Stephen Leacock was, in 1912, a famous Canadian writer. He was assistant professor of political science at McGill University at the time. In 1912 his book Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town was published. It was an idealized picture of a little Canadian town, modelled after the town he knew on Lake Simcoe, Orillia. Sunshine Sketches is not a novel but, rather, a series of short stories. Leacock’s sketches serve, for me, as an example, a model, for my own prose-poetry. My poetry is in many ways a series of sketches, shorter than short stories, usually packed into a page. To write a bold and masterful novel with monumental literary images has always seemed beyond me as it was for Leacock.
Sunshine Sketches is full of humour but it is kind; it focuses on human folly; it is an elaborate web of varying perspectives and varying narrators. The book was published ten weeks before ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s visit to Canada. ‘Abdu’l-Baha always called the Canadians kind. –Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 8 March 2007.
They laugh at each other here, Stephen;
you would have liked Australia, its wit
and irony. I think they laugh more here.
A writer who is funny needs to talk to
his world—I try; I make it simple but,
perhaps, not simple enough. I don’t have
your skill and talent, Stephen. I was just
five months in utero when you died in ’44.
Are you passing on to me some of the power,
the leaven by which the arts and wonders of
the world are made manifest, Stephen?
Are you Stephen? Are you? Will you?
Your fictitious small town, Mariposa,
could have been Burlington, Picton,
King City, Dundas—one of the towns
where I lived back in the sixties and the
ordinarily ordinary people I knew then…
or one of the towns in Australia where
I came to dwell: Katherine, Smithton,
Zeehan, George Town—but the humour
is sharper here, cuts closer to the bone,
but still it is the same humour of loss
of faith, disillusionment, shattering of
ideals that have not been replaced with
animating purpose and strong convictions:
rather, a deeply inlaid scepticism, cynicism
which is a real, a genuine, philosophy of life.
8 March 2007