Total Pageviews

1950 - Turvey by Earle Birney

“In my dentist’s office one morning in the fall of 2012, while I fumbled with my earphones, the female computer voice on my e-reader blurted out a loud stream of F-word swearing. It made a lasting impression on those around me, and the hygienists and office staff still talk about it over a year later.”

Except from:
What’s So Funny?
Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing

  This awkward personal experience warrants a place in my chapter on the 1950 Leacock Medal winner Turvey because Earle Birney’s publisherMcClelland and Stewart (M&S) feared negative reviews and reader reaction to the “army talk” in the original manuscript and edited it out.
Book-Cover Birney

 Birney, a World War II veteran, still burning over military bureaucracy, wanted to satirize this aspect of war while that memory was hot, and he knew that the book would have to sound authentic to resonate with soldiers.  But he accepted the editing to get the book out.  
Even without the swearing, Turvey had a ring of authenticity. Before the end of the book, the fighting leaves some characters with horrible wounds while others suffer disease and a few die. It is, after all, a war story.    

            The reason the humour survives the story’s frame lies in the personality of protagonist Private Thomas Leadbeater Turvey. Turvey embodies all the Canadian soldiers who signed up with naive intentions and little idea of what they had ahead of them. The humour comes from Turvey’s misfortunes along the way. Sometimes he suffers bad luck, but more often he creates his own problems through gullibility and his interest in the opposite sex. Accident-prone, simple-minded, and light on education and commitment, Turvey does not excel at military life.

            His story borders on farce. But the detail and characters make it all seem just plausible - and seriously funny. 

For More on Leacock Medal: What’s So Funny? Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing

For more on Birney read