Lunch with Jan Wong


298 pages
ISBN 0-385-25982-4
DDC 920.071






Susannah D. Ketchum, a former teacher-librarian at the Bishop Strachan
School in Toronto, serves on the Southern Ontario Library Services


[Poison] pen in hand, Jan Wong delicately wipes the corner of an archly
smiling mouth as her latest victim flees the table, upsetting a wine
glass in the process. Or so it would appear from the book’s cover.
Actually, Wong tells us that no one “has ever walked out on lunch,”
though some interviews have ended rather abruptly. Wong’s very popular
“Lunch With” column began by accident. She was the reporter
available when Margaret Atwood changed her mind and agreed to a Globe
and Mail interview, suggesting that it take place over lunch. Initially
Wong wrote “the standard famous-author interview with its invisible
journalist,” but then her editor asked for a first-person rewrite. The
resulting column was a huge success (except with Atwood) and became the
first of 225 “lunches.”

This book contains over 60 lunches, one of which has not previously
appeared in print. (Jeanne Beker, host of Fashion Television, scooped
Wong, printing “her own version in Southam newspapers across Canada
and in The National Post, our direct competitor.”) The real plus to
this book, however, lies in the comments with which Wong supplements
most interviews. We learn of the “intensive research” that preceded
each lunch, the stratagems employed by some subjects to try to avoid or
control an interview, the various reactions of readers, and the
threatened lawsuits (two materialized, neither succeeded).

Lunches that made the final selection include those with Don Cherry,
Margaret Trudeau, Dr. Henry Morgentaler, Dr. Ruth, Jukka-Pekka Saraste,
Eartha Kitt, Valerie Pringle, and Stockwell Day. Despite the occasional
misplaced modifier, Wong writes well and is very entertaining. She
published her last G & M column—with herself—on May 25, 2002. Fans
who miss her column will find some solace in this collection.


Wong, Jan., “Lunch with Jan Wong,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,