Expecting the unexpected from Malcolm Gladwell
January | February 2020
Anyone interested in poetry knows the story of Sylvia Plath’s life and tragic death: the young Smith College grad with a genius IQ, her depressions, her studies at Cambridge University, the handsome philandering poet-husband, her head in a gas oven in a chilly London flat, when she was only thirty. “Something about writing poetry appears either to attract the wounded or to open new wounds,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in his new…
The prolific George Bowering
July | August 2019
It’s hard to avoid the word “prolific” when speaking of George Bowering, the writer par excellence of Vancouver. According to his biographer, Rebecca Wigod, the eighty-three-year-old Bowering has produced 100 books, spanning every genre including lyric and long-form poetry, novels and short stories, memoirs, essays, and popular history — even a young adult novel, Parents from Space…
An unconventional collector, painter and photographer comes in from the cold
The first half of the 20th century was one of vigorous growth and development in Canadian art, without much encouragement from a conservative society. When you read the standard art histories of this period, invariably constructed around the formation and struggle of the Group of Seven, you have to ask: Why were our painters so…
Both Mary and Christopher Pratt find inspiration in the everyday
At the entrance to the career retrospective of the artist Mary Pratt hangs a large, brilliantly coloured canvas titled Threads of Scarlet, Pieces of Pomegranate. It shows two pomegranates, one with its leathery red skin intact, the other broken in two, scattering seeds and bleeding red juice.
Mary Pratt painted Threads of Scarlet in…
How a young Canadian heiress with an artistic bent oversaw the creation of an architectural masterpiece
Phyllis Lambert is most famous as the founder of Montreal’s Canadian Centre for Architecture and as the fierce protector of Montreal’s built heritage. But as her book Building Seagram makes it clear, of all her achievements she is most proud of having been the driving force behind one of New York’s landmark buildings.
The year she was born—1927—her…
Tales about the burdens carried by Hungarian Canadians after the siege of Budapest
The final denouement of the cataclysms of 20th-century European history have a way of being played out within the immigrant communities of Canada. Mariska, the Canadian-born narrator of one of the stories in Tamas Dobozy’s Siege 13, longs to know about her disappeared mother. Around 1980, she is being raised by her Hungarian-born single…
How circadian rhythms control our lives
In 1370, Cologne became the first city to install a large clock in its town square. Almost immediately, a mania developed for precise schedules and timetables. Workers had to start work at the same time, and take lunch breaks of exactly one hour. Three centuries later, Paris became the first city to introduce streetlights, overriding people’s previous inclination to go home to bed when darkness…
A wholly original take on the Canadian immigrant story
In Rome during the sultry summer of 1978, a small boy is waiting with his mother along with scores of Russian-Jewish émigrés in the office of the Joint Distribution Committee. At his mother’s urging, he stands up formally to recite from memory a poem he had learned at his elite kindergarten in Leningrad:
When Lenin was littleWith a head of boyish curlsHe also gamboled happilyUpon the snowy hillsStone upon stoneBrick upon brickGone is our…
One pioneering photographer constructed—not replicated—reality
Born Edward Muggeridge in Kingston-upon-Thames in 1830, the Anglo-American workaholic Eadweard Muybridge looms large in the history of photography. Traveller, adventurer, artist, photographer, entrepreneur, inventor, showman, jealous husband, murderer, he is best remembered today for the more than 20,000 stop-action images in which he captured successive stages of animal and human locomotion. For his invention in 1879 of the…
Two new biographies highlight the slow evolution of Canadian artistic taste.
An academic discipline emerges from the kitchen table.
John Ralston Saul attempts to delineate the national
character by spotlighting individuals.
A novel charts the motivations of a bomb victim and her activist sponsors.