(March 28, 2008 - Orillia, ON) Canadians like to laugh, and our senses of humour, like our seasons, certainly vary. Luckily, Canada's writers tickle a variety of funny bones, and their best recent works are represented on the 2008 short-list for the Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour.
Awarded annually by the Leacock Association, the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal recognizes the most humorous book published in Canada, by a Canadian, in the previous year. Lakehead University sponsors a national advertising campaign designed to raise the profile of this award, which carries a cash prize of $10,000 - sponsored by TD Bank Financial Group.
"The Leacock Memorial Award has recognized humorous literature since 1947, and it represents a key element of our literary tradition," adds Lakehead Professor and Leacock Associate Linda Rodenburg.
"One of the best ways to encourage children to read is when they see their parents enjoying a good book. That's one reason why we're proud to support the Leacock Medal and the wonderful books it recognizes," said Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group and TD's Literacy Champion. "We're proud to be associated with a program that supports Canada's unique brand of humour."
Other previous authors who have been recognized for their witty words include W.O. Mitchell, Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat, Roch Carrier, Eric Nicol, Mordecai Richler, Robertson Davies, and recent Canada Reads! winner Paul Quarrington.
Entries are judged by a national, anonymous panel comprising five national judges and a panel of 11 local readers. Their combined vote determines which literary work will be deemed worthy of recognition as part of the Leacock tradition.
Books shortlisted for the 2008 Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour are The Gum Thief (Douglas Coupland); The Best Laid Plans (Terry Fallis); Spanish Fly (Will Ferguson); King John of Canada (by Scott Gardiner); And God Created Manyberries (Ron Wood).
The winner of the 2008 award will be announced during a luncheon at Orillia's Stephen Leacock Museum on April 30. In addition, a gala dinner will be held to honour this year's recipient on June 7.
Media: To arrange interviews with Linda Rodenburg, please contact her directly at 705-305-5097 or 705-330-4021 (leave message if unavailable). For press passes, or for more information, please contact Wayne Scott, Chair of the Leacock Association, at (705) 326-5206 or email@example.com.
Synopses of Texts:
The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland
For the second year in a row, Vancouver's Douglas Coupland has landed a novel on the list of books short-listed for the Stephen Leacock Medal. The author of JPod, Microserfs and Generation X has written The Gum Thief, a finely crafted account of two co-workers with nothing in common who ultimately have very much in common. Roger, a middle-aged divorcee and Bethany, a young Goth share the same occupation and little else. But there are secret lives and a secret correspondence ensues when Roger writes a mock diary of Bethany's life which is dead-on. Coupland manages to write a story which is wise, witty and unforgettable about love, death and friendships that can occur when least expected.
The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis
Terry Fallis's The Best Laid Plans centres around a cranky and reluctant political candidate who consents to run in a federal election based on the fact that he is "certain-to-lose." Daniel, a jaded and burned out former speech writer is eager to leave politics for the relative calm of academia. His final political assignment is to find a candidate - any candidate he can uncover - to run in a futile race against a wildly popular cabinet minister in the Ottawa area. Daniel finds a candidate in crusty Angus McLintock, who in mourning for his wife, reluctantly accepts the task with the proviso that he won't campaign, give interviews, canvass door-to-door, attend all-candidate meetings, use lawn signs, contact with campaign workers or even be in the country during the election campaign! As the reader can well imagine, things do not turn out as anticipated - always a great source of humour.
Spanish Fly by Will Ferguson
The winner of the Leacock medal in 2002 and again in 2005, Will Ferguson's latest novel has put him once again on the short list for this prestigious award. Spanish Fly takes us back to the 1930s and the Depression towns of the American dustbowl. Jack, a self-taught con artist who's learned to survive on wits alone, joins Virgil and Miss Rose, two eccentric and relatively successful swindlers as they go on a crime spree that takes them through Texas and the Southwest using whatever ruse they can to make money. Devious, predatory but highly likeable, the trio seem like Bonnie and Clyde without bullets until they run into a scheme which makes them - and the reader - wonder if someone is being "set up." Told with wit, style and subtle humour, Ferguson has managed to tell a story that grabs the reader from page one.
King John of Canada by Scott Gardiner
Toronto author Scott Gardiner has brilliantly imagined a Canada of the near future where, through a "series of accidents" our country ends up with a king chosen by lottery. With the house of Windsor imploding and the Governor General having resigned in disgrace, John, an "ordinary" guy from Toronto suddenly becomes King John of Canada. He proves to be a genius at understanding exactly what Canadians want - from Toronto's separatism to Quebec referenda toour role as peacekeepers. The novel is witty and insightful and worthy of being nominated for the Leacock medal. Stephen would have been proud of the premise!
And God Created Manyberries by Ron Wood
With sharp wit, bold characterization and a keen eye for observing what is important - and funny - to Canadians, Ron Wood has written a book which skews the political leadership and the small town foibles of this country. Sounds rather Leacock-ian doesn't it? As a former political backroom communications advisor, Wood knows of which he speaks. It is easy for the reader to imagine the characters in this book with their concerns, their plots and their humorous approaches to life in a small Alberta town. Carrying on the great tradition of Haliburton and Leacock, Ron Wood has portrayed a western small town that seems as real as it is funny.
Lakehead is a comprehensive university with a reputation for innovative programs and cutting-edge research. With a main campus located in Thunder Bay, Ontario and a campus in Orillia, Ontario, Lakehead has over 8,000 students and 2,250 faculty and staff, and is home to the west campus of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. In 2006, Research Infosource Inc. named Lakehead University Canada's Research University of the Year in the undergraduate category. For more information on Lakehead University, visit www.lakeheadu.ca
TD Community Giving: Making a Difference Together
Children's health, literacy and education, and the environment are the three primary areas of focus for TD's community giving. The major flagship programs within these areas are: TD Children's Hospital Fund, TD Friends of the Environment Foundation, the TD Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, TD Canadian Children's Book Week, TD Canada Trust Scholarships for Community Leadership, and the TD Summer Reading Club. In addition, through the support of our customers and employees, TD is involved with a host of national, regional and local programs in support of diversity, arts and culture and other causes. In 2007, TD donated $33 million to more than 2,000 charities and not-for-profit organizations across Canada.