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Leacock Medal 2021 Long List

By 49thShelf
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The Stephen Leacock Associates are pleased to announce the 2021 long list for the annual Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Handed-out for the past 74 years, this annual award recognizes excellence in Canadian literary humour. Past winners have included Terry Fallis, Will Ferguson, W.O.Mitchell, Stuart McLean and Mordecai Richler. Board President Michael Hill thanks the national panel of judges and a committee of local readers for their thoughtful recommendations with this “long list.” The three finalists for the award will be named on Monday, May 3, 2021, with the medal winner being announced on Friday, June 4, 2021.


tagged : humorous

Rod Carley has concocted another hilarious romp behind the theatre curtain - a showdown between artistic freedom and censorship in rural Ontario. Kinmount is the last place down-and-out director Dave Middleton wants to revisit yet there he is directing an amateur production of Romeo and Juliet for an eccentric producer in farm country. And there his quixotic troubles begin. From cults to karaoke, anything that can go wrong does. In one hilarious chapter after another, Dave becomes the reluctant …

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They pulled into Lola's driveway at three p.m.She greeted them in a floral one-piece jumpsuit that would've given Ertha Kitt pause. "Hey kids!" she gushed, wobbling down her cobblestones. "Come on in. Cocktails are on.""Lola, we're tired. Let's get them unpacked first," said Dave."Nonsense," she insisted, ushering the pair up her front steps. He pulled B.J.'s bike out of the hatch and left it on the lawn to be assembled. He then wheeled Miranda's bike around back, prudishly leaning it against the fountain (Professor Murray wouldn't be thrilled knowing that his daughter's bike was chained to a cement penis.) Lola's garden was a neo-classical nightmare, featuring a disturbing cluster of homemade phallic sculptures. Disturbing enough to cause Socrates to swallow hemlock prematurely. He lugged her suitcases to the front foyer and heard laughter emanating from the dining room. "Fifty drunken goat-clad priests dancing around a giant phallus, can you imagine it?" Lola was saying. Plop went the jalapeño peppers for emphasis. "You telling your choric dithyramb stories again," Dave said, entering the candlelit room. More wax dripping than usual. Lola had regaled him with her colourful account of Greek mythology during his last stay. The choric dithyramb was the orgiastic ascendant of car key swapping sugar bowl parties in the 1970s. In ancient Greece, fifty drunken goat-skin priests danced around a giant phallus chanting odes to Dionysus, the God of Swingers."I'm enlightening our young thespians on the backyard.""I think you've enlightened this room enough. Can we not blow out a few candles? It's stifling in here.""Do you two mind them?" she asked, refilling her drink and pouring him a martini."House rules," B.J. said diplomatically, wiping a bead of sweat off his brow."They're lovely. So romantic," Miranda gushed. "B.J., can you do something with your turnips, please? Bury them in the backyard or something," Dave said while exiting to the kitchen to pour his drink down the sink."You can put them in the fridge in the basement, B.J.," Lola offered."Thanks.""Through that door," she gestured. "Switch is at the top of the stairs."B.J. and Chickpea grabbed his turnip bundle and disappeared. Dave was unsure of what to make of B.J.'s purple parrot hand puppet. He'd developed an uneasiness around puppets after surviving the ill-fated Green Eggs and Hamlet children's tour."So, my sweet little thing, tell me about your father," Lola grinned, refilling Miranda's glass."Lola, she just got here. Easy on the third degree," Dave jumped in, returning from the kitchen."Nonsense. Is he handsome? A Byron I bet." Lola's eyes lit up."He's more of a Somerset Maugham. It's his favourite author. His specialty at U of T. He's obsessed with our inability to control our emotions. He says it constitutes bondage." Miranda answered with a detectable strain in her voice that Dave picked up on. "Ah, I see. 