CanLit Challenge Book #22: The Clockmaker by Thomas Chandler Haliburton
Filed under: CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 3:53 pm on Saturday, August 25, 2007

Book 22, The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville (1835-6) – Thomas Chandler Haliburton
From the publisher:
Sam Slick of Slickville, Connecticut, is a Yankee clock-peddler who accompanies a visiting English gentleman on an unforgettable tour of early nineteenth-century Nova Scotia. His shrewd observations and witty commentaries make up the thirty-three sketches of The Clockmaker.

First serialized in 1835 and 1836 and then published together in late 1836 in response to public demand, the sketches of The Clockmaker established Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton as a satirical humorist of international stature.

The New Canadian Library edition is an unabridged reprint of the complete original text.

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Thomas Chandler Haliburton
the Dictionary of Canadian Biography article on Thomas Chandler Haliburton
the website of the Haliburton House Museum

My thoughts:

Now Stephen Leacock is often considered the father of Canadian satire and humour, but before him was Thomas Chandler Haliburton. My next CanLit pick is The Clockmaker: The Sayings & Doings of Samuel Slick of Slickville first appearing in the Novascotian newspaper and published as a set in 1836. Several more volumes were to follow.

This is from the Dictionary of Canadian Biography:
“Haliburton’s international and enduring reputation as a writer, however, is based on The Clockmaker; or, the Sayings and Doings of Samuel Slick, of Slickville, of which 22 instalments had appeared in the Novascotian newspaper before a book of that title was issued by Joseph Howe at Halifax in 1836. The Clockmaker, second series, was published in London by Richard Bentley in 1838, and the third series in 1840. These series were frequently reprinted in Britain and the United States. For a time at least in the mid-19th century, Haliburton and his work had a vogue on both sides of the Atlantic which rivalled that enjoyed by Charles Dickens.

The Clockmaker can be regarded as a series of moral essays pointed by satire or as a picaresque novel whose plot is more episodic than that of most. The Squire, narrator and persona of the author, and Sam Slick, a Yankee clockmaker, travel through contemporary Nova Scotia. On their wanderings somehow or other every incident they encounter becomes an apt illustration of a political or social trait which can often be summed up by a maxim. Interest throughout the book, therefore, is not dependent on suspense but rather on the inherent liveliness of each incident, the appropriateness of the meaning which it illustrates, and the author’s brilliant use of characterization, language, anecdote, and point of view.”

The Preacher that Wandered / current U.S. gov’t
I was reading this section:

“‘That’s a bright scheme, but it won’t do: we shall want the Province some day, and I guess we’ll buy it off King William; they say he is over head and ears in debt, and owes nine hundred millions of pounds starling—we’ll buy it, as we did Florida. In the meantime we must have a canal from Bay Fundy to Bay Varte, right through Cumberland Neck by Shittyack, for our fishing vessels to go to Labradore.”I guess you must ax leave first,’ said I. ‘That’s jist what I was ciphering at,’ says he, ‘when you came in. I believe we won’t ax them at all, but jist fall to and do it; it’s a road of needcessity. I once heard Chief Justice Marshall of Baltimore, say “If the people’s highway is dangerous, a man may take down a fence and pass through the fields as a way of needcessity”; and we shall do it on that principle, as the way round by Isle Sable is dangerous.'”

and I couldn’t help but think about the current U.S. statements about the Northwest Passage being an international shipping lane despite the fact that it goes through our internal waters.

By the way, I checked and there never was a canal built from the Bay of Fundy to Baie Verte at Shediac, N.B. nor on the N.S. side at Amherst, though there were proposals to do so as late as the 1950s.

Sam Slick predicts the American Civil War – 30 years beforehand

“The Blacks and the Whites in the States show their teeth and snarl; they are jist ready to fall to[ …] The Abolitionists and Planters are at it like two bulls in a pastur’. […] General Government and State Government every now and then square off and spar, and the first blow given will bring a genuine set-to. […] You have heerd tell of cotton rags dipped in turpentine, haven’t you, how they produce combustion among us in abundance; when it does break out, if you don’t see an eruption of human gore worse than Etna lava, then I’m mistaken.”- XXI Cumberland Oysters

This was a fun read. Interesting to see how early our respective national characters were developed, just 50 short years following the American Revolution and 30 years yet before Confederation. It’s also interesting to see how settled and civilised Nova Scotia was while at the same time Ontario was still a wild forest.

CanLit Challenge Book #21: The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Filed under: CanLit Challenge — Ibis at 6:43 pm on Saturday, August 11, 2007

Book 21, The Blind Assassin (2000) – Margaret Atwood
From the back cover:
“‘Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge.’ These words are spoken by Iris Chase Griffen, married at eighteen to a wealthy industrialist but now poor and eighty-two. Iris recalls her far from exemplary life, and the events leading up to her sister’s death, gradually revealing the carefully guarded Chase secrets. Among these is ‘The Blind Assassin,’ a novel that earned the dead Laura Chase not only notoriety but also a devoted cult following. Sexually explicit for its time, it was a pulp fantasy improvised by two unnamed lovers who meet secretly in rented rooms and seedy cafés. As sacrifice and betrayal, so does the real narrative, as both move closer to war and catastrophe. Margaret Atwood’s Booker Prize-winning sensation combines elements of gothic drama, romantic suspense, and science fiction fantasy in a spellbinding tale.”

Other useful links:
the Wikipedia article on Margaret Atwood
the Wikipedia article on The Blind Assassin
the Wikipedia article on the Southern Ontario Gothic literary genre

My thoughts:

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. I love books like this, with several stories going on at once and jumps back and forth in time. I figured out most of the “surprise twists” but it didn’t detract at all from the novel. I really got to know and to like Iris (and to detest her sister-in-law!! not to mention her husband…). I enjoyed the pulp erotic sci-fi parts and the biographical-family history parts in which Iris chronicles the rise and decline of the Button Factory and Port Ticonderoga. Fantastic book. I probably would’ve had more to say if I hadn’t waited 3 months to post about it. :(

Now we know by the end (though I suspected much earlier) that Richard had had his way with young Laura. I kept getting the sense throughout that there was also something incestuous going on between Richard and Winifred—she seems awfully attached to him…

I imagine some people will be annoyed by Iris’s lack of independence and will to be so controlled like that and not to apprise herself of what was going on with Richard and the factory and Richard and Laura and actively change things, but I think the point is that she was “sold off” at a fairly early age and was taken advantage of by Richard and Winifred.