I‘ve always been a fan of good satire. Back in the late 70’s and 80’s I read National Lampoon magazine monthly, watched Saturday Night Live and SCTV weekly. Read Doonesbury and Bloom County Babylon daily. Then came This Hour Has 22 Minutes on CBC. This show introduced me to East Coast humour and satire, specifically that of Newfoundland origins.
Although I’ve never been there (yet), the island of Newfoundland appears to me as a distinct society, as much as Quebec certainly does. I find Newfoundland humour very distinct, too. They can “make fun” of themselves in various ways: as townies or as baymen (or baywomen), and as someone “from there” who can step back and observe it like no other person “from away” could. Edward Riche, the auhor of the acclaimed novel Today I Learned it Was You (2016, House of Anansi Press) fills all those roles equally well, as demonstrated in this Breakwater Books collection of his essays entitled Bag of Hammers.
The author explains in his Afterword what that term means:
“Bad taste often lends satire vitality. As it can be a knife or a skewer, satire can also be a blunt instrument. It can be a cudgel, a hammer. Thus the title of this collection. We say in Newfoundland “Foolish as a bag of hammers” to mean something or someone ridiculous. In other places, there is “ugly as a bag of hammers” to mean that which is lumpen, misshapen, unwieldy. All that can be said of comic and satiric prose.”
There is something for everyone in this collection. “Paul Was the Walrus” is a piece about the sealing industry, Paul McCartney, and the eating of seal meat:
Even the freshest seal meat has a pronounced flavour. It is too strong to be matched with any sauce. There is virtually no wine to have “with”. It is best accompanied by strong tea. If one must drink, then dark rum after.
“Best in Show” is a satirical look at that corporate buzz term “best practices,” an open letter to Canada from Newfoundland (“Dear Canada…Signed Newfoundland”), Mr. Riche’s take on texting (“Chatter Boxes”) and the hilarious “March” which any Maritimer can identify with since it deals with the extreme weather changes here:
“Maybe you’re not bipolar, maybe it’s Newfoundland.”
Twenty-nine short essays, plus the aforementioned Afterword fill the 170+ pages of Bag of Hammers. A little bit Leacock, a little bit E.B. White and a dash of H.S. Thompson, this five-star collection of east coast satire by the author of Today I Learned it Was You (2016, House of Anansi Press) will satisfy the most discerning satire enthusiast.