Ibis3's Canadian Literature Challenge

Ibis3 delves into classic Canadian literature. Yes there is such a thing! First up: the entire McClelland & Stewart's New Canadian Library.

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Location: Clarington, Ontario, Canada

Saturday, August 05, 2006

CanLit Project Book 13--Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich by Stephen Leacock

Book 13, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich (1914) - Stephen Leacock *active*
From the back cover:
"First published in 1914, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich swept the continent. Of the many books by Canada’s most celebrated humorist, none has received more acclaim than his brilliant, caustic treatment of the glittering rich who gather at the Mausoleum Club on Plutoria Avenue.

Today, Leacock’s pointed satire of the privileged class, and their social abuses and pretences, retains every ounce of its freshness and bite. An undisputed comic masterpiece, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich reveals a depth of compassionate criticism rare in Leacock’s writings."

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Stephen Leacock
a biographical sketch on Stephen Leacock at the National Library of Canada's website
recent article in The Winnipeg Free Press about the Leacock family

My thoughts:
Honestly, I was expecting this to be funnier than it was. I mean so much is made of Stephen Leacock and his humour, I was kind of expecting a Canadian P.G. Wodehouse or something. So in that sense it was a little disappointing.

However, there was plenty of really good satire that still rings true today. And there were many times when I did laugh out loud at the absurdities portrayed and the amusing way Leacock words things. It's remarkable how little changes. What Leacock satirized in 1914 (following closely in the footsteps of Dickens) is the same kind of stuff pilloried by the likes of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and Rick Mercer (sans topical current events--Leacock takes more of a timeless approach).

As I understand this is really a sister volume to Sunshine Sketches, I'm looking forward to reading that and getting a sense of the whole picture.

It would be difficult to give examples or describe it because just stating it outright takes all the humour out. Anyway, as with most good satire, it's sad at the same time as it's funny--because it's so close to reality.

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