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Trevor Cole wins the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal

Practical Jean by Trevor ColeCongratulations to Trevor Cole! His novel Practical Jean, took home the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. The prize was announced at a luncheon ceremony in Leacock's hometown of Orillia, Ontario.

Practical Jean follows suburban housewife Jean Horemarsh as she comes to terms with the loss of her mother, a woman Jean has very conflicted feelings about. But when Jean sees the endless suffering her mother endures as she approaches death, Jean decides that no one, not her worst enemies and most certainly not her best friends, deserves to suffer the same fate.

While her acts may be gruesome, Jean is no monster: everyone can relate to her difficult circumstances -- she struggles to keep her family together, protect her friends from harm and cope with grief.

"Mr. Cole continues an outstanding society of Canadian writers that get humour just right," said Frank McKenna, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Group. "We are thrilled to congratulate and recognize him for his exceptional and award-winning work." 

Trevor answered our Stephean Leacock questionnaire earlier this month. You can see his responses below.

On April 1, the Stephen Leacock Association announced the five finalists for the 2011 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. We sent all five nominees the same questionnaire in order to get a little more insight into who these writers are, what their books are about and what they thought of being nominated for the Leacock!

The CBC Book Club interviewed Trevor in December 2010. You can check out the interview here. 

After you read Trevor's Q&A below, be sure to check out our chats with the four other authors short listed for this year's award:

  • Red Green, author of How to Do Everything
  • Terry Fallis, author of The High Road

  • Todd Babiak, author of Toby: A Man

  • David Rakoff, author of Half Empty 


    Q: For readers who aren't familiar with Practical Jean, tell us what it is about in your own words.

    A: Practical Jean tells the story of Jean Horemarsh, a pleasant small-town woman who makes ceramics. After taking care of her mother in the final, painful months of terminal cancer, Jean resolves not to allow her closest friends to meet such a horrible, undignified end. So she sets out to give each of her friends a final, sweet moment of happiness, before killing them. This turns out not to be as easy for Jean as she imagined, because female friendships are quite complicated things.

    Trevor ColeQ: Where were you when you found out you were nominated? What did it feel like?

    A: I was at my desk, engaging with the world through Twitter, and Twitter told me. I was delighted by those 140 characters, if a little put out that Twitter found out a split second before me.

    Q: If you can't win, which other shortlisted author would you like to see win?

    A: Really? You want me to favour one of my peers over another? Uh...oh, look over there!

    Q: Who are some of your favourite humour writers?

    A: I don't tend to read "humour" writers per se, but I enjoy reading the novelists who have influenced me in their use of humour -- people like Philip Roth, Ian McEwan, Paul Quarrington and Jonathan Franzen. I'm also becoming a big fan of Tina Fey.

    Q: What is the funniest place in Canada?

    A: Wherever Stephen Harper is, pretending to be one of us. That guy cracks me up.

    Q: Why humour? What compelled you to write funny stories?

    A: Honestly I look at the world, at people and the way they behave towards each other, at institutions and their systems of insensitivity, and I can't help but find much of it absurd. Humour is real life. Humour makes sense of stupidity, it allows us to say what needs to be said, it helps us survive our darkest moments. Humour is the great leveller; it fells the powerful and uplifts the weak. Goliath probably looked at that pipsqueak David with his puny slingshot and fell down laughing. Humour is also very hard to do well, particularly in the context of fiction, and I like a challenge.

    Q: What's the funniest book you've ever read?

    A: Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections. It's pure genius.

    Q: Where is your favourite place to write?

    A: In my head.

    Q: What makes something funny?

    A: That's a little like asking what makes something beautiful, although the answer would be different. Funny is a very personal thing. But here's something: Humour is often the art of surprising juxtapositions. Smart humour makes you think about two or three things at the same time.

    Q: If you could meet Stephen Leacock, what would you say to him?

    A: I bet you'd like Rick Mercer.


    Congratulations to Trevor Cole!

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