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Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town Mass Market Paperback – May 1 1989

5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: New Canadian Library; 1 edition (May 1 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771099843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771099847
  • Product Dimensions: 10.7 x 1.3 x 17.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 136 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #464,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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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


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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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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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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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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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 allot of the subtle humour. Various characters are quietly lampooned from the second person point of view. The characters are a bit odd, sort of off, normal, but not quite getting it. They have contradictions, but somehow they seem likeable.

In my opinion Leacock draws the sketches of Mariposa to make the thesis that life was better before the age of modernity. He writes of the changes in the winds in the first decade of the 20th century; Canada becoming it's own nation, the rise of literary criticism in theology, and the new technologies of the telephone and railroads. And the juxtaposition of the big city and immigration from small towns all represented the changing times of 1912.

He symbolized this with his sketch of the Mariposa Belle, a small excursion steamer that sunk and the would-be rescuers had to be rescued from their own leaky boats. The steamer symbolizes pre-modernity doesn't really sink, but only sank to six feet of water and stayed upright. The rescuer i.e. modernity came to save the old society, but modernity itself gets rescued. The rescue was definitely ironic.

I think this comes out in the final chapter when the reader takes a nostalgic train ride back to Mariposa from the big city and reminisces about the old town. I felt that this chapter made me long for a better place and a time that was innocent. Leacock writes with a perception that had a universal appeal that would make anyone long for their own childhood. I found it interesting that he even shamed the reader to remember Mariposa, from the hustle and bustle of `making your way' in the big city.
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