'It is an illusion that youth is happy,'" said Lola, quoting Of Human Bondage. "You concur?" "I'm happy most of the time," Miranda replied, twiddling the pepper in her glass."Of course you are and so you should be--such a pretty little thing. I could eat you with jam.""Lola!" Dave exploded."What? We're just getting acquainted aren't we, dear?""Yes. Is there a washroom I can use?" asked Miranda."Up the stairs, my dear. The lavender door. Cranberry towel set is for you.""Oh, that's so nice. Thank you." And she left the room."Don't look at me that way.""Lola, please go a little easy until they get to know you. Miranda is not one of your student boarders." God knows what went on there, he thought. "I don't want her calling her father and telling him she danced naked around a hedge cock on her first night.""Your first reading isn't until three tomorrow. Let them have some fun tonight." She picked out a bottle of scotch from behind the bar."Your idea of fun and the rest of humanity's are very different," he replied matter-of-factly. "If you're going to be like that, why don't you just go to your room and mope.""I want them working on their scripts tonight and rested for tomorrow. Please, set an example," he said, taking the bottle from her. "Fine," she snorted and stormed out of the room. He heard her clumping up the stairs, slamming her bedroom door."Shit," he muttered to himself."Have you been down there?" B.J. asked, dusting himself off as he emerged from the cellar. "No. I have a thing about basements.""Fifty heads hanging on the wall. A wild boar, a black bear, a huge moose.""She used to hunt. With a crossbow.""That's messed up.""Uh-huh.""Even a cougar with a pair of boxers in its mouth!" exclaimed Chickpea, back in action. "Fitting." Dave thought of the Nurse on the prowl on a Saturday night. "The Hemingway suite she calls it. Lola's a little on the eccentric side. In case you hadn't noticed.""Ah, she's harmless," Chickpea squawked in a high-pitched vibrato. "Yeah, she's harmless," Dave repeated the phrase, chewing on an ice cube. B.J. sat down and rolled a joint with Chickpea. "You might want to take that outside.""Right," said B.J. and Chickpea together. Dave wondered how that was even possible.The trio retired to the backyard."Where's Miranda?" asked B.J."Washroom.""Don't worry. I only toke at night," B.J. volunteered, sensing Dave's uneasiness."Good. I didn't want to have to ask," Dave said. He quickly changed the subject. "Not exactly a garden that fosters tea and scones." "Only if Oscar Wilde were a guest," Chickpea joked while B.J. inspected his herbs. "Yeah, don't bring that up. Lola will want to have a séance."They shared a laugh."Hey, guys." Miranda joined them, pulling her hair away from her mouth. "This place is so cool. Do you know there's a mobile with cherubs copulating hanging in the bathroom?""At least there isn't lipstick scrawled on the mirror," Dave said."Oh, but there is." "What?" "A greeting. 'Welcome thespians. May love blossom in these rooms.'""Great," Dave said hotly, opening the back-screen door and entering the kitchen. "Please don't fret. I think she's lovely," Miranda shouted after him."She's just eccentric," Chickpea offered up, flapping his wings. He passed the joint to Miranda who didn't decline.The sound of a bell ringing and getting closer pierced the evening quiet. A gunshot rang out from the front yard, followed by a boy's scream.The trio raced to the driveway only to see Lola brandishing a pellet gun and screaming at a terrified Dickie Dee ice cream boy cringing on the sidewalk. His front tire was shot out. Other neighbours were opening their front doors."I've warned you three times. Don't ring that fucking bell in front of my house!" Lola wailed.

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Open House

Open House

A Life in Thirty-Two Moves
also available: Paperback Paperback

Moving house has never flustered author Jane Christmas. She loves houses: viewing them, negotiating their price, dreaming up interior plans, hiring tradespeople to do the work and overseeing renovations. She loves houses so much that she’s moved thirty-two times.

There are good reasons for her latest house move, but after viewing sixty homes, Jane and her husband succumb to the emotional fatigue of an overheated English housing market and buy a wreck in the town of Bristol that is overpriced, w …

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Like Rum-Drunk Angels

Like Rum-Drunk Angels

also available: Paperback

Winner, Spur Award for Best Traditional Novel and Robert Kroetsch City of Edmonton Book Prize
Long-listed, 2021 Leacock Award for Humour

Francis Blackstone is a fourteen-year-old gunslinger with a heart of gold.

