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Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town [Mass Market Paperback]

Stephen Leacock , Jack Hodgins
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1 1989 New Canadian library
Affectionately combining both the idyllic and ironic, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is Stephen Leacock’s most beloved book. Set in fictional Mariposa, an Ontario town on the shore of Lake Wissanotti, these sketches present a remarkable range of characters: some irritating, some exasperating, some foolhardy, but all endearing. Painted with the skilful brushstrokes of a great comic artist, the delightful inhabitants of Mariposa represent the people of small towns everywhere.

As fresh, funny, and insightful today as when it was first published in 1912, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is Stephen Leacock at his best – colourful, imaginative, and thoroughly entertaining.

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Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town is one of Canada’s classic works of literature, and perhaps its most complex work of satire. A series of linked stories chronicling life in the fictional community of Mariposa--modelled on Orillia, Ontario--Sunshine Sketches gently mocks Canadian small-town life in a manner that is as dead-on as it is humourous. Whether describing the sinking of the town’s ship, the Mariposa Belle, in a few feet of water in "The Marine Excursion of the Knights of Pythias" or giving an account of an old-fashioned courting that ends disastrously in "The Foreordained Attachment of Zena Pepperleigh and Peter Pupkin," Leacock's ridiculously earnest narrator presents a community torn between a desire for modernity and a nostalgia for a simpler past. The result is an absurd romp through both our social and literary values.

But Sunshine Sketches is also a highly political book, one that demonstrates Leacock's background as an economist and embodies many social and cultural anxieties still felt in Canada today. The stories reveal an unease about everything from the excesses of capitalism to Canada's identity, and a dark note of pessimism underlies much of the book's humour. While the narrator of Sunshine Sketches is unconcerned about the future of his community, Leacock was clearly worried about the direction Canadian society was taking, and at times the book seems eerily prophetic of today's globalized, American-dominated Canada. Above all, Sunshine Sketches is a damn good read. It's one of those rare books that manage to seamlessly combine social criticism with good storytelling. Like the town of Mariposa itself, Sunshine Sketches is timeless. --Peter Darbyshire

Review

Praise for Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town: "Leacock had a wonderful ear for dialogue and was superbly skilled in creating polished, self-contained scenes and in evoking character with a few sure strokes." -- Will Ferguson
Praise for Seth: "To read a book by Seth is to enter an oddly cozy, perfectly designed world where humor, nostalgia, and a gentle sadness pervade like the last autumnal rays of sunlight on a quiet afternoon." -- San Francisco Weekly

