Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Review of My Discover of the West by Stephen Leacock

The second nonfiction winner of the Governor-General's award is Stephen Leacock's My Discover of the West. Leacock, a McGill University professor, went on a Western lecture tour. In order to create this book, he pieced together his thoughts on various current events and current issues facing Canada. Additionally, he describes the West and tries to explain the country as a whole.

As a means to access interwar Canada, My Discovery works extraordinarily well. Leacock addresses many issues of the day such as economic depression, social credit, railways, regionalism, and immigration. In a sense, My Discovery is a survey of the issues of the day, explained in a very humourous manner. Indeed, Leacock is a very talented writer both in elucidating complex material and doing so in an entertaining way.

Reading My Discovery today, I couldn't help but be struck by the relvance, particularly in economics. Leacock seems relatively middle-of-the road from what I gather. This is a book that discusses economics, but it is most certainly not a treatise, and there is no theory. As a matter of fact, the only economic theory Leacock discusses in-depth is social credit, and only to criticise it. Leacock seems most concerned with practicality over theory and more about describing and explaining than persuading.

Overall, Leacock is a talented, humouous writer, and this book provides a nice window into 1930s Canada, particularly the West. Readers will be struck by how many of his observations, particularly his regional ones, still contain truth today.

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