, “Some­times you need some­thing like a music video to make you look at your own city with new eyes. See the glam­our of your home.” Indeed, Wil­son attests that, “The appear­ance of glam­our resides, though, or is cre­at­ed in com­bi­na­tion with dress, hair, scent, and even mise en scène” (“A Note on Glam­our” 107). As a mat­ter of course, def­i­n­i­tions of glam­our are slip­pery and muta­ble as well as per­son­al. The lan­guage of glam­our that infus­es the The Toron­to­ni­ans com­mu­ni­cates a dis­tinct­ly white mid­dle-class fem­i­nine desire to move beyond the sub­ur­ban domes­tic sphere of the 1950s into the devel­op­ing and live­ly bus­tle of the urban core that the city promis­es. Cer­tain­ly, Phyl­lis Brett Young’s work offers a win­dow into an excit­ing time in the city’s his­to­ry, seem­ing­ly show­cas­ing the glam­our of home. How­ev­er, the Toron­to of The Toron­to­ni­ans has vast­ly changed since its pub­li­ca­tion. The cur­rent expres­sion of glam­our in the city reveals itself in the celebri­ty of Drake and The Week­nd, both racial­ized peo­ple, under­scor­ing how the glam­our of home is a par­tial reflec­tion of Toronto’s vibrant mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism. Young’s work does not antic­i­pate the increased diver­si­ty of the city’s grow­ing pop­u­la­tion nor does it fore­see the pati­na of glam­our that paints the city dur­ing spec­tac­u­lar events such as the Toron­to Inter­na­tion­al Film Fes­ti­val, the Toron­to Pride Parade, Carib­ana or fash­ion week; how­ev­er The Toron­to­ni­ans does assume an innate glam­our for the city that, much like def­i­n­i­tions of glam­our, remains fluid.

Works Cited

Argue, Valerie. Fore­word. The Toron­to­ni­ans, by Phyl­lis Brett Young, McGill-Queen’s UP, 2007, pp. vii-xii.

Bai­ley, Peter. “Para­sex­u­al­i­ty and Glam­our: The Vic­to­ri­an Bar­maid as Cul­tur­al Pro­to­type.” Gen­der & His­to­ry. vol. 2, no. 2, 1990, pp. 148-72.

Baude­laire, Charles. “The Painter of Mod­ern Life.” The Painter of Mod­ern Life and Oth­er Essays. Trans­lat­ed by Jonathan Mayne. Phaidon Press, 1964, pp. 1-35.

Brown, Judith. Glam­our in Six Dimen­sions: Mod­ernism and the Radi­ance of Form. Cor­nell UP, 2009.

Castel­li, Cli­no T. and Stephen Gun­dle. The Glam­our Sys­tem. Pal­grave Macmil­lan, 2006.

Cooke, Nathalie, and Suzanne Mor­ton. Intro­duc­tion. The Toron­to­ni­ans, by Phyl­lis Brett Young, McGill-Queen’s UP, 2007, pp. xvii-xxxi.

Edwards, Justin D, and Dou­glas Ivi­son, edi­tors. Down­town Cana­da: Writ­ing Cana­di­an Cities. Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Press, 2005.

Dyhouse, Car­ol. Glam­our: Women, His­to­ry, Fem­i­nism. Zed, 2010.

Fitzger­ald, F. Scott. The Great Gats­by. 1925. Scrib­n­er, 1953.

Gre­w­al, San. “The sto­ry of a local lit­er­ary gem, lost and found.” The Toron­to Star, 26 Jan. 2008, https://​www​.thes​tar​.com/​n​e​w​s​/​2​0​0​8​/​0​1​/​2​6​/​t​h​e​_​s​t​o​r​y​_​o​f​_​a​_​l​o​c​a​l​_​l​i​t​e​r​a​r​y​_​g​e​m​_​l​o​s​t​_​a​n​d​_​f​o​u​n​d​.​h​tml. Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.

Gun­dle, Stephen. Glam­our: A His­to­ry. Oxford UP, 2008.

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Hansen, Niel­sine. “What About Glam­our?” The Iowa Home­mak­er. vol.9, no.5, 1929, pp. 3.

Ham­mill, Faye. Sophis­ti­ca­tion: A Lit­er­ary and Cul­tur­al His­to­ry. Liv­er­pool UP, 2010.

Hill, Col­in. Mod­ern Real­ism in Eng­lish-Cana­di­an Fic­tion. Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Press, 2012.

How­ells, Coral Ann. “From Rowan­wood to Down­town: The Toron­to­ni­ans and Girls Fall Down.Lit­er­a­ture and the Glo­cal City: Reshap­ing the Eng­lish Cana­di­an Imag­i­nary, edit­ed by Ana Maria Fraile-Mar­cos, Rout­ledge, 2014, pp. 55-68.