He’s fallen for the mayor’s daughter and resolves to make his mark, and his fortune, to win her favour. And what better way than to rob a Manhattan Company bank? Enter Bob Temple, the volatile outlaw who takes Francis under his wing— though not without a degree of suspicion— and so …

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Afterlife Crisis

Afterlife Crisis

also available: eBook
tagged : humorous


For readers of Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, and P.G. Wodehouse, and fans of The Good Place – a tongue in cheek fantasy that imagines Isaac Newton in the afterlife.

Where do you go after you die? Detroit.

“Finally, a hitchhiker's guide to the hereafter.” — Corey Redekop, author of Husk

Something’s rotten in the afterlife. At least that’s how it seems to Rhinnick Feynman, the one man who perceives that someone in the afterlife is tugging at history’s threads and retroactively unrav …

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It’s okay if you don’t believe in the afterlife. The people who live there don’t believe in you, either.

Afterlife Crisis is the second story in the Beforelife universe, a world that you might think of as the afterlife. The people who live there wouldn’t think of it as the afterlife, though, because they don’t think that anything comes before it. They call their world Detroit. Almost all the people who live in that world have forgotten their pre-mortem lives, and think that people simply pop into existence by emerging from the Styx and getting on with eternal life. Anyone who remembers having lived a mortal life is shoved into an asylum and treated for Beforelife Delusion.

This raises a question. Should you read the first story, Beforelife, before dipping into this one? A short answer is “no”. A slightly longer answer is “yes”. But another answer, and an altogether more correct one, is that it depends on what you want to get out of this book. Having read the previous paragraph you know all you need to know in order to string along with the story of Afterlife Crisis. You’ll realize that many of the characters in the book are historical figures who now live in the world of Detroit without remembering who they were in the mortal world. You’ll know why humans in Detroit are immortal — able to recover from any injury or illness — and why they cringe at the very thought of human mortality. You’ll understand that the people of Detroit fail to realize the true nature of their world, and that the people being treated for Beforelife Delusion are the only ones who get what’s going on.

There are other mysteries, though, that you’ll have a better chance of piecing together after reading both books. Who is Abe, the all powerful leader of Detroit? Why are some people in Detroit, like Abe, able to reshape the world to suit their whims? Why does Rhinnick Feynman, the narrator of Afterlife Crisis, believe he’s a character in a novel being penned by a cosmic Author? Why do some people reincarnate? Why does Rhinnick’s pal, Zeus, seem to believe that he was a Yorkshire terrier when he lived in the mortal world? And why are there so many Napoleons cluttering up the scenery? Clues about these (and other) mysteries are liberally besprinkled throughout both books. And while you’ll be able to piece many of them together by reading Afterlife Crisis on its own, those who really enjoy detective work might have a lot more fun by sifting through two volumes filled with intersecting clues.

For what it’s worth, my mother can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want The Collected Works, so she suggests that you head to the bookshop and complete the set right now.

Randal Graham


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Last Impressions

Last Impressions


Shortlisted for the 2021 Leacock Medal for Humour
Longlisted for the 2020 Toronto Book Awards

How can you say goodbye forever when you've left an important secret unspoken?

"I'll tell you what I'm going to do," Zoltan said. "When I die, I'll leave my luck to you."

Zoltan Beck is dying. His devoted but long-suffering sons, Ben and Frank, are trying to prepare themselves and their families for Zoltan's eventual departure...but they can't quite bring themselves to believe that the end is really at han …

