If you ever saw one of W.O. Mitchell’s public readings you will know why they were described as unforgettable. Unruly white hair flying, fist raised, voice husky or thundering, eyes wide in innocent astonishment at a double entendre raising a laugh, W.O. Mitchell did not give readings from his work; he performed them. In contrast to the lonely life of the writer, he loved “the immediate thrust of a live audience as it responds to story magic,” and the audiences loved him, laughing until they were sore.
This wonderful selection of 31 pieces shows his writing at its best, while the in-performance photographs catch some of the charm of the man whose own character was perhaps his finest creation.
Some pieces come from his novels, such as Who Has Seen the Wind and The Vanishing Point. We also hear the distinctive voices of both Jake and the Kid. “Melvin Arbuckle’s First Course in Shock Therapy” is here, as are “The Day I Sold Lingerie in a Prairie Whore House” and the sad tale of “Santa Comes to Shelby.” Old favourites are mixed with many new pieces, some never before published in book form, such as “Stopping Smoking” and “The Day I Caught Syphilis” (at the age of twelve). There are also serious pieces on censorship, and, finally, his inspiring 1996 speech in Winnipeg to the Writers’ Union of Canada that moved his audience to tears. This book is a worthy tribute to a wonderful man.
W.O. Mitchell was born in Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1914. Educated at the University of Manitoba, he lived most of his life in Saskatchewan and Ontario, before he and his wife, Merna, moved to Calgary. During a varied career, Mitchell travelled widely… More about W. O. Mitchell