Mariposa Podcasts

Podcast Interviews celebrating books that have won the Leacock Medal for Humour


1991 Leacock Medal winner

Interview with Howard White about his book on BC coastsl life: Writing in the Rain  

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1983 Leacock Medal winner

Part II of Interview with author Morley Torgov focusing on his book The Outside Chance of Maximillian Glick 

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1979 Leacock Medal winner

Interview with Sondra Gotlieb about his book True Confections and its links to her own life

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1975 Leacock Medal winner 

Part I – Interview with author Morley Torgov about his book A Good Place to Come From

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1970 Leacock Medal Winner

Interview with Claire Mowat about her personal connections to her husband Farley’s book The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float

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1950 Leacock Medal Winner

Interview with Professor Elspeth Cameron, who wrote the biography of Earle Birney, author of the Turvey, winner of the 1950 Leacock Medal. 

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1949 Leacock Medal winner

Interview with humour writing scholar and researcher Dr. Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard about the importance and unique qualities of Truthfully Yours by Angeline Hango

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Here for Transcript

1948 Leacock Medal winner 

Interview with Joel Salt of the University of Saskatchewan Library and Archives about the Hiebert Collection and the humour of Sarah Binks by Paul Hiebert

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1947 First Leacock Medal Winner 

Interview with Professor Tom Symons about the impact and importance of Ojibway Melody by his father Harry Symons

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A Lockdown look at Indians on Vacation

 


“If I have to look at one more painting of Mary and her baby, I may scream.”

“Well, if I eat any more cheese, I might go blind anyway.”

When we travel, my wife and I usually reach a point where we need a break from the art, museums, churches, statues, and gluttony. As much as we like that stuff, we try to mix it with hiking, paddling, or even working while abroad. My wife meanders for hours, shopping for nothing.  I usually have an agenda: research on humour writing, business meetings, or making money.

Strangely, these are things we can do at home in Ottawa.

We’ve had a chance to reflect on this a lot over the past year as we sat staring at the walls and each other, pondering retirement in a pandemic, and bemoaning the cancellation of travel plans.

In this, it helped to spend time reading Indians on Vacation, the 2021 Leacock Medal winner.

The book is an apt literary touchstone for this peculiar year. Not only is it well executed, thoughtful, and consistently funny, but it also offers escape from and antidote to no-travel, lockdown life. The book is many things: a love story, a picaresque quest, and a light mystery, but I like it as an exploration of tourism-style travel, a pondering on its worth, and, perhaps, a kind of handbook for extracting more value from it.

Thomas King’s novel presents a later-life couple: Bird, the narrator, and his partner Mimi.  They talk, walk, and quibble within the frame of a fabricated, personal quest and the banal side of European tourism. As they do, the couple reveals themselves with a loving, gentle humour that induces smiles and introspection.

It should surprise few that King, a celebrated and witty storyteller who has written skillfully in genres ranging from children’s literature and radio plays to academic lectures and history, should be effective in the format of a humorous novel. But he clearly has a feel for incongruity and presenting it in a way that shakes out the laughs while maintaining the flow of the grander story and the stories within the story.

Bird and Mimi are well travelled but have set out to add to their experiences in a specific way by following the trail of Mimi’s Uncle Leroy.  A mischief-maker and source of pain for Indian Department authority, Leroy fled the Blackfoot reserve and the threat of arrest in Alberta many years ago by joining a travelling wild west show.  He took the family medicine bundle, a cherished package of souvenirs and memorabilia, with him and never returned. 


But Leroy sent postcards from the show’s stops throughout Europe and the dated card collection lays out breadcrumbs to retrace his steps.  As Bird and Mimi cross the continent in search of Leroy’s fate and the collection of family treasures, they pick up pieces to add to a new bundle of their own and to their own story.

They are in the Czech Republic at the last post-card-identified point on Leroy’s trail. But it could be anywhere.  Bird, fully Blackbird Mavrias, is, like King, a once-American now Canadian of Cherokee-Greek extraction. Tired, cynical, and sardonic, he begins the book with a sigh: “So, we’re in Prague,” repeating the phrase dozens of times in the ensuing pages. The repetition reminds us of lamentable routines of tourism. But the phrase also draws a line between Bird’s flashbacks thoughts and his immediate circumstance. 

