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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

Salem Alaton

Salem Alaton is a former Globe and Mail arts reporter and features writer.

Articles by
Salem Alaton

Anatomy of Melancholy

Gabor Maté on society’s ills May 2023
Late one night at a racial-healing retreat in the woods of West Virginia, I found myself listening to an intense young man who unexpectedly declared, “I don’t know why everyone is running around to psychologists and psychiatrists when we all have the same problem.” By highlighting the commonality of our suffering, he conveyed what Gabor Maté calls “the compassion of recognition.” In The Myth of Normal:

Stone Diary

Spelunking to categorize the world’s oldest symbols July-August 2016
Caves are apertures for inward travel into realms we associate with the dream state. Half-seen revelations proliferate. We angle into surreal environs that summon our own nascence, now approached in reverse, from the detailed and edged world in the light without to the shrouded evocations within. This is the sticky, primal birthplace of the collective unconscious, where inchoate traces of shape and colour move in and out of the mind’s…

Hanging On Forever

The deeply human desire for everlasting life December 2013
I once asked Jay Scott, The Globe and Mail film critic, a number of years before his passing from AIDS, if he was afraid of dying. “I’m afraid of not being alive,” he said, responding with his usual alacrity to loose ponderings in our tweedy arts ghetto at the newspaper. “There’s a difference.” While some Buddhists discern little difference in being or not being…

The Traps of Progress

How many dead ends must we hit before we find our way to the future? December 2004
A mind-boggling sight greeted a group of Dutch sailors on Easter Day 1722. On an unknown, scarcely populated island in the South Seas stood hundreds of gargantuan stone idols. Massive and bizarre, some of the ones mounted atop rock altars were 10 metres high and weighed 73 tonnes. And at those dimensions, the most inexplicable aspect of the Polynesian moai or statue figures was their setting: a treeless and desperately eroded…

The Consolations of Anthropomorphism

In spite of everything we know, the world still revolves around us July–August 2012
Curiously enough, aeronautical science chose Christmas Eve 1968 to register one of its most important milestones of the last century. That is when the three crew members of NASA’s Apollo 8 mission marked humanity’s first-ever voyage into lunar orbit by reading aloud passages from Genesis. The transmission to Earth of this unprecedented rite was then the most widely viewed television broadcast…

Darwinists and Divinity

A whirlwind tour through western thought explores the big questions June 2010
Walking around Greenwich Village with Allen Ginsberg during a rolling interview I was conducting with him some 20 years ago, we paused at a traffic light long enough for him to seize upon both the incarceration of his mother in a mental asylum and the point that as human beings we were all living in “these meat bodies.” The latter observation was unremarkable…

Success in the Slums?

A blueprint for urban development drawn from some of the world’s poorest communities December 2009
A century ago at the marshy edges of what is today Mumbai, Muslim traders from Tamil Nadu and Gujarati claimed land for the beginnings of a hub to process animal skins. Rural workers were brought in from the traders’ home districts and set up shacks on the wetland. Specialized functions related to the tanning trade were developed in commercially potent proximity to one…

Monumental or Vainglorious?

An examination of the Mormon attempt to catalogue the human race December 2007
The Temple Square, Mormonism’s world epicentre in Salt Lake City, features structures inspired by the Europe of centuries ago, but its overall effect is distinctly New World. All references to historic architecture, even the massive, six-spire temple itself, are buffed bright as the Utah salt flats, while the curvilinear interior of the adjacent visitors’ centre aspires to somebody’s dream of the…