From the Vault: A Touch of Literary Whimsy to Boost the Spirits

Touch of Whimsy: Quirky Literature to Boost the Spirits

Doesn’t life feel so serious around now? The news is always heavy, the weather is gloomy and cold, and we’re all varying degrees of stressed whether it’s due to work, finances, the impending holidays or what have you. So how can we unwind, take a breath of fresh air and, god forbid, crack a smile?

Whenever I find myself spiralling into a black cloud of grumpiness, I head to the stacks for a little whimsy. There’s truly nothing like a few quirky characters, a smattering of nonsense verse, or a touch of slapstick to turn that frown upside down. Here are five books that just might help pull you out of your funk.


The Hunting of the Snark

The Hunting of the Snark

by Lewis Carroll and George A. Walker

We have to start this list with The Hunting of the Snark. Lewis Carroll’s nonsense verse is always able to inspire a smile, but the addition of George A. Walker’s satirical wood engravings elevates this title to a new place on the amusement scale. If you’re feeling demoralized about the state of world politics or find yourself sighing over another day of impeachment hearings, this skewering of contemporary American politics will make you helplessly giggle.


Casanova in Venice

Casanova in Venice

by Kildare Dobbs

For a little bite in your search for whimsy, try Kildare Dobbs’s Casanova in Venice, a witty and subversive poetic investigation into the psyche of Casanova. Styled as a “raunchy rhyme”, you won’t be able to help enjoying the outrageous trysts and double entendres. Illustrated with a few fanciful engravings by Wesley Bates, this droll volume will keep you entertained for hours.


The House on Major Street

The House on Major Street

by Leon Rooke

If poetry’s not your thing, may we suggest a novel? Leon Rooke’s The House on Major Street has whimsy in spades. This charming tale is peppered with a whole cast of wacky but lovable characters. Their foibles and flightiness naturally lands them in all kinds of hot water, but gosh is it ever fun to read. This book goes off on a vast array of flights of fancy, but it manages to be both heartfelt and hilarious. This is one of those books that just makes me inexplicably happy.




by Jim Westergard

Jim Westergard’s Oddballs is proof that truth is stranger than fiction. The whimsy to be had in this slim little volume is two-fold. First, you get the insanely detailed and infinitely charming portraits of real people in history. Then, you get to read about the strange behaviours and circumstances that led to these historical personages becoming famous—or infamous, as the case may be. This book will remind you that no matter how strange you might find the people around you, there are many people through history that would have been much harder to put up with!


PortraitI hope the books we’ve dusted off and presented to you here will help you overcome the blahs and inspire a chuckle or two—at the very least a small smile!


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The Porcupine's Quill would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. The financial support of the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund (CBF) is also gratefully acknowledged.