The gift of Rex Murphy

How appropriate that one of Canada’s best known newspaper columnists and commentators on radio and TV was brought up in one of the oldest European settlements in North America — which also happened to be in the last province to join Confederation, and barely did!

Fall in Carbonear, Newfoundland
Shhewitt [CC BY-SA 4.0] https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

For a refresher on Newfoundland, enjoy Mr. Murphy’s Reluctant Union here.

Anita’s presentation about Rex Murphy was sprinkled generously with her own sense of humour. Certainly, Rex Murphy is well appreciated by members of the club, who know him best as host of CBC Radio’s Cross-Country Checkup, commentator for CBC TV’s The National, and journalist for newspapers The National Post and The Globe & Mail. But did you know…

  • Rex Murphy’s mother loved literature and learning and his father was known for “linguistic dazzle.”
  • Rex Murphy was politically active very young, having entered Memorial University at fifteen. He was noticed (not in a good way) by Joey Smallwood, but the students ultimately got what they wanted!
  • In the 1980’s, he ran for political office in Newfoundland. Although he didn’t win, he decided he was better critiquing politics and politicians anyway.
  • He is author of two books, Canada and Other Matters of Opinion and Points of View (Penguin Random House)
  • Lifelong classical literature study underpins his writing. His way with words (& quotes) is like no other.
  • He is a fierce defender of free speech and will jump into messy, controversial topics himself — such as defending Alberta’s and the East Coast’s oil industry, for example!

There is much more to be found in Anita’s Presentation Summary.

The Club received a special gift: a letter from Rex Murphy himself. The letter is a gift to share, and can be read here, with the kind permission of Rex Murphy.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Mr. Dickens writing today?

Dickens has a lot in common with those who came before… that is, those in this year’s line-up of authors who use Humour, Irony and Satire in Literature to expose foolishness and corruption — with a view to pushing reform.

He knew what he wrote about: At twelve, he worked ten hours a day in a rotten, rat-infested “blacking” warehouse, putting labels on shoe polish. His family was thrown into debtor’s prison at this time. When he started writing in serial form, he allowed lower classes to read his work, though this was criticised as “pandering.”

Margaret quizzed us on actual-versus-fictional place names used in Dickens’ works. Hilarious! And then there are the ridiculous proper names and their unforgettable characters.

Along with a fascinating overview of his life and times, Margaret gave us some tips:

  • A Tale of Two Cities best describes the times Dickens lived in.
  • David Copperfield is the most autobiographical novel.
  • The Pickwick Papers, his first book, was written in a popular style in the 19th Century called “picaresque.”
  • Read What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew (Daniel Pool) to understand Victorians.
  • CLICK HERE TO WATCH CBC GEM’S LITTLE DORRIT ONLINE

And last, but certainly not least:

CLICK HERE FOR MARGARET’S SUMMARY

Tina Fey: A prolific writer

No one could have done better justice to comedienne and writer Tina Fey than our own Kathy, who could be a stand-up comedienne herself. Kathy interspersed her presentation with many photos, video clips and readings. Amazingly, Tina Fey’s writing credits alone cover no less than nineteen categories.

All in all, Kathy herself will be a hard act to follow!

PLEASE CLICK HERE for Kathy’s summary.

Original image by Mingle Media TV, modified for Wikipedia
and shared under licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Robert Burns’ Poetry: Shared by a “native”

Linda has the perfect pedigree to present Robert Burns: She grew up near the area from which Robert Burns called home. With her daughter as special guest, she regaled us all while debunking a number of outrageous myths about the man and the poet.

What an experience it was, to hear Linda read four poems in the Scottish language/dialect: Ode to a Mouse, Ode to a Louse, Address to a Haggis and Holy Willie’s Prayer. Linda provided the poems as written, along with her translation into English.

Linda’s insights helped us understand the satire and irony embedded in his humorous writings, and their relevance in his times and ours. Hearing poems read in their true language enhanced, manyfold, our appreciation of the poetry of Robert Burns. What a treat!