This is where the humour arises. The conflict between what is happening and what is in Bird’s mind often resonates and always amuses. Bird’s mind has lots in it: memories of his life with Mimi, concerns over social issues, an obsession with myriad aches, thoughts of food, imaginings around his breakfast companion, and a set of personal demons that have been named by Mimi and have assumed vivid life-form personalities.  Bird’s thoughts and physical experience intersect, however, around those social concerns that are provoked by the sight of Syrian refugees at the train station, protests, and icons of colonialism.

The quirky clash of thoughts with the banality of daily conversation and the ambiance of well-worn tourist sites not only makes you smile, it makes you question why we travel. So much seems the same: the churches, the museums, hotel rooms, and the predictable inconveniences.  Everyone who goes to Prague visits the Castle, stands on the Charles Bridge, and walks by the Sex Machines Museum. When Bird gets sick and the couple is almost robbed, the mundane nature of tourism is emphasized with recognition that travel experience is defined by the stories we tell and that the best travel stories flow from mishap and misadventure.

But Indians on Vacation also demonstrates how everyone views the sites and cities through the lens of their own personality, interests, and agendas. It is this junction of self and place that makes each person’s travel different and rewarding or not.  Travel is, in a way, a function of who we are and what we have done with our lives. Wherever you go, you take yourself along, and this frames your experience.

While Bird, the narrator, finds travel tiring and spends much of the time in thoughts of elsewhere, Mimi sees it as an escape from the everyday, a spur to her imagination, and a way to extract more from her remaining days. Bird lies in the hotel room thinking, "I'm sweaty and sticky. My ears are still popping from the descent into Vaclav Havel. My sinuses ache. My stomach is upset. My mouth is a sewer. I roll over and bury my face in a pillow.” Then, Mimi snuggles down beside him “with no regard for (his) distress,” and whispers “My god … can it get any better?'"

With humour and affection, the story dovetails their attitudes and the two sides of travel to paint a middle ground and reminds us that travel is a blend of what we see, what we think, and who is by our side. Walking, shopping for nothing, thinking of home, and even working while on a trip makes sense if this is who you are.  If you are Thomas King, you conceive and write another book. 

This suggests that living in a lockdown does not need to be a bar to travel but rather a part of it.  Since our travel experience is the mix of our own thoughts and the physical ambiance, it is also a consequence of our prior home-based planning, relationships, and personalities as much as its execution. Things we can work on regardless of place.

So, we can rightly use quarantine time to reflect and prepare for travel with someone we love, and reading Indians on Vacation can help with that.

 DBD
June 2021

 

MARIPOSA PODCAST Number 3

 

1949 Leacock Medal

Truthfully Yours by Angéline Hango

Interview with humour scholar Dr. Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard

 CLICK HERE FOR AUDIO PODCAST 

Truthfully Yours by Angéline Hango is a memoir, and in it, the author describes her childhood embarrassments and instability, her father's alcoholism and abuse, and her mother's struggles to cope in rural Quebec. The “truthfully” in the book's title refers to Hango’s pledge to break from a lifelong habit of what she called fibbing about her family and stretching the truth to fit in.  With this content, readers might wonder why the book was considered humourous and warranted the Leacock Medal.  

For some answers. I interviewed Dr. Jeanne Mathieu-Lessard (JML), a comparative literature scholar, an author, and an expert on humour and women's literature in both French and English. She is a member of Quebec’s very active humour studies community, as embraced by the network known as l’Observatoire de l’Humour. Dr. Mathieu-Lessard has conducted research on humour writing under the network's founder, University of Ottawa Professor Lucie Joubert.

 

In this interview, we talked about Freud, humour as catharsis, a paper by Concordia Professor Bina Freiwald, and how Angéline Hango’s work compares to that of a famous American contemporary.

Audio Link here

Text below

 

Dick Bourgeois-Doyle (DBD)

 

First of all, let me say it's wonderful that somebody with your background and experience in the scholarly study of comparative literature, particularly in areas of direct relevance to the humour genre, would be impressed by Truthfully Yours. I guess a first question would be to ask how you viewed the book. Did you enjoy it?

 

JML

 

Yes, I did. I thought it was generally well written; it was playing with extreme contrasts. And I imagine we'll discuss this later. But between this playfulness are very, very harsh moments and the depiction of difficult or pathetic moments in the life of the narrator.

 

And the construction of the book was also really interesting in that it was  mostly chronological. I mean we start with her first years, and we end with her very probably getting married. But it's also grouped around themes. And it's playing with this double way of organizing the structure of the book. And she also as a narrator reflects upon the construction of her own narrative when she compares it with, for example, the way her own son deals with building blocks.