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Chapter 3
On a day not long after the Second World War had erupted, the world of Bela Beck and his younger brother, Zoltan—or Zoli, as he was then called—turned, and it would not turn back. At dawn, the boys had gone for their daily swim at the Palladium, one of the only places in Budapest with an Olympic-sized pool. Bela had made the national team, and now he was determined to make the Hungarian Olympic team. His younger brother was a first-rate swimmer too but, where competition was concerned, could only cheer Bela on from the sidelines and was glad to do so.
The two boys were in the dressing room with a few of Bela’s teammates, including Bela’s good friend Imre Horvath. Imre had snatched Bela’s towel away from him and was about to snap it at Bela to get a rise out of him. Zoli was doubled over with laughter. Bela, naked, tried to get the towel back from Imre, but Imre laughed too and held it behind him.
Zoli left to use the toilet, and when he returned, the coach was there. He didn’t usually arrive until later, when the boys had warmed up in the pool. He was telling Bela it might not be a good idea to practice today. Bela smirked and Imre giggled some more, but the coach wasn’t joking. “I’m sorry,” the man said.
“No need to be sorry,” Zoli said boldly. He was just pulling up his bathing suit. “We can manage without you today.” He took his stopwatch from his satchel. “We’re all prepared—see?”
The coach had not budged. He had not even turned toward Zoli.
“What do you mean?” Bela asked. “What are you sorry about?”
An officer entered behind the coach. He was dressed in the black uniform of the new special police. Imre got to his feet beside Bela. He offered his friend his towel back, but the officer slapped it to the floor before Bela could take it. Zoli ran to pick it up, but the officer raised his arm to bar him. The man looked Bela up and down. “Out,” he told him.
“What do you mean?” said Bela. He glanced at the coach, who looked away.
“Out,” the officer said.
Zoli began to dress again, punching his way through the damp sleeve of his shirt.
“What are you talking about?” Imre said. He stood in the man’s face, but the officer pulled the towel off Imre’s waist and looked at him too. Then the officer put his hand hard on Imre’s shoulder and sat him down again. “You have one minute,” the man said to Bela. “Don’t come back.” He pointed at Zoli. “And take him with you.”
“Don’t come back at all, or today only?” Imre asked, and the officer slapped him hard with the back of his hand and he almost fell off the bench. Zoli rushed at the officer and took a hard slap too. It made his lip bleed.
Bela scrambled to get his things. He trembled with rage. He helped his brother out the door and was gone, not once turning back. The two marched straight over to the Ferenc Liszt Academy, making quick work of the long walk across town. They hardly said a word to each other. They knew what this was about. Their father had told them these days were coming. He knew before most. Yet here they were. How could they have prepared?
When they arrived, another black shirt stood in front of the door. Bela’s first thought, strangely, was how quickly they had manufactured these uniforms. Was it during the friendly conversations between Horthy and Hitler, or was it even before? The Hungarians had once again sided with Germany, as they had in the First World War.
“What do you think?” Zoli whispered. “We could take him, the two of us. We could punch him senseless.”
“Are you crazy, Zoli? This is a music academy.”
The guard at the door had a softer look on his face than the man at the pool. He seemed younger, possibly Bela’s age.
Bela and Zoli stepped forward. “Excuse me,” Bela said. He had a key in his hand.
“What do you want here?” the guard asked in a boy’s voice.
“I practice music here,” Bela said. “This is my brother. I teach music here. I have a student this morning. I know it’s early—”
“Not today,” the guard said.
“Yes, today. I’ll show you my schedule.”
“You won’t be having students today.”
“Then I’ll just practice for a short time.”
“Not here,” the man-boy said. “Not today.”
Zoli was breathing hard, panting. Bela looked the guard in the eyes, and the guard looked away, then down, but he stood his ground. How did he even know who Bela was? Had he been warned to expect him? Bela wanted to take his brother and back up. He wanted to wait on the other side of the street, stare at the guard, make him squirm a bit, see if he turned others away. But then what? Was Bela going to call the police? Was he going to storm the building with his brother? Bela filled his lungs with blue Danube air, and Zoli followed suit, waiting for his brother’s lead. But Bela took his brother by the shoulder and turned toward home.
When they got there, Bela pushed through the door into the foyer. He took his mother’s face in his hands and kissed her on each cheek. The housekeeper, Vera, was right behind her, but she sensed something and withdrew. “No swimming today,” Bela told his mother quietly, “and no music.”

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Indians on Vacation

Indians on Vacation

A Novel
also available: eBook Paperback Paperback

A #1 Indie bestseller and a Canadian bestseller for 22 weeks, the brilliant latest novel from one of Canada’s foremost authors

Inspired by a handful of postcards sent nearly a hundred years ago, Bird and Mimi attempt to trace long-lost uncle Leroy and the family medicine bundle he took with him to Europe.

