Book Reviews

Book Reviews:

"Alan Bowker has played a substantive role in reminding those who do not know or are prone to forget that the author of the Canadian classic, Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town, was also the author of such political classics as Greater Canada: An Appeal and The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice. [...] The 1973 publication of Social Criticism broke new ground by the way it highlighted that Leacock could not be reduced to merely an amusing teller of quaint tales. Bowker’s 1996 ‘Postscript’ to Social Criticism made it abundantly clear that he was doing a rethink of some of Leacock’s life and writings, but the substance of the book remained much the same." Ron Dart, University of the Fraser Valley, Vive le Canada, 2006

"Bowker [...] demonstrates that the social reformer in Leacock was no flash in the pan, but had appeared as early as 1906 with the publication of his popular textbook, Elements of Political Science, in which he had advocated a strong regulatory state with responsibility for social services. Finally, Bowker affirms the relevance of Leaock's social criticism to a full comprehension of his best humour. These judgments are well documented, and henceforth it should be impossible for literary critics to consider, for example, Sunshine Sketches in isolation from 'Greater Canada: An Appeal.' [...] This carefully-chosen selection is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Canadian social and political thought." (Ian Ross Robertson, Canadian Historical Review, 1976)

"Alan Bowker has provided us with a welcome and useful selection of Leaock's writings to place beside his better known and more easily available humorous works, and in addition, has written an Introduction which examines Leacock's career as a social scientist and places his writings in a context often neglected by literary critics. Leacock addressed himself to very durable problems, especially with respect to North America. Even Imperialism was a way of expressing our constant desire for a Canadian style separate from the United States, and our quest for a fully mature literature is an ongoing process. Mr Bowker [...] shows that Leacock is in a tradition which includes Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, and George Grant: that he has a place as a prominent figure in our intellectual as well as our literary histoiry." (Carl Ballstadt, Canadian Literature, 1974)

"Assume Leacock's already proven wit. Sprinkle it throughout essays ranging from political theory to social criticism. Add an editor who writes well and is comfortable with his subject and you have an entertaining collection of essays and a valuable introduction to Leacock's 'other side'. [...] On a subject up to now sadly neglected, Alan Bowker has produced a book certainly well worth reading." (Suzanne Ross, Winnipeg Tribune, 1974)

"The author of Sunshine Sketches, Bowker rightly comments, aniticpated the 'Red Toryism' of Grant, preoccupation with technology and its relationship to the Canadian identity, and was 'one of the first Canadian academics to fuse the insights of the American progressives with the British and Canadian conservative tradition in order to develop an analysis of the United States and North American society which was uniquelly Canadian.' The social criticism of Stephen Leacock alters our perspective of the home-spun wit and wag revealing him as a social scientist whose views [...] provoke at least as may thoughts as grins." (John Richmond, Montreal Star, 1973)

"Bowker's brilliant introductory essay gives us a picture of a philosophical conservative, a Red Tory, trying to find sense and order in a world which seemed to be coming apart at the seams. [...] Bowker sees Leacock's greatest achievement as his ability to meld humour with social insight in his two most important books, Arcadian Adventures with the Idle Rich and Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town. Technology confronts traditional, pastoral Canadian society with sinister results. Leacock makes us chuckle, but he also makes us think. Bowker's opinion: 'He needs no apoloigy for either his humour or his sopcial science.'" (Ronald D. Tallman, American Review of Canadian Studies, 1973)

"What makes Leacock worth reading is  [...] the pleasure of his style. [...] Non-economists might also enjoy this book, but perhaps everyone should begin their reading of Leacock with "Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town" or "Arcadian Adventures of the Idle Rich". Curiously enough, there is more of Leacock's somewhat tory concern with social justice in those novels (subtly in the first, rather more blatantly in the second) than there is in the book I'm reviewing here." (CN Gomersall,, 2001)