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—-. Cul­tur­al Pas­sions: Fans, Aes­thetes and Tarot Read­ers. I.B. Tau­ris, 2013.


1 The “good” moniker is attrib­uted to William How­land, the 25th may­or of Toron­to from 1886-87, who coined the phrase “Toron­to the Good” in an attempt to rid the city of all man­ner of vices includ­ing gam­bling, drugs and prostitution.

2 See Rus­sell Smith Noise (1998); Dionne Brand What We All Long For (2005); Stephen Marche Ray­mond and Han­nah (2005); Michael Red­hill Con­so­la­tion (2006); for a com­pre­hen­sive list and cel­e­bra­tion of the city’s lit­er­a­ture see the now defunct, but still avail­able, web­site “Read­ing Toron­to” http://​read​ingt​.read​ingc​i​ties​.com/​i​n​d​e​x​.​php

3 In Mod­ern Real­ism in Cana­di­an Fic­tion Col­in Hill acknowl­edges that while scarce, there is a tra­di­tion of mod­ernist fic­tion in Cana­da, how­ev­er a mod­ernist lit­er­ary his­to­ry of Cana­di­an writ­ing has yet to be writ­ten (5).

4; In “Par­sex­u­al­i­ty and Glam­our: The Vic­to­ri­an Bar­maid as Cul­tur­al Pro­to­type” Peter Bai­ley relates glam­our to moder­ni­ty and iden­ti­fied it as a prop­er­ty involv­ing pubic vis­i­bil­i­ty of a desir­able object such as the Vic­to­ri­an bar­maid who func­tioned as a dis­tanc­ing mech­a­nism fuelling desire and envy from her patrons.

5 “The appari­tion of these faces in the crowd; / Petals on a wet, black bough.” (Pound: 1913).

6; Phyl­lis Brett Young’s daugh­ter, Valerie Argue, acknowl­edges in the fore­word to the 2007 reis­sue of The Toron­to­ni­ans: “My moth­er was not a fem­i­nist. How­ev­er, she undoubt­ed­ly would have been had she been born in 1944 instead of 1914. In The Toron­to­ni­ans one can see her attempt — played out through her hero­ine Karen — to come to terms not only with post World War II mate­ri­al­ism but also with the strong social pres­sure on a woman to find ful­fill­ment as lady of the sub­ur­ban manor” (viii).

7 A ver­sion of this sec­tion has appeared in Des­cant 162, “Beyond Toron­to the Good and Banal,” 2013.

8 Many of these designs were exhib­it­ed recent­ly in 2015 at the Paul Cock­er Gallery for their exhi­bi­tion “Shap­ing Cana­di­an Moder­ni­ty” as part of the 50th anniver­sary cel­e­bra­tions of City Hall. See also George Kape­los’ Com­pet­ing Mod­ernisms: Toronto’s New City Hall and Square (2015) and Civic Sym­bol: Cre­at­ing Toronto’s New City Hall, 1952-1966 (2015) by Christo­pher Arm­strong for fur­ther explo­ration into the con­struc­tion and com­pe­ti­tion of Toronto’s City Hall.

9 Many issues that were tack­led in the pages of Chate­laine in the ear­ly 1960s are rather pro­gres­sive giv­en the con­text of the era. In the “Fea­tures” sec­tion women wrote arti­cles explor­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in and out of the home includ­ing frank dis­cus­sions about the ambiva­lence of moth­er­hood which includ­ed the line that anoth­er preg­nan­cy was as “wel­come as the income tax” (Cooke and Mor­ton xxv).

10 Young’s invo­ca­tion of Rubin­stein is fit­ting giv­en her feud with the Ontario-born, Eliz­a­beth Arden.

11 Stephen Gundle’s chap­ter on “The Hol­ly­wood Star Sys­tem” in Glam­our: A His­to­ry (2008) pro­vides in depth detail into ways that Hollywood’s gold­en age made “room for diver­si­ty” by ensur­ing that “eth­nic dif­fer­ence was turned into exot­ic spec­ta­cle” (182).

12 Faye Hammill’s Sophis­ti­ca­tion: A Lit­er­ary and Cul­tur­al His­to­ry (2010) and John Potvin’s Bach­e­lors of a Dif­fer­ent Sort: Queer Aes­thet­ics, Mate­r­i­al Cul­ture and the Mod­ern Inte­ri­or in Britain (2014) pro­vide excel­lent analy­ses into the gram­mar of glam­our in the works of Noël Coward.