“Rolling the Bones is a Runyonesque memoir — rough and ready, but also poignant and clear-sighted. A fighting spirit fills these pages, but also a distinctive respect for literature and art. What Kamen writes about the sculptor Rodin could equally apply to parts of this memoir: ‘what [was] forced from a lump of clay was so intimate it was nearly unbearable.’ Failure, misapprehension, luck and receptivity to life — that is, the vicissitudes of human nature — mark this memoir from beginning to end.”
— Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces and The Winter Vault
“Direct, funny and insightful. This is the story of young Valdis — adventurer, lover of women, working-class kid on the make, but without bitterness or anger, just an intense joie de vivre. To top it all off, the small characters jump off the page like miniatures from Dickens.”
— Antanas Sileika, author of Buying on Time and Woman in Bronze
I really liked the grade three teacher / acrobat part. It could be the metaphor for the whole memoir — it is visual, has complicated ties to the circus (could be the art world) and the world of the mundane (school) … and how we are always slightly on show and never quite fully present in anything we do.
— John Kissick
Frighteningly honest. The Pat story reminds me of the time Guy Maddin told me he gave Steve Snyder a producer credit on his first film because Steve bought him breakfast during the shoot.
— Cliff Eyland
I wondered at the beginning if I’d be able to relate to the machismo of some of the stories (the booze, drugs and broads parts), but found that they were so carefully and lovingly described, and in such beautiful language that I could easily relate. The language was one of the real pleasures of the book for me … In a city so changed in the last few decades, so relentlessly commercial and antithetical to what one might nostalgically refer to as counter-culture, it’s very good to be reminded that you don’t have to go along for the ride.
Rolling the Bones is hilarious. I’m surprised I didn’t wake the neighbors with my howls. Brilliant…and it captures the era so well.
— Katherine Zsolt
Damon Runyon — eat your heart (or art) out!
You are one very funny art dealer/storyteller.
— Geraldine Davis
I read ’em once and rolled ’em again and like a good memoir should, it runs like a river knows where it’s going. I liked most what I knew far too little about — the refugee’s burden, the impossible work of adjusting to a saner world where the horror of war can’t run you over anymore, but where you never really feel safe, which is after all the hallmark of home, and where your children are left to untangle the confusion and pain bequeathed them and if they are brave enough, shed their exile-skin. You did it in your life and now you’ve written about it fearlessly, and it was danged funny when it could be.
— Ted Hodgetts
Good stuff, Leo. The parts at the beginning about your childhood in Ottawa, and at the end about your life in the art world are really compelling. Such a struggle to be in the world, and be yourself. I was going to say it’s the same struggle we all face, but that’s not true. It’s the same struggle presented to everyone, but many run from it in various ways. You and your story take it head on.
— David Cavanagh
I couldn’t put it down. Funny, poignant . . . I passed Craighurst this weekend, almost took the exit to find that schoolhouse.
— Curtis Amisich
The L.I.F.E. School chapter brought back memories – though not about sitting around naked at Barry’s farm. I remember the stories. The whole book is wonderful, but I must say, the chapter about your parents was really beautiful, and I read the passage about the company of men to my husband.
— Gail Kerbel