FOR LINDA’S SUMMARY, PLEASE CLICK ON THE LINK, BELOW

https://calgarywomensliteraryclub.com/robert-burns/

P.G. Wodehouse: Laughter guaranteed.

By uncredited and restored by Adam Cuerden – “WODEHOUSE (P.G.)” Bonhams, Public Domain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47188607

Judi always entertains us (impresses us!) enormously with her multimedia presentations, and this time she chose P.G. Wodehouse for her subject. She admitted that even though her mother is British, she didn’t know P.G. Wodehouse until this presentation. She prefers non-fiction, but found P.G. Wodehouse’s humour wonderfully diverting, with something memorable in every book.

P.G. Wodehouse is the most widely acclaimed English humorist of the 20th Century. Born in 1881, he had a rather forbidding Victorian childhood. At five, his parents lived in Hong Kong while he and his brothers were boarded, passed from hand to hand. At 12, he achieved greater stability. He was boarded at Dulwich College (“heaven”) and shortly after, his parents returned to England. At 19, he spent two years at Oxford with a brother, worked briefly in a Hong Kong bank and wrote at night. Already by 1902, he was writing full-time for The Globe.

Although first and foremost a novelist, P.G. Wodehouse began in 1904 as a lyricist of American musicals, and continued working over three decades with the likes of Oscar Hammerstein II and Jerome Kern. In fact, he lived much of his life in the United States. However, his quintessential character was the English valet Jeeves (who appeared in novels from 1915-1974) and his novels throw a humorous light on upper and middle-class England of the 20th Century.

In 1934 Wodehouse moved to France, was taken prisoner in 1940 by the Germans. Some radio broadcasts he made (apolitical, comic) sent from Germany to the U.S. during the war made him suspect in Britain and he never returned. He went back to Paris in 1943 and returned to the U.S. after the war, becoming an American citizen in 1955.

CLICK HERE FOR JUDI LEE’S PRESENTATION SUMMARY

Catherine Gildiner, whose memoirs read like fiction

Photograph: Wikimedia Commons

Cathy Redfern, how we miss your sense of humour! You introduced many of us to the writer Catherine Gildiner in your latest presentation last November. I won’t say “last” because we hope life will bring you back our way!

Catherine Gildiner has written lively, funny, fascinating memoirs (1999, 2010, 2014) — and occasionally pens serious books: Seduction (2005) and her latest Good Morning Monster (2019), both which draw upon her primary profession of clinical psychologist. She is currently working on Underground (working title) about the underground railway to Canada.

Catherine Gildiner has led a most singular life, and Cathy Redfern’s favourite books are the author’s memoirs, especially the first, Too Close to the Falls.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS AUTHOR

p.s. If exploring Waterton is in your travel plans, get a copy of Cathy Redfern’s own guide, Knock, Knock Who’s There: A Walking Tour full of Cottage Folklore, Gossip and Tall Tales




Robertson Davies: Humour that’s subtle and intelligent

Sandra Ens has taught Robertson Davies to many English students. Now it’s our turn to find out why! Davies’ style of writing has been out of favour: He uses long sentences and depicts a non-multicultural Canada of times gone by. Yet, his paragraphs, full of literary allusions, can be “unpacked” by an intelligent reader. Is that not us?

Photo of Robertson Davies with quote

Sandra explained that Robertson Davies’ humour is gentle and never malicious. You won’t find many gags. Stories build, characters are well-developed and timing is everything to reveal truth in an unexpected light. Sandra reminded us that truth lies at the heart of comedy, that dying is easy but comedy is hard — and that it takes great skill by an author.

Davies’ comedy is in a SHAKESPEAREAN TRADITION: Satire is to seek improvement and solutions (see also ARISTOPHANES) but delivered through characters that are larger than life, exuberant and expound about life. Laughs will follow!

Sandra’s personal favourite? 5th Business. She also recommends listening to the CBC RADIO INTERVIEW BY ELEANOR WACHTEL

CLICK HERE FOR SANDRA’S SUMMARY and you will be ready to add Robertson Davies to your reading lists!