Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review: Mice in the Beer (Ward)

Ward, Norman Mice in the Beer (1960; reprint 1986) Western Producer of Regina, publisher of a magazine for farmers, occasionally reprints or publishes books of miscellaneous interest. Ward, a professor of political science, lived most of his working life in Saskatchewan, which I suspect is one reason this collection of occasional pieces was reprinted. He has a sly wit, very much like Leacock: he's a master of the offhand remark that contains a bomb. He won the Leacock Medal for Humour, and on the evidence here deserved it. His humour is gentler than Leacock's (whose reputation as a gentle satirist rests on superficial reading.) Ward's persona often plays straight man to "Uncle Bob", a surprisingly good-humoured curmudgeon whose musings often lead logically into absurdities. Like Davies' Marchbanks, there are few one-liners. The humour depends on the slow and careful construction of context. Here's an example:

A friend of mine who, more or less as a hobby, runs in elections as the standard-bearer for one of our more obscure political parties, confided in me recently that he was working on a new way to build up his party's fortunes. I'm not quite sure what his opinion is worth, for judging from the number of votes he polls on election day the post he holds in his organization can't be much higher than rank of corporal. But the years of wandering beyond the wilderness have given his views a twist not found among conventional politicians.

"Look," he said, "at Social Credit and all the other small parties. From the beginning they've been loaded to the gunwales with clergymen, school teachers, and other taxpayers of oppressive respectability. Their spokesmen are moral to point of morbidity, and nobody can guess how low they could sink if they got in power. And look at my outfit! How," he demanded, "can we expect to get our party off the ground if all the drinkers are Liberals and Conservatives?

All in all, a good read. **-1/2