He who laughs last is reading Josh Freed

“Montreal is in my blood … an unpredictable, intriguing, special town—battered but beautiful, full of potholes, but full of life.”

Life in Montreal would be a lot more boring if we didn’t have Josh Freed poking fun at its vagaries. In his inimitable style, Freed has a way of turning commonplace activities into sources of joyful absurdity.

Josh’s column in The Gazette is the first thing many of us turn to on Saturday morning. It helps to get a smile going, a knowing shake of the head or a hearty chuckle or three, as we see ourselves in his narrative.

Freed can be self-deprecating or sardonic. He laughs at our peculiarities as Montreal anglos and admonishes those who fail to appreciate us. Over the years he has written about his battles, from pigeons to insomnia, always with a twinkle and a grudging acceptance of life’s imperfections. He has marveled at new tech as he regrets the old.

Some of his best pieces, 46 of them published over the past 10 years, are in a new collection published as He Who Laughs Last (Vehicule Press, $20).

Keeping up with hi-tech devices, and trying to remember passwords, living in a world where just about everything is being photographed and slapped on Facebook, trying to stay fit and eat right, are among the topics he attacks with mirthful vigour.

And anyone who has seen Josh’s desk and workspace, and never understood how he makes sense of the mess, will delight at his reflections on his work world, and contempt for “the tyranny of the tidy.”

Wrapping Rage—his essay on the way products are enclosed in impossible-to-open containers—will ring true to many of us, and recall a memorable Larry David episode on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In many ways, Josh is our very own Larry—or is it the other way around?

One of the most touching is his essay Bonjour! Mon nom est Josh, written in French for L’Actualité this spring and reblogged the day after the PQ won the Quebec election.

This plea to understand who we really are, beyond the clichéd anglo squarehead, became the most widely read online piece in the magazine’s history.

Josh speaks for many of us when he says: “Montreal is in my blood … an unpredictable, intriguing, special town—battered but beautiful, full of potholes, but full of life.

“It’s a huge laboratory where the English and French languages mix together on the street like no other city on Earth … living proof that English and French get along very well in practice—if not in theory.

“With patience and time, I believe we can have a strong anglo community in a strong French Quebec; a place where the two solitudes can finally become one.”

It’s that kind of book.


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