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Old 08-16-2020, 12:41 PM   #16
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Given that we live in a time that is itself but a caricature, I should think you would find it quite apt, Jon. But let's not go too far down that particular road, lest we all end up in P&R.
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Old 08-16-2020, 01:01 PM   #17
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Given that we live in a time that is itself but a caricature, I should think you would find it quite apt, Jon. But let's not go too far down that particular road, lest we all end up in P&R.
I think the book makes fun of small town life instead of embracing it.
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Old 08-16-2020, 02:09 PM   #18
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I think it’s more of a “laugh at yourself” type of making fun. The gentle satire rather than biting helps to make the tone more affectionate. Also one should consider the time period in which it was written. I found this interesting article written by a professor at the University oh Toronto.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts...ticle15074242/

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A good part of the appeal of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is its nostalgia for a Canada and an Ontario that was already disappearing at the time of its publication, for small towns that electricity and the worries of the world didn't quite reach. The word "little" prompts this nostalgia, evoking for readers a time when their towns and their world seemed smaller places. Just two years later, remember, their world became much larger, with new landmarks like Ypres, the Somme, and Vimy Ridge, names that did reach small towns across Canada.
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Old 08-16-2020, 02:16 PM   #19
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Perhaps the small-town foibles, questionable actions, and rampant stupidity might have been more amusing were it not for the unfunny times we live in.
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Old 08-16-2020, 02:35 PM   #20
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I think the book makes fun of small town life instead of embracing it.
I agree with you, although I think it does both. I have a taste for satire of this vintage and while I enjoyed the book well enough and was amused by it, some of it really wasn’t funny on any level. The incident about the judge’s son was nasty and told you everything you needed to know about life in the underclass in the town. I also think with that kind of folksy humor it’s hard to avoid an edge of contempt; it reminded me even of Twain in that respect and I love Twain. Fondness, yes, but you are always aware that the author is putting himself in a position to judge his fellow creatures, and that he knows he’s smarter, if not better, than the people he mocks.

I thought it impossible to escape this, especially as the book was bracketed by an intro and epilogue in which Leacock somehow felt it necessary to parade his academic achievements and make it clear he got out and didn’t go back. I can’t blame him, of course, especially as it’s impossible to deny how stultifying such a town would have been to those with ambition and ability; the upshot, however, is that there’s a sneer in that affection. So this didn’t work for me as pure humor, and as satire it didn’t have enough point. Unlike the judge’s son, he pulled his punches.

Still I did laugh and the understated humor was the best part. One of many funny bits as an example:

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“I am an old man now, gentleman,” Bagshaw said, “and the time must soon come when I must not only leave politics, but must take my way towards that goal from which no traveler returns.”

There was a deep hush when Bagshaw said this. It was understood to imply that he thought of going to the United States.
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Old 08-16-2020, 02:43 PM   #21
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Still I did laugh and the understated humor was the best part. One of many funny bits as an example:
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“I am an old man now, gentleman,” Bagshaw said, “and the time must soon come when I must not only leave politics, but must take my way towards that goal from which no traveler returns.”

There was a deep hush when Bagshaw said this. It was understood to imply that he thought of going to the United States.
Thanks for reminding me of that!
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Old 08-16-2020, 05:05 PM   #22
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The passage quoted is both cute and nasty. It's cute in the was Bagshaw said his piece and it's nasty in the way the author makes everyone else seem stupid. The author has a nasty streak that shows in this book and when it shows, it's not nice at all even if the words are meant to be cute. He is making fun of people who may have some difficulties. It's very rude and not nice.

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Old 08-16-2020, 09:51 PM   #23
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I think it’s more of a “laugh at yourself” type of making fun. The gentle satire rather than biting helps to make the tone more affectionate. Also one should consider the time period in which it was written. [...]
For me it was very much this. Even the elements that were not pleasant (the Judge's son, burning the church), there was an element of reflection such that the narrator was not saying "I support this" or "I deride this". Rather, it felt like the perspective was very much "I was part of this" - good and bad. And even in the bad there remains that affection, perhaps because it is recognised as part of a greater whole.

The farewell/l'envoy was interesting, I thought, in that at first it offered a sense of anticipation, as if the narrator wants, and expects to be able, to return to that time and place. And then in the closing paragraph the awakening to the reality that the memory or dream is all they have.
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Old 08-17-2020, 09:01 AM   #24
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I agree with Jon. The book seemed like it had 400 pages. Very poor pacing.
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Old 08-17-2020, 12:19 PM   #25
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For me it was very much this. Even the elements that were not pleasant (the Judge's son, burning the church), there was an element of reflection such that the narrator was not saying "I support this" or "I deride this". Rather, it felt like the perspective was very much "I was part of this" - good and bad. And even in the bad there remains that affection, perhaps because it is recognised as part of a greater whole.
I think that’s a very significant insight. Thanks for sharing it.
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Old 08-17-2020, 04:16 PM   #26
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In a very real sense, social media has turned the world into a small town. And I think this last is perhaps the most important lesson from this book. The world is now a small town, with all the good, and bad, that can come with that.
Neat insight. I’ve never thought about it that way, but it’s true that in this era, everything comes to light. If you’re a public figure, you really can’t escape your past more. Which is very much like the long memories of small towns.

