Elyse Friedman, writer, screenwriter, poet (born 1963 in Toronto, ON). Elyse Friedman graduated from film studies at Sheridan College. She also studied writing at the Humber College School for Writers and screenwriting at the Canadian Film Centre. After nearly 10 years working in corporate Canada as a writer and researcher, Friedman joined CBC Radio in Winnipeg, writing scripts for a talk show that would grow into the program "Definitely Not The Opera." She writes for film, with credits including the screenplay for the Genie Award-winning film Suddenly Naked (2001), a comedy about two writers who meet and fall in love across an age divide of 20 years.
Elyse Friedman's first novel, Then Again (1999), shortlisted for a Trillium Book Award, is set in Toronto. It presents Marla and Michelle Shafer, reuniting to celebrate their millionaire brother Joel's restoration of their parents' suburban home to its original 70s style. Both Shafer parents have died, and Joe hires two actors to play their parents' parts at the opening party. Each sibling automatically reverts to their childhood roles when the ensuing comedy, calamity and crises threaten to overwhelm all. Friedman reveals an exceptional ability to present black comedy thoughtfully.
Elyse Friedman's Know Your Monkey (2003) is a collection of poetry that presents finely polished scenarios of youth, middle age and family. In "The Great Thing My Cousin George Did," a man simultaneously drives two cars from Toronto to Hamilton: "100 yards then hop out/ run back to/ the other car/ 100 yards past the first car ... with the polio/ leg." Her vivid language and strong rhythms draw the reader into each poem's human and humane world.
Friedman says she "writes comedy with a dark underbelly," a style much in evidence in her second novel, Waking Beauty (2004). Allison Penny goes to bed one evening as a "fat troll" unhappy with her body, her roommates, her parents and her life, then awakens the next morning slim and beautiful. On the surface it would appear a modern fairytale. But Allison comes to realize that beauty is meaningless without the inner strength to navigate a maze of loutish suitors, lusty roommates and lecherous employers. Regardless of Allison's revealing discoveries, the novel suggests that, rightly or wrongly, the reality remains that the outside appearance of all things and beings matters.
The Long Short Story (2004), a collection of short fiction and a novella, explores with wit and empathy how individuals cope with modern living. The story "The Soother," which won a 2006 Gold National Magazine Award, tells of a stressed middle class family man who seeks the company of a sex worker to be soothed and cuddled. A second story from the collection, "Truth," was selected for the 2006 Journey Prize collection and appeared in Best Canadian Stories.
Elyse Friedman continues to write for film and page in Toronto.