Edith Iglauer, Author


The arc taken by Edith Iglauer’s career—from war correspondent for The Cleveland News through her New Yorker profiles to vivid, insightful books about life in the rugged, frozen north of her adopted home, Canada, is a fascinating one. She herself suggested, in receiving an honorary doctorate in 2006 from the University of Victoria, that the bold trajectory of her life (which began in Cleveland in 1917) may have been set by two extraordinary teachers she encountered at Hathaway Brown School for Girls in nearby Shaker Heights: Millicent Raymond, HB’s headmistress, “who gave a thrilling course in English composition and literature,” and her Latin teacher, Anna Blake, who led them through Virgil’s majestic narrative of Aeneas’s harrowing escape from the ashes of Troy to found Rome.

How else to explain the stories such as the laying of the foundation for the World Trade Center and the founding of the United Nations (both of which she chronicled for Harper’s), the construction of an ice road in the Arctic over the 325 miles that separate Yellowknife and Great Bear Lake (the subject of her 1974 book, Denison’s Ice Road) or the making of a prime minister (her much-quoted New Yorker profile of Pierre Trudeau)? These were the kinds of stories, she later said, “that cry out for that special treatment we call creative non-fiction.”

In the early 1940s Edith Iglauer, just two years out of Wellesley College with a bachelor’s degree in political science (and the Woodrow Wilson Prize), was already covering First Lady and political activist Eleanor Roosevelt. She had sold her first articles—to her hometown newspapers and the respected Christian Science Monitor—back in 1939 as a post-graduate student at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, Iglauer moved to Washington, D.C., where she got a job in the Office of War Information writing radio news broadcasts that were beamed to Nazi-occupied countries—and began attending Eleanor Roosevelt’s weekly press conferences. “As the newest and youngest reporter there,” she remembers, “I kept my mouth shut, learned a lot, and loved being part of her intimate circle of reporters.” By 1945 Iglauer was on the ground in Italy and Yugoslavia, covering the war for The Cleveland News.

In the years that followed, her articles appeared in McCall’s, The Atlantic Monthly, Maclean’s (Canada’s premiere magazine) and, beginning in 1961, The New Yorker, under editor William Shawn. She would also produce five critically acclaimed books: The New People: The Eskimo’s Journey into Our Time (1966; reissued in 1979 and 2000 as Inuit Journey), which chronicled the emergence of native cooperatives in the eastern Arctic; Denison’s Ice Road (1974; since reissued three times); Seven Stones: A Portrait of  Arthur Erickson (1981), an expansion of her New Yorker profile of “the most discussed Canadian architect of our time” ; Fishing with John (1988), a moving memoir of the years Edith and her second husband, John Daly, spent fishing the often harsh waters off the coast of Vancouver and living on his 41-foot salmon trawler; and The Strangers Next Door (1991), a collection of stories that sought to explain Canadians to Americans, and Americans to their northern neighbors.

Fishing with John was later made into the movie Navigating the Heart, starring Jaclyn Smith and Tim Matheson. But the book (the Toronto Globe and Mail called it “touching . . . yet totally unsentimental”) itself evoked the classic 1951 film, The African Queen, with Daly (a crusty local fisherman) as Bogie and Edith (the sophisticated New York writer) as Hepburn. “I had the idea that from time to time we would go into charming little seaports like the ones I’d seen at Cape Cod,” she wrote, “and step out for dinner to the small, chic kind of restaurant one finds in summer along the Eastern seaboard of the United States.”

“She had brought along a low-necked dinner gown for such evenings,” notes reviewer David Lancashire, “but instead found herself clambering up ladders over oily black pilings just to get ashore at the fish-plant docks in towns where her husband occasionally took her to a Chinese eatery.” “When you attain the oneness I have with the sea and the mountains, and the B.C. coast,” Daly had once told her, “you can face anything, and alone, if you have to.” Edith’s four short years with this extraordinary man, from 1974 until he was felled by a heart attack in 1978, were, she says, among the happiest and most rewarding in her life. (A 24-year marriage to New Yorker writer and culture maven Philip Hamburger, with whom she had covered the War in Europe, had ended in divorce in 1966.) She still makes her home in British Columbia, where she is said to be at work on another book.

Dennis Dooley

For more on the author visit www.edithiglauer.com


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