The art of personal narration
Memoir, Helena de Bres writes in Artful Truths, is “centrally valuable” as a window into the lives of others. “It’s memoir we go to, not journalism, or even biography, when we want to understand at a deep level what it was like, how it felt, to go through the sorts of experiences that make up the heart of human life.” The literary tradition of personal narration stretches back to the likes of Saint…
Making tracks in a new land
In an entry dated “Spring 1880,” Dukesang Wong recorded in his diary, “I have decided to venture to that country they call ‘the Land of the Golden Mountains.’ The next ship that departs for those shores is the one which I shall be on. Because I cannot build upon my own land in this country, it is right that I should attempt to seek land over the ocean.” In a subsequent…
Portrait of an iconic couple
January | February 2020
This is the biography of a marriage. It is a slender book, roughly 230 pages, not counting notes and index. Yet with a judicious instinct for the salient fact and a perspective born of sympathy and understanding, Carol Bishop-Gwyn creates something more expansive and profound than appearances might indicate. The marriage was that of Christopher and Mary…
The whereabouts of Ambrose Small
On the one hundredth anniversary of his disappearance, Ambrose Small turns up again in yet another recounting of that event. Or, rather, he doesn’t turn up. That’s the point. One of Canada’s most stubbornly unsolved mysteries — a case that has spawned a veritable cottage industry of speculative takes on what really happened back on December…
A prize-winning memoirist continues the tale of an animal-filled life.
“This is the story that wrote me,” observes Brian Brett of his engaging ramble of a book, Tuco: The Parrot, the Others and a Scattershot World. It is a story that combines personal observation and reminiscence with scientific argument and speculation, all in the service of exploring how humankind, in assuming (and, by…
Charting the changes in queer urban life
By most accounts this year’s gay pride parade in Toronto was a big success as well as a landmark event. It incorporated a host of participants from all over the globe who came to Toronto to attend the WorldPride Human Rights Conference. With something like 12,000 marchers, the parade was much larger than in previous years and went on…
Two new takes on World War Two's most famous breakout
The Hollywood movie The Great Escape, released in 1963, almost 20 years after the World War Two exploit it purported to depict, is today remembered mostly for a bit of business that had little to do with the historical record and everything to do with an actor’s passion for motorcycles: what we remember is the apotheosis of Steve McQueen as…
A new book traces the longevity and the fragility of Da Vinci’s greatest work
Executed sporadically over several years in the mid 1490s, Leonardo da Vinci’s mural of The Last Supper is commonly regarded as a triumph, the crowning glory of a master. According to Leonardo’s latest biographer, The Last Supper is arguably the most famous work of art in history, the next most famous being Leonardo’s painting of the Mona …
The mysterious misadventures of four senior citizens.
Becoming famous for showcasing the famous is a tricky business.