RUBINSKY, Holley




Author Tags: Fiction

Holley Rubinsky resided in Kaslo, B.C. for more than thirty years prior to her death at age 72, due to cancer, on August 1, 2015. Born in Los Angeles on May 18, 1943, Rubinsky was predeceased by her younger, second husband, Yuri Rubinsky, whom she met in Banff, where she also befriended writers Alistair McLeod, Sandra Birdsell and W.O. Mitchell. She is survived by her daughter Robin Ballard, who lives in Switzerland.

Her second book, At First I Hope for Rescue, was nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. The title story in Rapid Transits and Other Stories (Polestar, 1991) won the $10,000 McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and the National Magazine Award Gold Medal for Fiction (published by Malahat Review). Set in the interior of British Columbia, Rubinsky's novel Beyond This Point (McClelland & Stewart, 2006) examined the lives of five women dealing with unavoidable change.

If there’s a best short-story-of-the-year competition, we think Holley Rubinsky ought to submit either the title story for South of Elfrida (B&G $19.95), about a birdwatching field trip in Arizona, or ‘Desert Dreams,’ in which Nina rents a seventeen-foot Easy Loader from U-Haul to rescue Miriam from the nursing home because her mother “just wants to look at the ocean one last time.” Most of Rubinsky’s eighteen stories feature mature women, usually estranged from, or missing, men in America’s mid-west. Each sentence is carefully constructed. Oddly, many of the early stories include animals—turtles, emus, birds, a cat, a poodle, a rooster, a rat. It’s those two aforementioned longer stories that generate a memorable resonance; either might have served as a better opener. The protagonist Jean’s fascination with a self-assured but narcissistic “hawk man” who leads a gaggle of female bird watchers through desolate Cochise County is ultimately supplanted by her loyalty to her bird-eating cat in ‘South of Elfrida.’ As in an Alice Munro story, the reader goes, “Yes, this is how life really is.” Fulfilling because it is unpredictable.

Rubinsky first visited Canada in 1970 and immigrated in 1976. From 2006 to 2008, she was the host of The Writers' Show for writers and readers, produced by Kootenay Coop Radio CJLY in Nelson, B.C. "The show’s purpose is," she wrote, "to make listeners aware of writers’ lives and to explain the process of writing to readers and others who are interested in how it’s done." [2006, Shows 1- 9: Anne Fleming, Cynthia Flood, Bill Gaston, Almeda Glenn Miller, John Lent, Rita Moir, Tom Wayman, Caroline Woodward. / 2007, Shows 10- 33: Angie Abdou, Caroline Adderson, Vivien Bowers, Anne De Grace, Don Gayton, Terry Glavin, Leona Gom, Katherine Gordon, John Gould, Kristjana Gunnars, Steve Guppy, Pauline Holdstock, George K. Ilsley, Patrick Lane, Adam Lewis Schroeder, Pearl Luke, Andrea MacPherson, Kathy Page, Bill Schermbrucker, Rhea Tregebov, Lynne Van Luven, Carol Windley, Terence Young. Actor Lucas Myers; ornithologist and writer Dick Cannings; publisher Diane Morriss; agent, Morty Mint. / 2008, Shows 34-41: George Bowering, Baba Brinkman, Vicki Delany, Mark Forsythe, Edith Iglauer, Theresa Kishkan, Ian McAllister, Trevor Owen of WIER, Mary Schendlinger, Audrey Thomas, John Vaillant.]

With her M.Ed from U.C.L.A., Rubinsky also hosted literary retreats and enjoyed teaching children with disabilities at the Kaslo Elementary School. She had a single-engine land private pilot's license obtained after she received a scholarship from the Ninety-Nines, the International Organization for Women Pilots, and sold an article to Cosmopolitan Magazine about learning to fly. Those funds paid for her lessons in a Piper Cherokee 140 at Santa Monica Airport. In her later years she practiced Mahayana Buddhism as taught by the Dalai Lama.