And she's very conscious of the different ways she's been using to build a narrative. So, I found all that very interesting. I couldn't compare it directly with other books that would be similar in French in the same period although the article by (Concordia Professor) Bina Freiwald compared her with a later narrative in Quebec, the autobiography of Claire Martin. But one comparison did come to my mind with an American author Betty Bard MacDonald, who wrote many humourous autobiographical narratives in the late 40s and the 50s: narratives that were bestsellers that were adapted into movies later, and I found a lot of similarities in terms of style.

 

Although I would say MacDonald is intentionally trying to be comical and is a lot more comical than Hango is. But still, I found many, many commonalities between those two.

 

DBD

 

That was Betty MacDonald?

 

JML

Yes. She's called Betty MacDonald. Sometimes Betty Bard MacDonald. She's mostly known for our first book that called The Egg and I and she also wrote children's fiction. The Egg and I tells the story of when she lived on the chicken farm with her first husband. And she at some point is keeps the chicken farm with her two daughters. And she talks about the hardships of her life after that. And it's really about the quite difficult, actually difficult situation of being really isolated in a setting that she doesn't know anything about and making humour out of it. And that's why this comparison came to my mind:  because it was really about discussing difficult moments in her life at the moment on the farm. And in another narrative, she talked about when she had tuberculosis and had to stay in bed for almost a complete year without our daughters in a sanitarium. And she writes a comical narrative out of it.

 

So, it seems similar to me in that kind of playing or cathartic use of humour to discuss hardship.

 

DBD

This was during roughly the same time period.

 

JML

 

Exactly. MacDonald published her first book The Egg and I in ‘45. The other one about the sanitarium, it's called The Plague and I, the plague referring to tuberculosis, and it's in 48. And she writes mainly in the late 40s and the 50s. And she writes also about having to find jobs in Depression-Era America, and they're almost to my knowledge all memoirs.

 

They are all playing like playfully with her life. And there are similarities between the two authors, and it's also the same time. So, I couldn't think of a comparable example, at the same time in French Canada or English Canada. But I think this this example in America could maybe, I don't know, be a point of comparison that can be could be of interest.

 

 

 

DBD

 

You've already highlighted or indicated a difference though between the two authors, and that is that Hango only wrote one book.

 

JML

Yes

 

DBD

And if she did employ these techniques – of having different themes,  following the chronology but also mapping different themes on top of it, it must have been something that would have come to her naturally as a function of her desire to tell her story.

 

JML

 

Yes, it does seem like there's something that is flowing out of the narrative and that she will later adjust. And that might be why the structure is a bit, going back and forth with sometimes going in circles a bit before she, she moves to a new subject. And that's when about at a third of the narrative, if I'm not mistaken, she starts reflecting on what she'd been doing so far with a narrative and that it is going in many directions and that she could decide at some point-  will she be mostly talking about her past in a certain way, mostly talking about her ancestry or moving on with her own narrative?

 

And so there seems to be something natural, which would go along with what you know, she seems to express about this in a way to review your past and to maybe make amends and to reveal about her life and to have that cathartic experience with writing.

 

DBD

 

So that resonates with what she is had said publicly, I think, in different interviews, that she didn't think she was writing a humorous book when she wrote it, she was doing it, presumably, and this is not her words, but as you say, a cathartic exercise to confront, shake off those demons from her childhood and in putting her father's alcoholism in perspective.

I guess we all try and mollify things from our past that bother us in one way or another, maybe with forgiveness, or, in this case, humour. So, I think I hear you saying that that perception of Angéline Hango’s project in this one book makes sense to you from your reading?

 

JML

 

Yes, it does, it does. And it also to shed light on it, maybe I can bring up the Freudian theory of humour because I feel it helps to explain some things that might be happening, and especially the fact that it was not intentional, because actually humour, creating humour and having a cathartic experience are not at all mutually exclusive.

 

And there's some things that are extremely unconscious about our creation of humour, and humour can be extremely spontaneous like this, Freud distinguishes between jokes, the comic and humour that that he understands in a very - not limited, but very specific way. And I really think that the humour that comes out of Hango's book is specific to this notion of humour.

 

If I can explain it very briefly, the difference would be that jokes in the comic are very social, they need at least two people to work. Whereas humour in the moment it is created often takes place within yourself, that takes place alone. And it often arises when you try to escape difficult feelings. And so in trying to deal with your own difficult feelings, you would gain pleasure by creating humour.

