Skip to content

From the archives

The Trust Spiral

Restoring faith in the media

Dear Prudence

A life of exuberance and eccentricity

Who’s Afraid of Alice Munro?

A long-awaited biography gives the facts, but not the mystery, behind this writer’s genius

David Marks Shribman

David Marks Shribman won a Pulitzer Prize for beat reporting in 1995. He teaches in the Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University.

Articles by
David Marks Shribman

Cries from the Deep

A tragedy along the Irish coast June 2024
This is a story about an atrocity, and the likelihood that you don’t already know it is itself atrocious. It’s more than a hundred years old, with lessons for the current age. It is a story about tragedy, scandal, cover‑up, and, in time, a small measure of justice. It is not a tale about honour nor one about…

Cover Stories

Lying low and flying high April 2024
Who knew? That one of the greatest spies before the Second World War was a Canadian? That one of MI6’s stalwart assets had been a champion debater at Mount Allison University, in Sackville, New Brunswick? That this master of the espionage arts wrote the school’s “Alma Mater Song”? That after playing Hamlet, serving as class…

Something at Work

Wade Rowland’s unsettling forecast March 2024
Wade Rowland — prolific commentator, educator, congenital worrier — has a lot of questions for us. They are about technology, society, and the way we live today. But many of them come down to one big question: Can the innovators, experimenters, and purveyors of science and technology proceed responsibly without considering the moral elements of their…

Grey Area

The Confederates before Confederation January | February 2024
For generations, the Civil War narrative about Canada (which was not quite a country at the time) and the United States (which had split into two) remained pretty consistent. It was both simple and satisfying: Canada, bright beacon of freedom for enslaved Black people, had been a welcoming land of refuge, the last stop on the Underground Railroad that carried some 30,000 to safety and …

Dangerous Grounds

Coming soon to a democracy near you December 2023
This is an age of misery but also of mystery. Inflation and insurrection, populism and protest, demagoguery and disillusion, turbulence and tyranny — the annals of affliction are full. Abundant, too, are the puzzling questions: Can the centre hold? Is there a centre at all anymore? Can the democracies of North America be governed? Will democracy itself …

The Influencers

A dual biography from Charlotte Gray November 2023
They were born the same year. Their families left Paris the same year. Their sons entered institutions that would shape their lives the same year. If Stephen Sondheim had written Passionate Mothers, Powerful Sons instead of Charlotte Gray, he might have employed one of the timeless lines from his Broadway show Company to depict the lives and loves of Jennie Jerome Churchill and Sara Delano Roosevelt: “Parallel lines who meet.” Gray’s dual biography is among a string of recent titles about women at the sides of the two great men who found themselves at the ­centre of the twentieth century’s most brutal and most consequential…

Wound Up

When the editors went nuts and the explorers went searching October 2023
With hoopla and heroism, Frederick Cook and Robert Peary battled high winds, plunging temperatures, encroaching ice, and each other in their quest to be the first to reach the North Pole. And with hype and headlines, the New York Herald and the New York Times engaged in a parallel battle, to increase their presence and their power in a fiercely competitive Manhattan newspaper…

Preserving What Works

Of civilizations past and present July | August 2023
Demagoguery. Tyranny. War. Pandemic. Famine. Gun violence. Climate change. Terrorism. Nuclear threats. Racism. Repression. The dreary parade of the world’s woes marches on, even in an era of relative prosperity, galloping technological advancement, astonishing medical breakthroughs, breathtaking cultural richness. No wonder Michael R. J. Bonner opens his new book, In Defense of Civilization

The Justice She Sought

Half-told tales of the Second World War June 2023
All Second World War stories of deportation and privation, imprisonment and slave labour, are, in a calamitous way, the same, which is why Hannah Arendt spoke of the banality of evil long after the guns were silenced and the prisoner trains stopped running. Yet all stories of mass transport are also different — as different as the…

A Modern Klondike

Northern Ontario’s fiery ring April 2023
Consider the major collisions of contemporary life in North America: the tensions between financial investments and social ideals; the threat of climate change in conflict with the thirst for energy sources; the rights of Indigenous people versus the prerogatives of elected governments; the rivalries with trading partners in competition with the hunger for goods from…

Unknown Fathoms

Tragedy and heroism in Newfoundland March 2023
The Cascadia earthquake of 1700. The wreck of the Aeneas in 1805. The Nanaimo mine explosion of 1887. The Britannia Mountain landslide of 1915. The Halifax explosion of 1917. The ice storm of 1998. The Fort McMurray fire of 2016. The Quebec City mosque shooting of 2017. The Humboldt Broncos bus crash of…

What the Blazes?

Burning questions and a warming planet January | February 2023
When Clark Kerr, the head of the University of California, Berkeley, was dismissed in 1967, he said, “I left the presidency just as I had entered it — fired with enthusiasm.” Donald Trump made his television reputation by barking, “You’re fired!” (a phrase that Elon Musk has appropriated with gleeful promiscuity). In 1919, the American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes …

Quebec’s Metropolis

What is the meaning of this city? December 2022
O God! O Montreal! Oh wait . . . Are we going all Samuel Butler again, nodding to his century-old A Psalm of Montreal, which includes that refrain? Are we offering (apologies to Buzz Bissinger, who wrote a book about Philadelphia with this title) a prayer for the city in the St. …

Bow Tie Confidential

As he wished upon a star November 2022
Admire the Toronto Star or disdain it, champion its place in Canadian culture or deplore it, rely on it as a news source or ignore it — it is difficult to deny that the rise to power of the Honderich family, long associated with the institution, is an astonishing North American story. From poverty to…

Yesterday’s News

Our forgotten magnate October 2022
George McCullagh walks out of archival obscurity and into modern consciousness on the dusty back roads of 1920s Ontario, where we first see him in Mark Bourrie’s remarkable — and long overdue — biography of one of the most consequential and least remembered Canadians of the past century. We catch an evocative glimpse of him as a young travelling subscription seller for the Toronto Globe

Under the Hood

Vaclav Smil sets out to explain September 2022
I don’t know how a cellphone works, I have little conception of how the internet operates, I have no blessed idea why my roadster ignites when I turn the key, and I am completely befuddled by the notion of driverless cars. Hell, I don’t even understand how a hand-held can opener works. I consider it one of the principal miracles of modern life how the pull tab on a container of tuna fish is fastened to the top of the…

Sense of an Ending

Whether that nation can long endure March 2022
Maybe digging into Stephen Marche’s new book, The Next Civil War, while in West Virginia — where Donald J. Trump won nearly 70 percent of the vote more than a year ago — wasn’t wise. Maybe reading Marche’s book in a state where forty-nine of the fifty-five counties were in one of the two highest categories of COVID infection and where the…