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Soothes the Soul Feb. 26 2003
Format:Mass Market Paperback
There is at least one author who may remind you of Stephen Leacock, namely Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame, but Leacock should be recognized as the ultimate master of quaint, bucolic humor. Leacock, who died in 1944, became arguably the most prominent Canadian humorist of his day (and probably of all time). What is ironic about that claim is that Leacock worked for most of his life as a professor of economics. We do not usually equate economics with humor, preferring to think of that profession as one of bow ties and supply and demand charts. Throw that presumption out the window and pick up a copy of "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town," Leacock's best known work available through the New Canadian Library series.
For me, one of the funniest sections of the book was the introduction written by Leacock, where he gives you some background about himself and his profession. This short piece of writing quickly gives you an idea of the type of humor you will find in the actual sketches: a very sly, very quiet and clever type of humor that often takes a while to sink in. Leacock does not rely on rim shot jokes or manic posturing in his writings. Instead, he creates the fictional Canadian town of Mariposa and populates it with small town archetypes that are wonders to behold.
All of the characters are hilarious in their own way: Mr. Smith, the proprietor of the local hotel and bar, full of schemes to earn money while trying to get his liquor license back. Then there is Jefferson Thorpe, the barber involved in financial schemes that may put him on the level of the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The Reverend Mr.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly amusing, but not sustaining interest. July 28 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Leacock is a highly distinguished Canadian writer, prestigious awards under his name given to authors each year. That is why as an adult, who has forgotten if his books were required reading in school, I decided it was high time to sample his great writing.
I have to be honest. I found this book mundane overall. One has to remember the era when it was written, & because of that, what I did enjoy was the perspective, the naivety of a small town's people, and getting a snapshot of a fictitious place representative of most real small towns, the mentality (played up for light hearted humour) of the main characters.
I can perhaps describe it best as watching an old black & white movie on Turner Classic...of which over 40 years, I've seen many. You enjoy them for what they are. Often silly plots, very tame & unrealistic, characters which are flamboyant but with corny dialogue, some of the writing with underscoring wit. None of it ever hitting below a superficial surface, yet there's merit in the story telling & small doses of amusement, but nothing in the way of a plot. After reading 80% of it, I scanned over the remaining, with realization that I was essentially bored with it & shouldn't be swayed into saying "it was greatness' because of the renowned writer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An endearing portrait of Oriliia -- my home town Dec 16 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Perhaps the finest comment about Stephen Leacock in the last half century is that "he is a
Will Rogers for the 90's."
Rogers, of course, is one of the most beloved of American humorists -- he was killed in
1935 when his plane crashed near Point Barrow, Alaska. Leacock died on March 28, 1944.
Like Rogers, he had been Canada's favorite humorist for decades.
Sunshine Sketches is about Orillia, Ontario, Canada, where Leacock had his summer home
on Brewery Bay (he once wrote, "I have known that name, the old Brewery Bay, to make
people feel thirsty by correspondence as far away as Nevada.") His home is now maintained
as a historic site by the town of Orillia. I lived there for almost 30 years, and the people of Orillia are still much the same as Leacock portrayed them in 1912.
These stories about various personalities in town were printed in the local newspaper in the
1910 - 1912 era, before being compiled into this book which established Leacock's literary
fame. The people portrayed really lived, though some are composites; the events are of a
kindly humorist looking at the foibles of small town life. Once they came out in book form
and soared to national popularity, everyone in town figured the rest of the country was
laughing at them because of Leacock's book and he was royally hated in Orillia to the end
of his life.
Gradually, and this took decades, Orillians came to recognize that genius had walked
amongst them for several decades. (It's hard to recognize genius when your own ego is so
inflated.) Orillia now awards the annual "Leacock Medal for Humor" -- Canada's top literary
prize for the best book of humour for the preceding year.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars funniest book i've ever read June 21 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
no hype. i couldn't stop laughing as i was reading this. and i mean laughing out loud. in a cafe. with everyone staring at me. but i didn't care. and i couldn't help it if i did. it's just too hilarious.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful satire on small town life July 6 2001
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This 1912 work uses sketches about the residents of a small Ontario lake town. The tone is mock-boosterish, giving rise to some sly comic moments. This is a wonderful parody of that can-do mentality that seems to infect us in North America. The work anticipates Lake Woebegone by some years, but has a distinctly Canadian feel. We've seen lots of works take mythical townspeople one by one, but I can think of few that do it as well and as simply as this one. This is a must read.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars humour
i hadn't read any Stephen Leacock since I was in school, many, many years ago. Having been brought up in a rural area not unlike a little town, I remembered his style of writing,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Agnes Ayotte
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Excellent book. The author really captivates the reader. At first it seems like he over describes everything (which he does), but it all comes to use as you read along.
Published 4 months ago by felipe
5.0 out of 5 stars love it!
in very good condition, i would say it is new and it is very thin and cute. needed for a class, so not going to comment for the content..
Published 9 months ago by Sui HaoNan
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Leacock never disappoints
Leacock never disappoints. I love his humour and the way he looks at ordinary things. He is Mark Twain with a Canadian twist.
Published 13 months ago by Svatka
3.0 out of 5 stars Sunshine Sketches of a little Town
This was a Freebie and my first download...super easy to do. This is a nice charming story... the author tells it in away that is not too flowery.....just right. So... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Diane G
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Irony
The author is a master of understatement and irony. One can snooze though this little yarn of a fictional small town in Ontario at the turn of the 20th century, but you would miss... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Murray
5.0 out of 5 stars Hypocrits beware!
Leacock was a master of understatement in Canadian humour. He delights in poking fun at the hypocrits wether they be politicians, clergy or townspeople. Read more
Published on Oct. 23 2011 by Alan Rivers
5.0 out of 5 stars the funniest book i've ever read
Like the heading says, this is the funniest book I've ever read. Leacock was a comic genius and this is his best work. Buy it, read it, love it.
Published on Dec 3 2002
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