Monday, October 28, 2013

Fiction: Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephen Leacock illustrated by Seth

Humorist and professor of economics, Stephen Leacock was born in 1869 and died in 1944. Today in Canadian literary circles, his name is synonymous with the sort of sharp, smart humor associated with him through an award that bears his name given annually since 1947 to the “best work of humorous literature in English by a Canadian writer.”

Leacock’s best known work was Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, published  first in 1912 and adapted for television in the 1950s. The stories that comprise the collection are set in the fictional hamlet of Mariposa, on the shore of the also fictional Lake Wissanotti. Leacock maintained that Mariposa wasn’t one place but many. “Mariposa is not a real town. On the contrary, it is about 70 or 80 of them. You may find them all the way from Lake Superior to the sea, with the same square streets and the same maple trees and the same churches and hotels.”

McLelland & Stewart has just released this well-loved classic in a fantastic gift edition illustrated by Seth (Palookaville, It’s A Good Life). The finished book is more wonderful than I can impart in this space. Incredibly heavy for its size, and decorated in gold foil, the edition would make a wonderful gift for a fan or even for yourself. The book is stunning enough in presentation that it should have been released for an anniversary. Was it intended for the centennial of Leacock’s birth last year? If so, it’s a shame it didn’t make it: with more than 40 full and double page illustrations throughout, the sumptuously designed book is a worthwhile addition to the Leacock treasury and another vote for the future of the book as beautiful object, meant to be treasured and collected as well as poured over. ◊

Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine and the author of several books.



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