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...The incident about the judge’s son was nasty and told you everything you needed to know about life in the underclass in the town.

I also think with that kind of folksy humor it’s hard to avoid an edge of contempt; it reminded me even of Twain in that respect and I love Twain. Fondness, yes, but you are always aware that the author is putting himself in a position to judge his fellow creatures, and that he knows he’s smarter, if not better, than the people he mocks.

I thought it impossible to escape this, especially as the book was bracketed by an intro and epilogue in which Leacock somehow felt it necessary to parade his academic achievements and make it clear he got out and didn’t go back. I can’t blame him, of course, especially as it’s impossible to deny how stultifying such a town would have been to those with ambition and ability; the upshot, however, is that there’s a sneer in that affection. So this didn’t work for me as pure humor, and as satire it didn’t have enough point. Unlike the judge’s son, he pulled his punches.

Still I did laugh and the understated humor was the best part. One of many funny bits as an example:
The incident with the Judge’s son rang true to me. There was (is) a privileged class, and everyone knew that the doctor’s son, or police chief’s daughter etc, would never face the same justice system. I agree that Leacock did pull some of his punches; maybe that was his privilege showing.

In terms of humour, my favourite lines were:
Mr. Smith, by the way, encouraged the use of the French language in the caff. He viewed it, of course, solely in its relation to the hotel business, and I think, regarded it as a recent invention.”

That’s a perfect observation about an Ontario town, next door to Quebec, and the two solitudes of Canada.

Last edited by Victoria; 08-17-2020 at 04:19 PM.
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Old 08-19-2020, 01:14 PM   #27
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I got a bad taste from this just reading the Author's preface. As a former academic, he got under my skin almost immediately.

I had a really hard time enjoying the book because I kept comparing it in my mind to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Winesburg is not funny, nor is it meant to be, and it is one of my favorite books. Winesburg is able to show honest sketches of a small town without bluster or the need to entertain. The first story in the cycle, "Hands," has stuck with me ever since the first time I read it.

By comparison, I found Sketches to be tongue in cheek just for the sake of being so. It hurt the story and the reading experience for me so much that I had to put it down. When Twain uses humor, he is using it proactively. His humor is almost one of his characters. Leacock's humor, which was not very funny, was just clunky and in the way.
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Old 08-19-2020, 05:18 PM   #28
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I got a bad taste from this just reading the Author's preface. As a former academic, he got under my skin almost immediately.

I had a really hard time enjoying the book because I kept comparing it in my mind to Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio. Winesburg is not funny, nor is it meant to be, and it is one of my favorite books. Winesburg is able to show honest sketches of a small town without bluster or the need to entertain. The first story in the cycle, "Hands," has stuck with me ever since the first time I read it.

By comparison, I found Sketches to be tongue in cheek just for the sake of being so. It hurt the story and the reading experience for me so much that I had to put it down. When Twain uses humor, he is using it proactively. His humor is almost one of his characters. Leacock's humor, which was not very funny, was just clunky and in the way.
Very well said. I do think that the humor was forced and did not work.
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Old 08-19-2020, 11:37 PM   #29
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So I've just checked what I highlighted when I was reading in this book and got reminded that I had a few questions...

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The steamer goes nowhere in particular, for the lake is landlocked and there is no navigation for the Mariposa Belle except to “run trips” on the first of July and the Queen’s Birthday, and to take excursions of the Knights of Pythias and the Sons of Temperance to and from the Local Option Townships.
That was from the first chapter. What are "Local Option Townships"? (And why are they called this?)


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Dr. Gallagher said it filled him with admiration. Dean Drone said it filled him with awe. Dr. Gallagher said he’d been full of it ever since he was a boy; and Dean Drone said so had he.
The quote reads like it should, but does anyone know if "full of it" actually did have the same connotations then as now?
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Old 08-19-2020, 11:46 PM   #30
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Under the Ontario Temperance Act, local townships or municipalities could opt to prohibit ALL sales, manufacture, or importation of alcohol. Even after the act was repealed:
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Some communities maintained a ban on the sale of liquor under local option (emphasis mine) until the 1970s and The Junction neighbourhood of Toronto remained "dry" until 2000, largely because of the efforts of former Ontario CCF Member of Provincial Parliament for High Park, "Temperance Bill" William Temple
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