Issues

May 2015

Here’s what’s in store in the May issue of the LRC.

Arts Advantage tackles a question coming up more and more in the popular media, as well as at family dining tables across the nation. Is university worth the price? Not least, is a liberal arts BA degree still a good choice for prospective students? The naysayers are many, notes our contributor Adam Chapnick, deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College in Ottawa. However, the evidence they use is far from convincing. While he makes a compelling case for the continuing value of liberal arts education not just in creating an intellectually aware citizenry but as the practical foundation for present-day careers, Chapnick forcefully argues this is no time for complacency on the part of supporters of liberal arts education.

How to memorialize a horror such as the Holocaust, or closer to home, an event such as the Montreal massacre? In his review of a new book on Poland’s Jewish past, Canadian holocaust historian Michael Marrus explores the ways in which the country’s Holocaust history is being commemorated and in some cases meticulously restored—a process in which several Canadians are playing a key role. Historian Joan Sangster reviews the provocatively titled I Hate Feminists! by Quebec historian Mélissa Blais. Using Blais’s discussion of the place of the Montreal massacre in our collective consciousness as her starting point, Sangster dissects the multiplicity of attitudes towards violence against women that this story of commemoration and denial reveals.

Immigration is a topic often covered in these pages, and this month it is the turn of migration from China. “Collectively, ethnic Chinese who live outside of China make up the largest diaspora in the world,” says our reviewer of two recent books on the topic, novelist David Layton, who knows a thing or two about global travel himself. And of course Canada is a place that a significant part of this diaspora has chosen to call home. As he introduces us to individual stories found in his two books, Layton notes the footloose nature of much contemporary migration. But, just as importantly, there are common threads running through these stories, threads also discernible in the earliest narratives of Chinese immigration to Canada close to a century ago.

Are newspapers of the traditional sort, both in the United States and Canada, doomed? Not necessarily, says Marc Edge in Greatly Exaggerated: The Myth of the Death of Newspapers. In Edge’s eyes, today’s surviving titles have proven to be adept at the art of self-transformation as they weather the storm of freely available news online, and Edge argues there is no reason they cannot continue to do so. Our reviewer, long-time journalist Christopher Waddell, gives a far less sanguine prognosis.

We may buy fair trade products without being aware they are part of a larger contemporary movement. Known as industrial self-regulation or private governance, this movement is the subject of two books reviewed by writer and philosopher Joseph Heath. “Some of the pioneering academic work on the subject of self-regulation has been done by a klatch of Canadians,” he tells us. And it turns out this cutting-edge work is crucial, as self-regulation’s success depends critically on the particular features of the relevant industry as well as the ability to make self-regulation a distinctive brand.

Psychoanalysis may not have the cachet it once did, which might be one reason that expatriate Canadian scholar Barbara Taylor chose to provide a highly personal account of how analysis saved her life after a debilitating series of mental breakdowns. Our reviewer, mental health expert Kwame McKenziehas much to say about Taylor’s journey as well as the theoretical underpinnings—and potential drawbacks—of the Freudian version of psychoanalysis Taylor describes.

Is it possible to defend an emotion with such fraught connotations as jealousy? University of Calgary classicist Peter Toohey makes an intriguing case in his new book through a wide-ranging survey of art history, literature and pop culture. Our reviewer Suanne Kelman, a frequent contributor to our pages, commends Toohey’s intellectual finesse and courage, while taking issue with his sprightly dodges of jealousy’s less savoury, violent aspects.

In addition, Linda Kay introduces an imaginative free spirited woman from nineteenth century rural New Brunswick; Larry Krotz chronicles the intrusive effect of the cacao plant in a remote island of Indonesia; Ian Smillie analyzes the continuing struggles faced by LGBT people in present-day Namibia; and Janet Hepburn relates surprising joys Cathy Borrie finds in her mother’s Alzheimer’s. This month’s literary coverage includes reviews by Jamie Zeppa and Jack Kirchhoff of Martha Baillie’s novel of northern wanderings and escape The Search for Heinrich Schlögel and Marina Endicott’s novel of small-town intrigue and intergenerational angst Close to Hugh, while the work of Basma Kavanagh, David Huebert and Jennifer Zilm graces our poetry pages.

In this month’s letters section, there are responses to March’s review by Arno Kopecky and April’s reviews by Andrew Coyne, Bronwyn Drainie and David Orrell. The last of these—a response to Orrell’s review of The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time by Mangabeira Unger and Lee Smolin—deserves a few words of background. Unger and Smolin’s book questions the legitimacy of the multiverse hypothesis that dominates present-day cosmology—a stance that Orrell broadly supports in his own review. We asked a noted multiverse advocate, NYU physicist Matt Kleban, to respond. A condensed version of his letter appears in the magazine. The full version, as well as Orrell’s response, “Science Games,” is online at the reviewcanada.ca website, and has since elicited comment on a variety of science blogs.

And of course that is what we at the LRC like to see: our articles prompting discussion, not just in this universe, but in possible sister universes as well…

Happy May reading!

Mark Lovewell
Editor