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From the archives

Paper Rout

Postmedia in the gutter

Past Trauma

Richard Wagamese and an Indigenous literary resurgence

Family Pride

Profiles in gay life

Sandra Martin

Sandra Martin is a writer and journalist living in Toronto.

Articles by
Sandra Martin

Elusive to the End

On reading Tolstoy’s masterpiece March 2024
Although I have spent much of my working life reviewing fiction, interviewing authors, and giving talks to book clubs, there are embarrassing gaps in my reading history. Forget Moby-Dick, Ulysses, or Infinite Jest. There was a time when the list included Anna Karenina.…

Oh, the Places She’ll Go

Don Gillmor snoops about October 2023
How, other than through clandestine sex, does a married woman of a certain age find excitement in midtown Toronto during a record-breaking heat wave? That is the dilemma that Don Gillmor, an accomplished journalist and winner of a Governor General’s Award for non-fiction, sets himself in telling the story of Beatrice Billings. Back in the day when magazines proliferated in this…

A Moral Absolutist

Who was Rudolf Vrba? January | February 2023
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has also spawned legions of journalists. The prospect of learning something new every day by asking nosy questions, searching the internet for long-forgotten connections, and digging deep into the morgue — as the archives are known at most media outlets — gets us out of bed in the morning and often keeps us up long into the…

Nature Abhors a Vacuum Cleaner

The latest from Cary Fagan November 2022
Ho-hum. Yes, I too acquired a pet during the pandemic. Formerly a cat person, I switched allegiances to canines when Tessa, an English cocker spaniel, came to live with us late in January 2021. She was eight weeks old, adorable, and lots of trouble, but what baby isn’t? Now almost two, she no longer chews…

Ebb and Flow

Reflections on the life aquatic June 2022
Nobody taught the journalist Mark Hume how to read the water. As he explains in his lean but elegant memoir, the tradition, the talent, the gift — whatever you want to call it — came to him by chance when he was seven, “the way poetry or dance or dreams come to others.” Tagging along behind an older…

Death of an Author

The weirdest man I never met April 2022
In January 2015, I headed to the West Coast on a research trip for a book I was writing about the right to die. My lengthy interview list included John Hofsess, a journalist turned activist. He had been a key player back in the early 1990s, helping Sue Rodriguez challenge the Criminal Code’s blanket prohibition against assisting a…

An Arctic Fable

Once upon the melting ice January | February 2021
As a parent, I remain a dud when it comes to shopping with my fashionista daughter and playing sports with my athletic son. What I loved, when they were younger, was reading with them — especially snuggling together in bed with chapter books long after they knew how to read by themselves. We had ground rules: no skipping ahead (I still blush at being caught in the act more than once by a wakeful offspring)…

Speaking of Dying

Do public rituals of grief ever help us mourn? May 2017
Julia Cooper takes on the eulogy in literature, popular culture and social media in The Last Word: Reviving the Dying Art of Eulogy and, not surprisingly, finds it wanting as an outlet to assuage grief. She argues that “in a culture that sees death every day and yet hides the traces of grief that…

Good Mother, Bad Mother

Emma Donoghue’s novel makes the case for loving hearts over biological ties December 2016
Before I had children, I wondered if I could ever love a child as much as I adored my cat. Absurd, I know, but I remembered that embarrassingly naive attitude in reading The Wonder because the power of the mother-child bond is a motivating force in Emma Donoghue’s fiction. Yet, here is the twist: the Irish-Canadian writer is not interested in conventional takes in which Mamma falls desperately in love with…

The Bear Tamer Reconsidered

Marian Engel’s letters revive interest in a neglected CanLit icon November 2005
The headline on Marian Engel’s obituary in The Globe and Mail in February 1985 misspelled both her first and last names. “Author wrote best seller, won award,” it declared. She was so much more than that skimpy accolade attests. Engel was both a citizen and a writer, as committed to cultural nationalism and improving the lot of her fellow scribes as she was dedicated to writing her own…

Facing the Future

The decisions to be made about aging in Canada are both personal and public October 2013
Last November, three days before I was set to celebrate a significant birthday, I had a freak fall—aren’t they all—and broke my pelvis in two places. I was hurtling through city streets dodging vehicles and pedestrians, composing random sentences in my head, when I tripped on uneven pavement. I landed in an intersection on my right…

Meet Me in St. Louis, Louis

A trip to the 1904 World’s Fair opens the door on Canadian women’s journalism September 2012
The 1901 census listed 50 women journalists at a time when the population of Canada was about 5.4 million and newspapers were wildly popular—the equivalent of the internet today. Widespread literacy and rapidly increasing urbanization had made the daily newspaper “indispensible” to city dwellers, according to author Linda Kay, a journalism professor at Concordia University, in The Sweet Sixteen: The Journey That Inspired the Canadian Women’s Press Club

The Posthumous Richler

The chronicler of St. Urbain Street is being increasingly chronicled May 2008
Mordecai Richler was a complicated guy. The celebrated author of ten novels, the creator of such memorable characters as Duddy Kravitz, Jake Hersch, Joshua Shapiro, Solomon Gursky and Barney Panofsky, he was also an astute and often hilarious political and cultural essayist. Publicly acerbic, yet quick to feel slighted and even quicker to retaliate, he was a passionate protector of his family and his…