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Alberta writer W.O. Mitchell on CBC Radio

The Story


Described as a "salty-tongued, fiery, tousle-haired, snuff-stained Prairie cuss," W.O. Mitchell reveled in his reputation as a rabble-rouser. He loved saying things that made people uncomfortable but made them laugh, as heard in this hilarious radio clip from 1980. In it, Mitchell reads a letter to Alberta Premier Ernest Manning, chastising Manning's cabinet ministers for attacking J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye. The self-described raconteur feigns anger for not having his own literature labeled as "trash," "filth" and "garbage," in classic Mitchell style.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: July 1, 1980
Guest: W.O. Mitchell
Host: Jack Peach, Wayne Collins
Duration: 3:16
W. O. Mitchell, excerpt from NFB film W.O. Mitchell, A Novelist in Hiding

Did You know?


• William Ormand Mitchell was born on March 13, 1914, in Weyburn, Sask. He died in Calgary on Feb. 25, 1998.

 

• Like many of his most memorable characters, he grew up in the prairies. But he also spent four years in California and Florida in order to recover from a childhood case of tuberculosis.
• In 1944, Mitchell settled in High River, Alta., where he remained until 1968 except for the three years he spent in Toronto as fiction editor for Maclean's magazine (1948 to 1951).

 

• Mitchell's first novel, Who Has Seen the Wind, was published to critical acclaim in 1947. The book, portraying the beauty and power of the prairie and the wind, remains a Canadian classic and Mitchell's most famous novel.
• Mitchell cemented his popularity in Canada with his weekly radio series, Jake and the Kid, for the CBC. It was broadcast from 1950 to 1956, producing a total of 320 episodes. (None is yet available on the CBC Archives website pending union negotiations.)

 

• His other well-known works include The Kite (1962), How I Spent My Summer Holidays (1981), and According to Jake and the Kid, which garnered him the Stephen Leacock Award (1989).
• Between 1968 and 1987, Mitchell taught creative writing and was the writer-in-residence at University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Toronto's Massey College and University of Windsor.

 

• In 1973 he was named a member of the Order of Canada. He was also named an honorary member of the Privy Council in 1992. The Privy Council is the secretariat of the federal cabinet and provides non-partisan advice to the prime minister. 

 

• On Feb. 25, 1998, W.O. Mitchell died after a long battle with prostate cancer.
• After his death, the W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize was established to recognize individuals with a substantial body of work and who have acted as mentors to new writers.

 

• In 2000, the Canadian government commemorated W.O. Mitchell by putting his image on a postage stamp.

 


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