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Will Ferguson’s first book in three years, following on the back-to-back successes of How to Be a Canadian (over 110,000 copies sold) and Happiness™ (Winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour).
Will Ferguson has spent the past three years criss-crossing Canada and back again. In a helicopter above the barrenlands of the sub-Arctic, in a canoe with his four-year-old son, aboard seaplanes and along the Underground Railroad, Will’s travels have taken him from Cape Spear on the coast of Newfoundland to the sun-dappled streets of Olde Victoria.
In his last book, Will told us how to be Canadian; now in this book, he will tell us what it means to be Canadian. And what Will finds out along the way is that Canada in its development and in its current state is really a series of outposts — not only geographically but culturally.
Will’s journey takes him to far-flung isolated communities as well as deep into Canada’s urban centres. From the “million-acre farm” that is P.E.I. to the tobacco belt of southern Ontario, from the architectural mess that is Montreal to the glorious jumble that is St. John’s, from a renegade republic in northwestern New Brunswick to a tundra buggy in the polar bear migration paths of Hudson Bay, Will explodes the myths of who we are.
Funny, poignant and insightful, Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw is a provocative tribute to our quirky and fascinating country.
Excerpt from Beauty Tips from Moose Jaw
In one particular seedy St. John’s pub, I was adopted by a work crew from Portugal Cove who took an immediate, almost antagonistic liking to me. “You’re from Alberta, you say? I have a cousin in Fort McMurray, maybe you know him.” (Everybody in Newfoundland has a cousin in Fort McMurray.) The crew from Portugal Cove tormented me with screech and second-hand smoke as they regaled me with tales of how their families were so poor “back when” that all they could afford to eat were lobsters. This was not the first time I had heard this. Apparently half the population of Newfoundland has subsisted on lobster at some point or other.
Humorist Ferguson (Why I Hate Canadians) offers an appealing, brisk account of his many travels in his native land, from the "England as it never really existed" veneer of Victoria to the "certain dignified ugliness" of Newfoundland moose. The title story, in which Ferguson has his limbs and his ego massaged at a Saskatchewan health spa, perfectly represents the book's twin charms: Ferguson's comic cynicism, and his descriptions of intriguing events and individuals tied to the places he visits. In this tale, the levity of Ferguson's interaction with a male "reflexologist" bearing peppermint oil is offset with an account of a hard-luck 1930s Finnish immigrant so desperate to return to his native land that he built an iron ship completely by himself, which stands to this day on the Canadian prairie as a sad but powerful symbol. While humor and history are the book's uniting elements, a lack of narrative harmony results from breaks in chronology and distinct shifts in scene. Ferguson acknowledges as much in his introduction, and while the approach makes the book episodic, it jibes with the author's premise that "Canada is not a country but a collection of outposts."