Celebrating the Stephen Leacock Festival and Humour in Canada

July 23, 2014

Stephen Leacock's classic story collection, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, and its fictional setting of small-town Mariposa has delighted audiences for 102 years. Before and since, Canadians have upheld a long tradition of hilarity, in whatever circumstances -- and this nationwide sense of humour is being celebrated this week at the Leacock Summer Festival in Orillia. This selection of eight side-clutching LPG titles is sure to leave you laughing.

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Stephen Leacock’s classic story collection, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, and its fictional setting of small-town Mariposa has delighted audiences for 102 years. Before and since, Canadians have upheld a long tradition of hilarity, in whatever circumstances – and this nationwide sense of humour is being celebrated this week at the Leacock Summer Festival in Orillia. This selection of eight side-clutching LPG titles is sure to leave you laughing. Figure out how you’d like to be tickled (so to speak), and then go from there.

 

For a high-spirited chuckle:
Dance, Gladys, Dance by Cassie Stocks (NeWest Press)

With emphasis on “spirited” – the eponymous Gladys is a ghost, met by life-stuck protagonist Frieda Zweig through a classified ad. The relationship between the two women is heartfelt, honest, and hilarious: the book won the Leacock Medal for Humour in 2013.

 

For lovers who laugh:
All My Friends are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman (Coach House Books)

The superhero premise of this adorable novel, while far from reality, resonates with anyone who’s ever been in love: how to make yourself truly seen by the one you love most. This sweetly funny tale of Tom and his new wife, The Perfectionist, has even inspired real-life newlyweds: it’s been given away as wedding favours more than once.

 

For people who need to forget a bad game (aka Leafs fans*):
Valery the Great by Elaine McCluskey (Anvil Press)

McCluskey’s collection of short stories focuses on the sports stories seldom heard: the ones about people who lost, got hurt, gave up. The author handles her sombre theme with comic mastery, finding points of light in the darkest places. *Full disclosure: this is me.

 

For a dose of pop-culture absurdism:
Ronald Reagan, My Father by Brian Joseph Davis (ECW Press)

This short story collection of sharp characters in dull settings is teeming with social commentary, cruel ironies, and names like “Mayor McCheese”. Bonus: the cover will have everyone on public transit thinking you’re reading a hard-hitting political memoir.

 

For anyone who can laugh at machismo:
Deep Too by Stan Dragland (BookThug)

Dragland’s pastiche of non-fiction stories interspersed with spam emails, raunchy limericks, film reviews, and more attacks the foundations of stereotypical masculinity with three-parts humour, one-part ferocity.

 

For governmental guffaws:
Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament, edited by Stephen Brockwell and Stuart Ross (Mansfield Press)

Though a number of prospective bills were lost when Canadian Parliament was prorogued in 2009, a wealth of poems were inspired instead. Together they became Rogue Stimulus, a poetry collection running the gamut from bawdy and slapstick to downright outraged.

 

For those looking for a little enviro-humour:
The Green Shadow by Andrew Struthers (New Star Books)

Originally serialized in The Georgia Straight, this book earned Struthers a 1995 National Magazine Award for Humour. It’s no surprise: this illustrated account of life in Tofino, BC, among heated protests of a proposed logging initiative, evokes a modern-day Mariposa.

 

For someone looking to combine the two above:
Caricature Cartoon Canada, edited by Terry Mosher (Linda Leith Publishing)

Editor Terry Mosher, also known as his Montreal Gazette pseudonym AISLIN, asks political cartoonists nation-wide for “the cartoon you have drawn to date that you would most like to be remembered for”. The resulting compendium is predictably hilarious and surprisingly incisive.

 

 


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