I am going to suspend my decade by decade accounts of the life and works of Stephen Leacock for the next eight weeks. I will pick up the thread on Monday, October 21. The reason: I am now writing the book that I said from the start I was going to write for the 100th Anniversary of The Unsolved Riddle of Social Justice, and my mind simply cannot cope with two major writing streams at once, these three blogs being one stream, the book being the other. For much of the past five months I have been fiddling around, trying to figure out how to approach that book.
If you have been reading the Monday blog, which is this one, you will be familiar with the workings of my mind, and particularly with my taste for metaphorical or allegorical reasoning, and for casting exposition in the form of narrative. My inspiration for that approach is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I wish I had found myself able to be even more inspired by William Blake, but the going was too stern. I have had to content myself with secondary inspiration from the books of people who understand him better. I have recruited them as Guides for the pilgrimage.
If you are familiar with Bunyan’s book, you will know that it begins, “As I walked through the wilderness of this world … “, an image that appeals to me. Therefore I borrowed it, and the device of the dream introduced in the first paragraph. The story, therefore, becomes the story of a pilgrimage in a dream, told by a first-person narrator who may be the author or may be an invented character in the dream. If you are familiar with Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and many other Stephen Leacock stories you will be familiar with this kind of narrator.
Today I am simply going to introduce you to the characters in the story, since they grew out of the ramblings of the Monday blog for the past five months.
The purpose of the pilgrimage is to locate a venue for the formal marriage of Social Justice, who is the Bride, and Unsolved Riddles, who is the Groom. They have been cohabiting for at least 100 years and have produced many offspring. The time has come for their union to be officially sanctioned. The title of the book is therefore The Marriage of Social Justice and Unsolved Riddles
The pilgrimage travels through a Mind Field occupied by and consisting of The Yottapede and the Charged Ooze. The Yottapede is the inhabitant of the Ooze, which is both its home and its source of nourishment. The Ooze also has a life of its own. It is a living thing, not just a medium for living things. So too is the Valley within which all this takes place and which has been brutally occupied by the Mind Field.
The others in the wedding party are Mnemochirianne the Centaur, Astranasus the Star-Nosed Mole, and Vulphystrix the Fox-Hedgehog (or Fox-Porcupine) Both-Andian. Monday blog readers will recognize them. Vulphystrix, as a Both-Andian, finds it difficult to walk. He therefore has acquired a personal attendant, called Prophet Isaiah, who is not that one, but another one.
For reasons that will become apparent, two other creatures have joined the party: Eulalie, an Owl, and Ursula, a Bear. I capitalize these identities in order to emphasize that they are creatures of the Dream, not of Nature.
The Narrator, who calls himself “I” or “Me” as the case requires, will be informed throughout the Pilgrimage by three of the nine Muses: Calliope, Clio, and Terpsichore. Calliope, their leader, is accompanied by a handmaiden named Mosjaur, who is the Story.
The whole party will be guided through the Mind Field by three Guides, whose names are Marshall, Northrop, and Bedoubleyou. The exact relationship between them and the three Thinkers they represent remains to be discovered.
That makes a party of sixteen, if I am counting properly: 1. Social Justice; 2. Unsolved Riddles; 3. Mnemochirianne; 4. Eulalie; 5. Ursula; 6. Astranasus; 7. Vulphystrix; 8. Prophet Isaiah; 9. Calliope; 10. Clio; 11. Terpsichore; 12. Mosjaur; 13. Marshall; 14. Northrop; 15. Bedoubleyou; 16. I-Me. We should also count The Yottapede and the Charged Ooze, making eighteen, and the Valley, making nineteen, and even Olde Stephen, the ghost of Stephen Leacock, who hovers over the entire ensemble, making twenty. The numerology of all this is extraordinary, but I won’t try to explain it here.
That’s the set-up. Mosjaur the Story is hard at work. Things are starting to rumble.
The Preface was released on Saturday, August 24th, and the first chapter will be released on Saturday, August 31st, one hundred years to the day since Stephen Leacock published his first chapter in the New York Times, the Toronto Star, and other newspapers. If you want a copy, e-mail me at voyageur-at-bmts.com and you shall have it. There’s no charge, but there is a condition: I am looking for feedback, and reserve the right to beg you for it.