Skip to content

From the archives

Operative Words

Behind the campaign curtain

Snuffed Torch

Can the Olympic myth survive?

Lax Americana

What happens if Donald Trump returns to the White House?

Marlo Alexandra Burks

Marlo Alexandra Burks is the author of Aesthetic Dilemmas and a former editor with the magazine.

Articles by
Marlo Alexandra Burks

State of the Arts

Max Wyman makes his case March 2024
My nearly two decades in Canada have made me fairly familiar with our national penchant for self-deprecation. Still, when I recently began preparation for my citizenship test, I was disheartened by the official study guide’s thin “Arts and Culture” section and flummoxed by its gaps. Our writers? Neither Margaret Atwood nor Alice Munro is among the “men and women of letters” mentioned in the sixty-odd pages of Discover Canada

Access Denied

When the education system fails us October 2023
A decade ago, when Statistics Canada surveyed adults on literacy levels, the findings were perplexing. Despite our high education rates, nearly half of participants couldn’t “identify, interpret, or evaluate one or more pieces of information.” Nor could they “disregard irrelevant or inappropriate ­content.” Many struggled even to read news articles and fill out job applications. The situation hasn’t exactly…

Anything but Ordinary

Emily Urquhart and the yarns we spin March 2023
Emily Urquhart has chosen an appropriate title for her third book, which successfully blends the analytic rigour of the essay with the structures and motifs of various “wonder tales”— a term she prefers to either “folklore” or “fairy tale.” The author’s academic and journalistic training, her eye for the strange and marvellous, and her expertise in European fables all come together in this curious gathering of stories borrowed from everyday…

Sleeper Hit

Suzette Mayr rides the rails November 2022
It’s the summer of 1929, and the trip from Montreal to Vancouver is supposed to take just four days. This is “the fastest train across the continent,” the porter Baxter says repeatedly. But as with most journeys, there’s a delay. Four increasingly wearisome days stretch into six eternities. The plot of The Sleeping Car Porter


The language of silent things October 2022
Years ago, when I was studying in Heidelberg, Germany, a friend of mine found a broken violin in his basement and offered it to me. The tailpiece was missing, and the back plate had separated from the body. The instrument wasn’t valuable, but I was fascinated by its scroll — a stylized lion’s head with watchful eyes — and the rope purfling that shone through the layers of…

Disrupted Rhythms

September has changed September 2022
Our age has robbed millions of the simplicity of ignorance, and has so far failed to lift them to the simplicity of wisdom.— Robertson Davies When your annual rhythm is shaped by school semesters, September marks a change in pace. The edges of leaves crackle just a little, the wind shifts, and the morning rush replaces the laziness of August…

Something Beyond

Wounds, words, and wisdom November 2021
Uncovering trauma in ways that break, rather than repeat, cycles of violence is among the greatest challenges for a contemporary writer. It is also one of our era’s more urgent tasks. Silence is an increasingly untenable response to transgression, but speaking of it risks calling it forth. A careful hand, however, can shift the way authors and readers alike see themselves and the fraught worlds they…

Fan Club

A new cold war October 2021
In late spring 1956, a sudden heat wave swept across southern Ontario. On June 12, record temperatures of 94 degrees Fahrenheit were linked to four fatal heart attacks. In Cooksville, a court session ended early because of the unbearable heat, while magistrates in Toronto elected to remove their gowns to continue hearing cases. Three days…

The Breakdown

Tales of corrugated fibreboard June 2021
Wood has always been a plastic substance, whether carved, pressed, or shredded and mixed with water and chemicals to form pulp. The magazines and books we hold in our hands attest to that transformation, but we don’t often think about their materiality. We’re concerned mostly with the message, the product, or the usefulness of the…

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone? March 2021
In his flight from the Furies, Orestes — who has committed a vengeful matricide — prays to Apollo for refuge. His prayer is answered, and he is whisked away to Athens, where Athena asks the “men of Greece” to judge “the first trial of bloodshed.” At her behest, the best citizens of the Attica peninsula come forward and place their pebbles into one of two…

The Great Cover-Up

Our pandemic wasteland January | February 2021
Stores are selling them, mothers-in-law are sewing them, and most people (thankfully) across Canada are wearing them. Fabrics vary: cotton is popular, though targeted advertisements are now hawking the new and ostensibly more breathable linen kind. The panoply of patterns, colours, and insignia denoting brand loyalty marries our needs (protection) to our wants (consumption). Enter our era’s boldest fashion statement: the face…

The Art of Vigilance

Because a culture of protest matters July | August 2019
At a recent climate-­action protest, in Toronto, I was most struck by the loudest refrain: Why aren’t you / Out here too? My instinct was to counter: Because protesting is a privilege! Not everyone can afford to leave work and take to the streets! I’ve been a part of protests with dubious communications strategies…

But Is It Trash?

Evaluating art in the age of conspicuous consumption April 2019
We are on the brink of ecological catastrophe, yet rates of conspicuous consumption are unprecedented, in part because we remain wedded to an economic system that depends on consumerism. Out of this contradiction, a new market has arisen: the sustainability market. Eco-­driving, travel mugs, organic food and textiles, and the locavore movement, to name a few…