 

And you often create humour by distancing yourself from yourself. And so having a kind of moment where you split yourself and you look at yourself, and I really see that at play in Hango’s narrative. First of all, because of the temporal distance, there's the narrator, the adult who's reflecting about her past. And so there's this temporal separation. And there's also the play all the time between reality and what she calls the fibbing that is her way of lying about reality to embellish it. There's always this double movement and this isolation, and I feel Hango’s humour is both a cathartic way to express herself in a way to be feel that we to reveal moments in our life that have been sometimes hidden to herself. And of course, she also revealed publicly because it is a public act, the act of publishing,

 

DBD

 

That’s something I never really focused on, as intently as maybe I should that interplay between her real and imagined worlds - she presents the imagined is fibbing. My favorite book is Don Quixote, which exemplifies that mode of the interplay between the real and the imagined. I'll have to go back and look at Angéline Hango’s book with through that lens.

 

Certainly, this is a delight for me to talk to somebody who's thought about things relative to humour writing in such a profound way. And I'd welcome any comment you make in this context. But if you read my comments on the book, one of the things I wondered about, and it was partly prompted by the jacket of the book. Did book you got a hold of did it still have its jacket cover?

 

JML

 

No, it's a library book. And so it's the hardcover kind put on top of the book. But it did have the illustrations. So, it is a 1948 Oxford University Press edition. And I was fascinated by what you were saying about that.


DBD

Yeah, there was a lot of commentary at the time that the book warranted the humour medal because it was a celebration of quirky, French Canadian life and rural life in French Canada. And all these funny things are going on-  her amorous affairs, and that and I thought it was actually a distortion of what was in the text. But it's not only that that was done by outside critics, but also Oxford University Press promoted it that way. And, and I wonder if it at the root of that, and potentially, the awarding of the Leacock Medal was a sort of prejudice toward French Canada in the 1940s. It might have been perceived in anglo circles as quirky and, and maybe backward. As someone from the French culture. Do you think that there's any merit to that perspective on my part?

 

JML


Yeah, I thought that was a really interesting point you made in your presentation of the book, because when I read it, it did not come across to me as trying to make humour out of something that was typical. I found that the ethnographical moments, if we can call them like this, were not necessarily the most funny. To me, the humour really arose when there was that that clash between what we discussed earlier her fantasies, or imagined life in her reality and the clash between the two, and I did feel like there were some characters what comic potential she exploits that in her father - father can be perceived both as really tragic at times and really comic.  And there, the illustrations only emphasize the comic side, but I do think it's very slippery to put emphasis only on what she depicts in the French Canadian life because reading Freiwald’s article really highlights how there are multiple what she calls grids of exclusion, the narrator's subject position, and of course, her national and ethnic identity is one of those her positioning is different to anglophone readers because of that. But she also highlights are differences class and her difference in being in a dysfunctional family and or difference in being a female competing with other females for resources because she is she is poor. And I found that the reading you were highlighting that people were mostly seeing that as humour arising from cultural differences was kind of downplaying the other parts, and especially the class difference that was there. And I found that that was most one of the main sources of work.

 

DBD

 

My understanding your point correctly, would you call the ethnographic elements, perhaps when they're talking about their celebrations around the Réveillon, or the French Canadian culture weren't actually the points of greatest humour, it was more on the human personal interplay between her parents and the outside world where the humour arose. So yeah, that would be consistent with my take that there was a bit of a distortion when they said that the book was all about funny French Canadian rural life.

 

JML

 

Exactly. Yes, I agree with that. Because I do find that the funniest moments are not about that. And there's also this assertion about it being pictured as more funny than it is. I didn't mention that at first. But there is that fact that because of the illustration, because of the way it was commercialized, I mean, humour sells. And I find like, that's that kind of expectations of the readership might have colored what was actually written in the narrative. So, I really agree with you about that. And also about the fact that the depiction of French Canadian life is not the most, the most funny element to me. It's mainly about the clash between her own fantasies and her reality and how she deals with that.

 

But I also wanted to add, like you mentioned, that she first presented the book under a pseudonym. That was Angéline Bleuets which is literally Angéline Blueberrys  to signal herself probably as coming from Lac Saint Jean because that’s what we call people from the region where she grew up because the blueberry is very commonly cultivated there. And I wondered if this way of first presenting yourself to publisher might have come across as an attempt at humour to me sounds like a comic persona. It sounds extremely funny. It doesn't sound like a real name at all.