“I’m sweaty and sticky. My ears are still popping from the descent into Vaclav Havel. My sinuses ache. My stomach is upset. My mouth is a sewer. I roll over and bury my face in a pillow. Mi …

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Bar Mitzvah Boy

Bar Mitzvah Boy

also available: eBook
tagged : canadian

Joey Brant needs to have a bar mitzvah immediately. Like, next Tuesday. Except he’s not thirteen, the usual age for the Jewish milestone. He’s in his sixties. A task he thinks he could quickly cross off his to-do list becomes a deep immersion into the faith he no longer follows when he meets Rabbi Michael Levitz-Sharon.

Michael’s personal life is hanging together by a thread. Her preteen daughter is being treated for cancer, which has put a strain on her marriage and her beliefs. Between he …

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Scene Two
Rabbi’s Office


Late Friday afternoon.

Joey’s back is towards us. He’s decked out in prayer regalia?—?including tefillin, which are on incorrectly. He’s checking the books and pulls one down, stops, pulls another, stops. He takes a hefty book and turns to face the audience, looking very much like the perfect rabbi.

An old-style intercom buzzes and we hear the voice of Sheryl.

Sheryl: Rabbi. You’ve got a visitor. I said to wait in the hall but . . . Rabbi?

Joey settles behind the desk. Relaxed. At home. He opens the book, flips the pages. Michael enters, sweaty from her run. And . . .

Michael: Excuse me.

Joey: Hello.

Michael stares at Joey, puzzled.

What can I do for you? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m waiting for someone.

Michael: I see.

Joey: I have an appointment.

Michael: Sorry to disturb you.

Joey: Not a problem, I’m sure the receptionist can help you out.

Michael: Or security.

Joey: Absolutely.

Michael reaches for the intercom.

Michael: Shall I call security?

Joey: I’m sorry, do you work here? I don’t know everyone who works here.

Michael: I can see that.

Joey extends a hand.

Joey: Joey.

Michael shakes.

Michael: Michael.

Joey: So your parents wanted a boy?

Michael: It means “gift from G-d” or “who is like G-d.”

Joey: It means your parents wanted a boy.

Michael: I’m guessing yours did too.

Joey: So what do you do here?

Michael: This and that . . . I’m the rabbi. So more this than that.

Joey: No.

Michael: And you’re in my chair.

Joey: You’re Rabbi Levitz-Sharon? (pronounced Share-in.)

Michael: Rabbi Michael Levitz-Sharon. (pronounced Sha-rown) Like the prime minister. No relation.

Joey: But you’re?—

Michael: Not circumcised?

Joey: Young. I was thinking young.

Michael: Of course you were.

Joey indicates her ball cap.

Joey: And that’s your kippah? So you cover your head all the time?

Michael: You must be Mr. Brant.

Joey: So you heard I was coming?

Michael: I heard you wanted to see me today and Sheryl told you I wasn’t available because I’m never available Friday afternoons. I’ve got a service to prepare.

Joey: Did she tell you it was an emergency? I told her to tell you it was an emergency.

Michael: Did somebody die?

Joey: No one I know.

Michael: Is someone dying?

Joey: We’re all dying. It’s the human condition.

Michael: So it’s not an emergency. And it’s almost Shabbat. And I really have to shower and change.

Joey: This won’t take long.

Michael: I can see you next week. Not on Friday. Once the sun goes down I can’t turn on the hot water.

Joey: That’s just silly.

Michael: It is, actually, but that’s religion for you.

Joey: An ancient tradition dating back to the great showers of Egypt.

Michael: Also, the congregation will be wondering where I am.

Joey: I’m here now. I’m dressed. I only need a minute.

Michael: You look lovely. You should stay for services.

Joey: Are you kidding? It’s Friday night.

Michael: Yes, that would be when we traditionally have Friday night services. And you know what happens at sundown?

Joey: Hell yah. I remember this from Hebrew school. The chariot turns into a pumpkin and the horses turn back into mice.

Michael: You have to go. I have to change. Now if you want to talk next week?—

Joey: This’ll only take a second. Please, just one second, I promise.

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Dirty Birds

Dirty Birds

also available: Paperback Audiobook









In late 2008, as the world’s economy crumbles and Barack Obama ascends to the White House, the remarkably …

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