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Leacock, Stephen

town sketches james thurber

(Canadian, 1869–1944)

Born in Hampshire, Leacock went to Ontario as a child and subsequently became Professor of Political Economy at McGill University. By retirement, he enjoyed the status of Canada's finest humorist, somewhat akin to Mark Twain and James Thurber, and his collections of sketches sold widely. His first success, Literary Lapses (1910), was actually self-published; the range of his writing developed in Nonsense Novels (1911), with its parodies of popular fiction. Perhaps its most enduring sketch, however, is the hilarious ‘My Financial Career’, about the perils of opening a bank account. Leacock's classic book is Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912), set in the fictional town of Mariposa on Lake Wissanotti; its gently ironic tone, describing the misadventures of small-town characters, makes it wonderfully poised between affection and satire. Leacock's unfinished autobiography, The Boy I Left behind Me (1946), is also very well worth reading.

James Thurber, Garrison Keillor  JS

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