ED SMITH'S good-humoured collection of yarns about growing up in Newfoundland, Some Fine Times! (Jesperson, 160 pages, $10.95 paper), recalls a simpler, more innocent time than the one our children face. Smith is a master of self effacing humour, and he provides it liberally in this book, which deftly combines essay, memoir, and shortstory material in constructing a pastiche of childhood experiences.
Falling in and out of puppy love, going to church, life as the son of a clergyman, and all the other major and minor escapades associated with childhood all are fit subject material for Smith's lovingly rendered memories.
Smith's concisely drawn pictures of Newfoundland itself come to play a large part in many of the stories (especially ones about getting lost at sea with his father). Young Ed's world is a simple, limited one: one-room school houses, church gatherings, family travel, games with pals. Life in places like Moreton's Harbour had the same basic, insular atmosphere many young people have experienced growing up in prairie towns or northern Ontario villages; and Smith's chatty, insightful writing lends an air of universality to these tales of the rituals of growing up.
Only a short side-trip to the world of ghosts and spirits doesn't quite ring true here, but even this episode is entertaining. Some Fine Times! is a welcome addition to East Coast Canadiana, in the fine tradition of Ray Guy's chronicling of a lifestyle that seems to be fast disappearing.