An Evening with WO Mitchell


261 pages
Contains Photos
ISBN 0-7710-6088-2
DDC C813'.54




Reviewed by Steve Pitt

Steve Pitt is a Toronto-based freelance writer and an award-winning journalist. He has written many young adult and children's books, including Day of the Flying Fox: The True Story of World War II Pilot Charley Fox.


“Writers seem to be the nation’s greatest source of banquet
speakers. Like the stand-up comedian and the knife throwing act that
preceded me at the Western Meat Packers’ Convention for 1960. It’s a
form of insurance really, a sort of hedge in case the speaker isn’t
any good.” Thus W.O. Mitchell describes beginning a career of reading
his work to live audiences. He was soon earning a good portion of his
income from speaking engagements, which indicates that Mitchell’s
perform- ance skills are exceptional.

This book is a collection of 31 short subjects performed by Mitchell
over a period of nearly four decades. Many of the pieces were culled
from magazine articles, CBC radio plays, published short stories, and
even Mitchell’s 1947 Canadian prairie classic, Who Has Seen the Wind?
The introductions to these pieces often provide information on how they
would be read, such as the way Mitchell might lower his voice or glare
in mock malevolence at the audience. Fortunately, even from the printed
page, Mitchell’s voice comes roaring forth.

Few writers can deliver a story that lives up to a title like “The
Day I Sold Lingerie in a Prairie Whore House,” but Mitchell does. In
“Body Language,” the author describes once single-handedly ending a
Toronto Orange Parade by accidentally setting fire to an old lady and
rear-ending King William’s white horse with his car. But Mitchell is
not the literary equivalent of Mr. Bean. His writing can hold its own
against the finest anywhere in the world and has the ability to
simultaneously touch the heart and the funny bone.


Mitchell, W.O., “An Evening with WO Mitchell,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 15, 2024,