Way Down Deep in the Belly of the Beast: A Memoir of the Seventies


258 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 1-895555-96-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Pauline Carey

Pauline Carey is the author of Magic and What’s in a Name?


Douglas Fetherling was in his twenties when he was lured back from
London to Toronto by “romantic entanglements and other poverties.”
This book gives off the breathless air of the nonstop talker, with
little time for stylistic deliberation but an arsenal of quirky phrases
and quick jabs of outrageous opinion. Fetherling spent the 1970s in
Toronto, where he worked as a freelance journalist and lived a life of
chaos, insecurity, and excitement, always hoping to buy enough time for
what he called his private writing. His career over this period mirrors
the untidy cultural growth of Canada itself. At the end of the decade,
in a practical effort to secure his future, he bought a house and
assumed a mortgage.

Following an initial chapter about the London he had left behind,
Fetherling supplies a wealth of information about publications
(particularly Saturday Night), writers, editors, artists, musicians,
body-rub parlors, communal houses, and many other oddities of 1970s
Toronto. These pages are stuffed with famous names. Robert Fulford,
Charles Taylor, and Vera Frankel are among the many “rare birds” who
stuck with Fetherling in spite of what he saw as his glaring
deficiencies. One of the book’s highlights is his long riff on
antiquarian booksellers and the part they played in his self-education.

This memoir is a nostalgic ride for those who lived through the time
and a treasure-trove for future cultural historians. Above all, it is a
personal odyssey—the portrait of an individual with an insatiable
curiosity, an endless fund of opinion, and an ability to explore and
milk any subject under the sun. For 12 years, Fetherling writes, “I
never knew the luxury of an unexpressed thought.”


Fetherling, Douglas., “Way Down Deep in the Belly of the Beast: A Memoir of the Seventies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/3696.