DBD

So that's interesting because I took it, just the fact that she'd used a pseudonym, to be sort of consistent with it being a cathartic exercise, not intending, you know, to promote yourself as a writer. In fact, you didn't consider yourself a professional writer. But yeah, I can see that even people that did not know the background to the term bleuets would automatically see it as like, a humourous kind of name. The one thing of you've convinced me is, I want to work on my French so I can read more of you and your colleagues’ papers. I wonder if just a closing, if you wanted to talk a bit about your own work and the circle that you work in just as describe it for people, I found it really quite impressive. And I think it would be really interesting to people in the Leacock Medal circles because they are, of course, students of humour as well.

 

 

JML

Yes, certainly. And I do think this could be the start of an interesting partnership to maybe organize events, together a bilingual event, we many of our members are bilingual, and could take part of it all because as people translate and exchange and go back and forth, I know what I'd be really, really interested in that. But I can maybe describe briefly what is the Observatoire de l’Humour.  So Quebec has created the first, to my knowledge worldwide, the first school of humour -  professional school of humour that gives diplomas that are recognized by the Ministry of Education to form humour be it for stage performance or writing in L’Êcole National de L’Humour was created decades ago. And still, to my knowledge, is the first of the kind and a bit more than 10 years ago, in partnership with the L’Êcole Nationale de L’Humour that forms professional that trains professional - a group of researchers and practitioners of humour have created the Observatoire de l’Humour. And it is very interdisciplinary group of people who both research and practice humour and multiple further in discussing the role of humour in society, in many forms of art to be it on stage in literature, be it the political role of humour. And so far, the Observatoire has generated multiple events like a conference and publications on important Quebecois forms of humour such as humour groups, Les Cyniques and Rock et Belles Oreilles,  the two first publications were on those two main groups. And we as we are currently preparing more publications, one of which is the anthology of women's humour, which we found was really lacking in French. And if I have time,  I might just like, briefly present the anthology, because I think that Angéline Hango’s case made me reflect, first of all, because the anthology is trying to map out progression, the scope and the breadth and the richness of women's humour in Quebec. And although women have had a lot more visibility in humour in the past decade, they still have less visibility than the humour performed by men in Quebec. That is still the case.


DBD

 

That is still the case to a certain degree elsewhere as well.

 

JML

Yes.

 

DBD

Certainly in the past, it was dominated by men. And when you were talking, I was thinking mostly of stand-up comedy, which has been brutally male dominated. It's changing, though. I'm really humbled by the scholarly nature of your study, if you were somebody who's been interested, studied it unofficially, for a long time.

 

JML

 

Thank you. I'm really glad we can talk about that passionate about humour. And yeah, I think like, like you were saying, stand up has been dominated by men. And I'm really interested to see what you're saying about the statistics for the Leacock prize, which I think is really representative. We found the same thing in French, we found that people don't know about women's literary humour in particular, and there are a lot of forgotten women comedians, and so our anthology wants to share text from all literary genres. So, we start with chronicles, we have songs, obviously, parts of novels, short stories, monologues, stand-up. So, we'll be covering multiple genres from the beginning of the 20th century until now, and what we found is that we have quite a few chronicles and songs in the first decades. But there is very, very little in the 40s and 50s. And I was really interested to see Hango published during this period because we have barely one or two titles in those decades.Whereas after in the 60s, there is a great boom, first in literature and then in television and on the stage too, which starts mostly with literary irony; irony is a lot more present in the 60s in the 70s. And then we have humour and more breadth in the genres of humour from the 90s onwards.But I think it is important for us to show the breadth of women's humour, and we will put alongside very, very well known pieces in also texts that have been forgotten and that we want to share for the quality of their humour

 

DBD

I do not want to put you in an awkward position, but it was not too late maybe you can squeeze in a footnote on Angéline Hango

 

JML

 

Yes, actually. So, our project was mostly to publish texts that are in French. So it's going to be on Quebec and Canadian francophones. So, our criteria is that it is in French.

 

But we will have introductions to each of the texts as well as the introduction of the book. And I really intend to mention Hango, especially because we can see connections with other authors. So we are including Claire Martin, for example. And as Freiwald has shown in her  article, there are many parallels that we can draw on - Hango is actually writing before Martin.

 

And so I think it would be a good moment when we talk about Martin’s book that we also discuss Hango and to show that there are connections between what is written in French and English to so yeah, no, I'm really, really glad - it's not too late. We are still working on the project. So this was good timing.

