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From the archives

Our Violent National Game

The great hockey debate continues

Pax Atlantica

NATO’s long-lasting relevance

Alexander Sallas

Alexander Sallas is a doctoral candidate at Western University and an editor-at-large with the Literary Review of Canada.

Articles by
Alexander Sallas

Food Court of Appeal

Talking shop in Edmonton June 2024
In 1938, the Jewish architect Victor Gruen left Nazi-occupied Vienna for New York. When he relocated to Los Angeles a few years later, he was taken aback by the impersonality of the city’s shopping scene. Across Europe, commerce was a communal activity, an opportunity to walk the high streets, admire elegant storefronts, mill about, and perhaps meet new…

Pilot Project

A dramatist takes flight April 2024
Hank Dunfield, aged ninety-nine, was an accomplished tail gunner during the Second World War. Now the “tough old bird” lives in a long-term-care home, where he tells off-colour jokes, needles his fellow residents, and sneaks contraband sweets past exasperated nurses. He suffers from dementia, but he’s whip-smart and laugh-out-loud funny. Candy canes? “Only truly enjoyed by felons in need of a shiv.” Hors…

Search Party

Zalika Reid-Benta turns a city inside out March 2024
There are two words that best describe River Mumma: “fast” and “furious”— although “different” would be a close third. Indeed, Zalika Reid-Benta’s debut novel takes a sharp left turn from Frying Plantain, her short story collection from 2019. That book was grounded in the realities of Toronto’s Little Jamaica. This one has a more fantastical quality to…

A Zigzagging Quest

Jamieson Findlay’s poignant page-turner November 2023
Sherlock, meet Indiana. Indiana, meet Sherlock. In his third novel, Pilgrims of the Upper World, Jamieson Findlay combines Arthur Conan Doyle’s style of zigzagging detective fiction with a fast-paced quest narrative that recalls Raiders of the Lost Ark. Findlay — who lives in Chelsea, Quebec, and won the $10,000 (U.S.) University of New Orleans Lab Prize with this manuscript — offers readers a well-written and surprisingly poignant…

Graft Craft

Zoe Whittall takes on the truth September 2023
Many readers will recognize Zoe Whittall’s name from her work as a comedy writer on the Baroness von Sketch Show, which earned her a Canadian Screen Award, and from her 2016 novel, The Best Kind of People, which was a national bestseller and shortlisted for the Giller Prize. (The writer and director Sarah…

It Thinks, Therefore . . . ?

As the designs get smarter and smarter March 2023
In “The Measure of a Man,” the best episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the only android in Starfleet, Data, is threatened by a human scientist, Bruce Maddox, who wishes to dismantle him, study his component parts, and create a myriad of duplicates. The weary Data insists he has a right to…

What Big Teeth You Have

On the feared and familiar November 2022
Two centuries ago, wolves were among the world’s most widely distributed mammals and roamed almost the whole of North America. The United States alone had somewhere between 250,000 and two million. Today a mere 18,000 or so reside in the land of liberty — about two-thirds of them in Alaska. In Canada, with the largest wolf population of any…

Thrill Seekers

Are you not entertained? May 2022
A major difference between “­serious” and “soothing” literature, as Northrop Frye proposed in his conclusion to Literary History of Canada, from 1965, is that one challenges the existing order while the other reaffirms it. Serious works prod the reader toward “making the steep and lonely climb into the imaginative world.” Soothing books, on the other…

Hare-Brained Ideas

And that left turn at Albuquerque March 2022
The year: 1944. The cartoon: Russian Rhapsody. The plot: Hitler pilots a B‑17 and plans to bomb Moscow. But the plane is invaded by a gaggle of gremlins — from the Kremlin. They stab his buttocks, electrocute his nose, and scare him with a Stalin mask. Then they carve a hole in the floor and send him hurtling to the…

Adventures in Lexicography

Don’t panic December 2021
Following border closures, economic shutdowns, and enforced isolation, many of us are feeling the need to refamiliarize ourselves with adventure. But what does an “adventure” actually look like? Where might it occur? Most important, how can I embark on one? The Adventurer’s Glossary, by the semiotician Joshua Glenn and the philosopher Mark…

Thereby Hangs a Tail

With the ghosts of Madagascar March 2021
In 2006, Keriann McGoogan, a twenty-five-year-old doctoral candidate in biological anthropology at the University of Toronto, led an expedition into the wilds of Madagascar. She undertook the journey to study lemurs, among the world’s most endangered primates, but her trip spiralled into a maelstrom of disease and political machinations, punctuated by masochistic hikes, traveller’s diarrhea, and one nasty…

Ye of Little Faith

The nation’s unbelievers June 2020
The closest thing to a Bible that my atheist father ever gave me was a copy of Atlas Shrugged. “This will teach you how the world works,” he said on the morning of my eighteenth birthday. My agnostic mother, who’d always disapproved of his embrace of Objectivism, looked away as I turned Ayn Rand’s 1,000-page tome over in my…

Boy, Oh Boy

Pauline Holdstock’s child wonder November 2019
Frankie is an unusual six-year-old. He’s a loner. He reads the Manchester Guardian. He hates cartoons because “nobody can be flat.” And when he finds his mother’s dead body slumped in an armchair, he doesn’t cry, scream, or call the police. He sits down next to her. Patti, his mom, is “cold as a statue in a church.” Her mouth hangs…

Inside the Box

An investigative journalist goes undercover at Walmart June 2019
Statistics Canada reports that “retail trade” ranks first among all employment ­sectors in this country, accounting for 11.5 percent of the labour force. That’s 1,907,980 workers, and for seven years, I was one of them. I did the retail thing throughout my time at McMaster, continued a while afterwards, and then caught a lucky break. It couldn’t have come…