In 2015, she wrote on her website: "As a baby I had “anxiety hands”. My parents thought that my staring at people and wringing my hands was funny. I must have known something even back then. How one gets from a baby and child – not overly loved but not badly treated, either – to a teenager and adult riven by depression, guilt and various neuroses (I spent years in analysis) is a mystery. I probably did have a major disorder, which I wrote about in a story called “Borderline” in South of Elfrida, that made it necessary for me to "ride shotgun" on an unreliable mind.

"Insomnia and fibromyalgia, knowing too much about sexual assault on a child and never discovering why, lack of confidence, often overwrought, did not make me an attentive mother. Since studying Mahayana Buddhism as HH the Dalai Lama teaches it to the West, I see that many of my emotional issues were self indulgent, and, I realize now, a waste of time.

"Yet, fictionalizing my misery did enable me to get through those crazy days. Having written, the writer is saved. I had a supportive second husband, Yuri Rubinsky, for whom I was always grateful. He died far too young, at 43. You don’t marry a younger man to be left a widow, but it happened to me.

"I was raised by the ocean, with grey skies and smog. Moving to the mountains, choosing a place that would hold me in the long run was what I did when I moved to the village of Kaslo, B.C., population still hovering around one thousand. Kaslo is a real community with a mixed bag of people. The resurrection and evolution of my house – without plumbing or heating or foundation when I bought it – involved me for thirty-five years; it's now beautiful and homey with a second-storey sleep deck, a sensible idea if you live in bear country. I longed for the ocean, however, and had to learn to love what I saw looking out."

Born in Krakow in 1924, her mother-in-law, Anna Rubinsky, died only two months before her, in Victoria.

Her final publisher, Ruth Linka, commented upon Holley Rubinsky's death: “I was honoured to work with Holley at Brindle & Glass, first to publish South of Elfrida and then later when she edited for us. In South of Elfrida Holley wrote about women on the move, physically and emotionally, and even though community and her home were clearly important to her, I will always remember Holley as a person open to others, to new experiences and to travelling in every sense of the word.”

BOOKS:

South of Elfrida (Brindle & Glass 2013) Short stories $14.99 978-1-927366-05-9 • $19.95; 978-1-927366-06-6 • $14.99 pb

Weight of the Bear (self-published limited edition, 2008). A shortened and edited version of Beyond This Point.

Beyond This Point (McClelland & Stewart, 2006)

At First I Hope for Rescue (Knopf Canada, 1997; Picador (USA), 1998)

Rapid Transits and Other Stories (Polestar Press, 1990)

[BCBW 2015] "Fiction"

South of Elfrida by Holley Rubinsky (Brindle & Glass $19.95)
Review (2013)


from BCBW 2013
If there’s a best short-story-of-the-year competition, we think Holley Rubinsky ought to submit either the title story for South of Elfrida, about a birdwatching field trip in Arizona, or ‘Desert Dreams,’ in which Nina rents a seventeen-foot Easy Loader from U-Haul to rescue Miriam from the nursing home because her mother “just wants to look at the ocean one last time.”

Most of Rubinsky’s eighteen stories feature mature women in America’s mid-west, usually estranged from, or missing, men. Each sentence is carefully constructed.

Oddly, many of the early stories include animals—turtles, emus, birds, a cat, a poodle, a rooster, a rat. It’s those two aforementioned longer stories that generate a memorable resonance; either might have served as a better opener. The protagonist, Jean’s, fascination with a self-assured but narcissistic “hawk man” who leads a gaggle of female bird watchers through desolate Cochise County is ultimately supplanted by her loyalty to her bird-eating cat in ‘South of Elfrida.’ As in an Alice Munro story, the reader goes, “Yes, this is how life really is.” Fulfilling because it is unpredictable.

Rubinsky lives in Kaslo, the publisher is on Vancouver Island and the cover is garish orange, so don’t hold your breath for a Giller nomination; but she’s the real deal for anyone who enjoys sophisticated storytelling.

For several years Rubinsky was host of The Writers’ Show, about writing and publishing, produced by Kootenay Coop Radio CJLY in Nelson.

978-1-927366-05-9