 

Angéline Hango wrote here Leacock Medal winning book, Truthfully Yours, at the age of 44. She lived to 90, passing away in Montreal in 1995.

 

For more about this book and other Leacock medal winners, check out the links in the blog.

 

 

About

My name is Dick Bourgeois-Doyle.

My waning professional life focused on science administration and communication as per this summary and these posts
on Science.gc.ca  

But I created this Blog in 2012 to document my quest to live a more humorous life - and share stuff on Canadian humour writing.  The URL tries to evoke “a year of reading humour” in the style of "Annus Mirabilis" and "Annus Horribilis." My first attempt at a blog name, "Anus Humorous", drew unfortunate associations. "Canus Humorous" has a nicer ring and might make you think of Canadian humour.  

These are all great imaginary reasons for choosing this blog name, but really, when I learned that “canus” is Latin for “grey-haired and aging,” that sealed it.

With this stuff, I want to promote


Canadian Humour Writing
by collecting, reading and reviewing books that have won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal  (see kudos and coverage on the quest and resulting book);

Humorous Thinking
by indulging in more funny thoughts, stuff, things and ideas with potential to become things (see "Stubbornstuff" Columns); and

And a Sense of Humour
while still reading government memos, briefing notes, and policies as my paying gig  (see summary bio above and  this thing) .



For a free review copy of the Book "What's so Funny?"


Mulling over Molly of the Mall (2020)



The story of a young woman working in an Edmonton shoe store does not easily resonate with my life as an older Ottawa male whose interest in footwear runs from modest to nil.  But within the first few, short chapters of Molly of the Mall (NeWest Press), I felt touched and was certain I would enjoy the book.

This year’s (2020) winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour splits its chapters between the days that Molly MacGregor spends in the Petit Chou shoe store and her terms as a university undergrad.  

Though never specifically identified, the mall that holds the Petit Chou is West-Edmontonian with a wave pool, giant sailing ship, submarines, screaming peacocks, bewildered emus, mock Bourbon-Street restaurants, competing shoes stores, a rink, and at least one bookshop.  It provides a suitably eccentric ambiance for the store where Molly stands and strains through long days with quirky management, less committed coworkers, and performance measures that encourage the sale of gratuitous polish and protectors.

Stocking shelves and staring at feet, she thinks of classic literature, the romance of Jane Austen, and her aspirations for a degree in English.

While I have never worked in a mall nor ever squeezed feet with a promise that a product would stretch, I have, like most people, had physically and psychologically trying times on the job and found comfort in the distraction of stories about the exotic and faraway.  I thought this might be the reason for my optimism and feeling that this would be a book to enjoy.

But as I read through the pages, I found my personal connection to the story was even stronger. I realized that this was precisely the kind of book I tried to write: one that I had submitted to the Leacock Medal competition a year earlier. My book, Governing Travails, sought to share the career experience of a federal bureaucrat through stories peppered with parodies, poems, and lists, all cloaked in a love of literature and attempts at humour.


Molly of the Mall does the same, but with greater effect, greater consistency, and clearly greater success. So, my reading morphed into a study of technique and style and envying admiration.  The author, Heidi Jacobs, has the background to teach someone like me a lot.  

Like her protagonist, Heidi worked in a mall and sold shoes in her youth, but she also went on to earn multiple relevant degrees: a BA,  an MA, and Phd in English and later a Master of Library and Information Science. Today an expert in information literacy, she serves as the English and History Librarian at the University of Windsor’s Leddy Library and has published peer-reviewed works on a range of topics.

These credentials find life in the personality and character of Molly MacGregor, whose name honours Dafoe’s Moll Flanders and reflects the literary and artistic interests of her university professor parents. Molly cites great authors easily and imagines herself in European landscapes surrounded by the characters created by Austen, the Brontë sisters, and the other writers that she knows well.

She also longs to study others like “Eliot, Dickens, Burney, Waugh, Joyce, and Radcliffe,”  and this ambition flows into the chapters that take Molly away from the mall and through her semesters as a student who tangles with writing assignments, hangs out with friends, and dreams of love.

I think this non-mall, less absurd element elevates Heidi’s book above efforts like mine. It makes Molly’s story more human, more relatable than a collection of quirky episodes and bits of humour however literate and classically inspired. The format also emphasizes the two sides of life, the real and the imagined, and the sweetness of the interface between the two.  It is this feature and sum of these parts that make the book something an older, shoe-store adverse bureaucrat might enjoy.


DBD
June 2020