Literary Review of Canada June 2020

Where the country’s best writers, thinkers, and artists come to take a stand on the topics that matter most. An unrivalled source of long-form reviews and commentary.

Literary Review of Canada
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10 Issues

in this issue

1 min
our contributors

Kelvin Browne is the executive director of the Gardiner Museum, in Toronto. Murray Campbell, a former Globe and Mail columnist, is a contributing editor to the Literary Review of Canada. Carlo Di Nicola Carlo Di Nicola is a Canadian lawyer practising in Rome. Marc Fawcett-Atkinson Marc Fawcett-Atkinson works in environmental communications. Daniel Garisto Daniel Garisto is a freelance science journalist. Daniel Goodwin Daniel Goodwin wrote The Art of Being Lewis, recently long-listed for the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour. Marisa Grizenko Marisa Grizenko is a writing consultant in Vancouver. Beth Haddon Beth Haddon is a former broadcast executive with CBC and TVOntario. Ian Hamilton Ian Hamilton is the author of the best-selling Ava Lee series. Allan Hepburn Allan Hepburn is the James McGill Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature at McGill University. Michael W. Higgins Michael W. Higgins is a senior…

3 min
don’t stop the presses

AFTER THIRTEEN YEARS AS NOVA Scotia’s sole newspaper, the Halifax Gazette doubled its size in 1765, taking advantage of a full sheet of paper instead of half. It was in the expanded Gazette that an idealistic young journalist, Isaiah Thomas, began to criticize the British Stamp Act. (Thomas would later report from the Battles of Lexington and Concord and perform the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence.) This was risky business for a tabloid that depended on government support. Even with a bit of controversy and a lock on local advertising, even with its media monopoly, the paper couldn’t make a go of it on its own. A weekly circulation of seventy just wasn’t enough to cover the costs. The economics didn’t make sense, but a competitor set up…

4 min

RE: … Seeking New Words by Allan Peterkin (March) I WAS AMUSED BY ALLAN PETERKIN’S RECENT letter, where he offered a number of actual and potential collective nouns. He also asked for contributions, so here is one. Years ago, when I was a deputy minister in the government of Ontario, senior officials would frequently start their day with a breakfast meeting, often at the old Sutton Place Hotel. At one of those early morning sessions, someone came up with a collective noun to describe our ranks: a breakfast of deputies. David Cameron Toronto WHAT FUN IT WAS TO MAKE UP SOME WORDS. HERE are some of my ideas: A blast of astronautsA chomp of cooksA dither of politiciansA glaze of window washersA grinder of dentistsA herro of barbersA hooque of boxersA hute of protestersA klopp…

19 min
a novel situation

LIKE ALL OF US IN THESE DISORIENTING days, I reach out across the distance to family and friends — mostly by email, sometimes by phone — to ask how they are doing, to let them know I am thinking of them. Those who like to read or write tend to ask me what I am reading or how my writing’s going, and I return the questions, much the way people who diligently work out at the gym might ask each other how they are staying in shape during this period of confinement. My friend Ken Victor, a poet, jots down impressions for a poem he might write when today’s still-unfolding emotions can be recollected in some measure of tranquility. For reasons he can’t explain, he writes villanelles. The intricate combination of…

5 min
the exponent

Growth: From Microorganisms to Megacities Vaclav Smil MIT Press 664 pages, hardcover and softcover THERE ARE A HANDFUL OF MOMENTS when we feel the earth move beneath our feet. Something shifts, and we instantly grasp that there will be a clear delineation of before and after. Along with the September 11 terror attacks and the 2008 global financial crisis, the unfolding pandemic will undoubtedly stand as one of the pivotal moments of our time. The GDP tells us nothing about the quality of the growth we worship. To halt the coronavirus’s rapid spread, and to give health care systems a fighting chance, governments around the world have introduced unprecedented measures that severely limit freedom of movement for billions of people. The daily toll of newly infected and dead has become a regular fixture of news reports.…

6 min
complex case

Radical Medicine: The International Origins of Socialized Health Care in Canada Esyllt W. Jones ARP Books 360 pages, softcover and ebook THE BARE OUTLINES OF THE STORY ARE the mother’s milk of Canadian identity: Tommy Douglas, the plucky premier of Saskatchewan, staring down his province’s combative doctors and establishing a pioneering system where people could get medical care without having to open their wallets. The tale is true — as far as it goes. On June 15, 1944, Douglas’s Co-operative Commonwealth Federation won election in the impoverished prairie province, largely on the promise that it would bring primary health care within the financial reach of ordinary people. In office, where he was both premier and health minister, Douglas quickly set up North America’s first single-payer hospitalization insurance scheme. Now patients had only to flash a card…