The Outside Chance of Maximilian Glick
Nora D.S. Robins is co-ordinator of Internal Collections at the
University of Calgary Libraries.
This is the story of 12-year-old Maximilian Glick, the long-awaited only child of a Jewish family in a small, northern Ontario town called Steelton. Max suffers from a surfeit of parental love and quickly learns that Jewish parents “don’t begat children, they build them.” For his eighth birthday, his parents gave him a piano rather than the model Boeing 747 he craved. By the time he is twelve, he is tired of expectations and pressure and he dreams of becoming “somebody” and “escaping” Steelton.
Max is aided in his dream by his unconventional music teacher, Derek Blackthorn, and, more importantly, by the new rabbi, Kalman Teitelman. The rabbi is a member of a strict Orthodox sect, the Lubavitcher, mistakenly sent to Steelton to replace the recently deceased, liberal Rabbi Kaminsky. The close-knit Jewish community is not ready for this young man with his wide-brimmed black hat, black frock coat with black satin lapels, black shoes, and white socks (not to mention his red beard and untrimmed sideburns), who preaches about evil and suffering. But he, like Max, wants out, and eventually runs away to fulfill his dream of becoming a stand-up comic. By doing so he helps his friend Max to realize that, through music, he too will eventually break away.
Torgov won the 1975 Stephen Leacock Award for Humour for his first book A Good Place to Come From, and continued his success in the rather sombre Abramsky Variations. In this, his third book, Torgov has created two delightful heroes in a rather predictable plot. It is a very pleasant, funny, and affectionate satire on Jewish parents and their expectations for their children as seen from a child’s point of view.