Voyageur Storytelling Leacock Ptoject
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Stephen Leacock Project

Leslie Robbins-Conway and Paul Conway

from Northern Bruce Peninsula

(Ontario, Canada)

Charging the Batteries of the Imagination

Up-Dated March 28 2018


Voyageur Storytelling's Stephen Leacock Project


Stephen Butler Leacock (1869-1944),

a Canadian writing and speaking prodigy,

a fountain of wisdom and foolishness,

a good storyteller and a good story.


Stephen Leacock Concerts, Programmes, and Tours
We first performed Stephen Leacock's stories in Yellowknife in 1999, at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre. When we began our Country Supper Storytelling Concerts in 2002, we put a new version of "Leacock Light" on the menu. We performed occasional Leacock stories in the years following, especially Leslie's telling of "My Financial Career", then in 2014 expanded to half a concert. In 2015 we went the whole hog to make a full concerts of stories by and about him. By this time we were becoming decidedly intrigued. The more we learned about him, the more puzzled and impressed we became. This guy is huge, and hugely interesting. Why do so many people want to make him small? Hence the Stephen Leacock Project was born. Much of that work, as you will see if you read on, is sedentary. After our last supper concert season in 2016 we decided we were not done performing the old boy yet. The result: Stephen Leacock's "My Discovery of the West" Re-Tour 2017, well suited we thought as our Canadian Sesquicentennial project. We toured for 52 days, travelled 12,800 kilometres, visited 13 cities, and appeared at 59 events. Now we are writing the story.

The Stephen Leacock Library & Database

In 2015 the Ontario Arts Council gave us money to create our Leacock Concert, called "A Pocketful of Mariposies". We used some of it to buy Leacock books. Others we found on-line. Eventually we found all the published Leacock bibliographies, particularly Carl Spadoni's monumental A Bibliography of Stephen Leacock (ECW Press 1998), all 714 pages of it. We decided we needed a chronological list of everything Leacock published, a list we could link with his biographical details. Spadoni (with a tip of the hat to earlier bibliographies by Lomer and Curry) and all Leacock's biograhers (Curry, Legate, Albert and Theresa Moritz, etc.) gave us the means, and away we went. The Leacock Database now has 2,698 records and is growing. The ability to sort the data chronologically in full details (the bibliographies go only part way), and to sort out duplication of pieces, will be crucial to full appreciation of Leacock's accomplishment and all the stories behind it. This work will continue indefinitely. We will put the Leacock Database out for public use, one way or another, as soon as it is ready. The first draft needs only a little more polish.
Stephen Leacock Booklets
We like publishing booklets. As soon as we saw Leacock titles that looked promising we started building a catalogue. We do this in partnership with Paul's son, Patrick. You can find the catalogue at the Conway Books Catalogue
Mariposa!
The "little town" of Mariposa, as described in Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town (1912) and a few subsequent pieces, presents a real puzzle to any thinking reader. On the surface it appears to be presented as worthy of nostalgia; the closer one reads the more inscrutable the place becomes. It's not Orillia, but it could be, along with many other places. The sun shines there sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't. The people are sometimes warm, and sometimes brutally cold-hearted. They are courageous and independent while they hide from the truth and look south to the city to tell them what to think. The scholar Ed Jewinsky has called the book "a supreme achievement of fragmentation, incompleteness, and inconclusiveness." Wow! We may figure the place out, or we may not. We pick away at the problem on our Mariposa blog. We will keep at it.
The General Theory of Unsolved Riddles
Jewinsky's conclusion about Mariposa appears on the surface to work for Stephen Leacock himself and the totality of his works, and on the surface is where the born humourist and storyteller often likes to be. The issues he tackles however—such as social justice; the morally right way to pursue prosperity and wealth; practicalities and ethics of political organization and national development; the morally right way to balance the interests of the individual and the collectivity; the proper economic roles of women and men; education; ethnic tribalism; equality of opportunity; the lessons of history and what to do with them; etc.—do not lend themselves to superficial treatment, at least to someone as thoughtful, sensitive, and widely read as he was. But even while pondering these weighty issues, he remains always Leacock Ludens, a playful man who loves to talk in good company and with plenty of booze. The historian Ian Ross Robertson has called for an "holistic interpretation" of him. We think it lies in what we are calling The General Theory of Unsolved Riddles. The Leacock Project is exploring that idea. We have a playful blog that picks away at that too.

Web-Site and Blogs

We have already linked you to our blogs. Our Voyageur Storytelling web site is the hub of the whole Leacock Project. You are there right now. If you came in sideways you can easily get back to the Home Page. For the time being the site is mainly preoccupied with the coming Re-Tour. Its role and reach will evolve with the Project.

A Stephen Leacock Sesquicentennial
Stephen Leacock was born on December 30 1869 and died on March 28 1944. 2019 is thus notable as both his sesquicentennial (150th) and his septuagintaquinquennial (75th). We are going to host a celebration. Preparations began formally on March 28 2018.

Other Stephen Leacock Publications

Every so often we think of a way whereby we might drag someone else into this Project. Our Re-Tour partners responded. We are cultivating Sesquicentennial participants. We will keep looking for others of, we trust, diverse kinds and interests. It's early days.


Voyageur Storytelling 2018

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