Presented by Anita Madill to the Calgary Women’s Literary Club
March 26, 2019
The Calgary Women’s Literary Club theme, “The Role of Humour, Irony and Satire in Literature” is well represented by Rex Murphy who continues to celebrate, challenge, amuse and irritate Canadians as a political journalist and social commentator. He had a lengthy association with CBC on radio and television with critical analysis on the “Point of View” on The National and host of Cross Country Checkup and has published two books, Canada and Other Matters of Opinion and Point of View, as well as columns for the Globe and Mail and currently the National Post.
Murphy’s 2017 tribute to Dr. Patrick O’Flaherty, professor of English Literature at Memorial University, “We blossom from the ground in which we are placed and what touches us early touches most deeply,” underlies the strong influences of his Newfoundland home with its unique linguistics and politics. Debating skills were developed within the Murphy home and honed at Memorial University debating club with his renowned challenge to premier Joey Smallwood. He studied classical literature at the undergraduate as well as graduate levels at Memorial University with an interval as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford. Murphy strongly believes that journalists, and all writers, need to spend time reading and studying the very best writers and to ‘pay at least as much attention to how they write as what they write.” He frequently references the bible, Shakespeare and other literary giants.
Interest in politics also goes back to childhood where “the Mount Etna of political oratory,” Premier Joey Smallwood’s latest rages on TV and radio were the source of animated political discussion among island adults as well as children. Campus experience with political activism led to unsuccessful runs for provincial leadership between 1975 to 1987. Fortunately, Murphy recognized his calling was not in practicing politics but in critiquing it. He admires the soaring rhetoric of Lincoln, Churchill and Martin Luther King, attacks bad speech with gusto and is a fierce defender of free speech.
Rex Murphy very graciously sent a letter to CWLC admiring the scope of our topic, “The Role of Humour, Irony and Satire in Literature,” and discussing his use of these modes as an important channel for “enticing the potential reader.” He emphasizes the necessity of reading widely from the best writers, (naming several of his favorites,) as a basis for achieving skill in writing.