Literary Review of Canada March 2021

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

John Baglow reads and writes in Ottawa. Marlo Alexandra Burks Marlo Alexandra Burks is working on a book on the Austrian author Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Bruce Campbell is a senior fellow with the Centre for Free Expression, at Ryerson University, and the former executive director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Murray Campbell is a retired Globe and Mail columnist and reporter. Dan Dunsky was executive producer of The Agenda with Steve Paikin, from 2006 to 2015, and is the founder of Dunsky Insight. Robert Girvan is a former Crown prosecutor and the author of Who Speaks for the River? J. L. Granatstein writes on Canadian political and military history. Shannon Hengen reads poetry while trying to stay warm in Regina. Myra J. Hird is a professor in the School of Environmental Studies, at Queen’s University. Larry Krotz…

4 min
a pronounced problem

THE CBC, THE BBC, AND NPR ARE ALL part of my daily radio diet, but I tend to indulge in more lighthearted fare early in the mornings, especially if I’m about to head out for a hard run. Grinding through fast kilometre repeats is just easier with a pop song stuck in my head than with the reality of the latest newscast settling in (that can wait until I’m back at my desk). My typical morning soundtrack is a highly rated Toronto station with three likeable hosts, who mix silly games and celebrity gossip with quick hits on the usual topics — the traffic, the weather, the latest COVID?19 numbers, and, of course, American politics. Last year, the presidential primaries and general election got plenty of airtime in between Top 40…

5 min

RE: The Colossus by J. L. Granatstein (January/February) AS I READ J. L. GRANATSTEIN’S REVIEW OF THE Unexpected Louis St-Laurent, I felt great sympathy for the former prime minister, who travelled the world on that “slow and noisy RCAF aircraft.” I presume it was the military version of the North Star, which I flew from Dorval to Scotland in summer 1957. I found myself sitting next to a lady who, after a few pleasantries, asked me what I thought of the plane. I told her that I thought it ugly, noisy, and uncomfortable. “I christened it!” she replied, before introducing herself as Mrs. C. D. Howe. Things were a little cool for the rest of the twelve-hour flight! Robert A. StairsPeterborough, Ontario RE: For Your Reference by Michael McNichol (January/February) AS A RETIRED LIBRARIAN, I WAS…

8 min
slouching toward democracy

Restoring Democracy in an Age of Populists & Pestilence Jonathan Manthorpe Cormorant Books 320 pages, softcover and ebook 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 urns. They vote. Aeschylus tells this story in The Eumenides, the third play of his Oresteia trilogy. The Father of Tragedy grew up in the early period of Athenian democracy, as it was struggling to establish itself. His trilogy begins with Agamemnon, in darkness and suffering. But it ends with the light…

4 min
royal descent

NO ONE WOULD CALL THE GOVERNOR general’s job an easy one. Juggling the roles of figurehead, political arbiter, patron, and diplomat demands someone adept at ceremony, attuned to political nuance, and comfortable in the public eye: that’s no straightforward combination. Is it any wonder the pool of potential candidates was kept so narrow for so long? Since Confederation, Canada has had twenty-nine governors general. The first seventeen were British, all cut from the same aristocratic cloth. Today, those early representatives of the Crown might look like nothing more than colonial relics, but that view does them a disservice. Most were highly diligent, some even carving out lasting legacies. Lord Lorne, for example, was instrumental in establishing the National Gallery of Canada, in 1880, while John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, enthusiastically instituted…

24 min
wait, wait… don’t tell me

Too Much Information: Understanding What You Don’t Want to Know Cass R. Sunstein MIT Press 264 pages, hardcover, ebook, and audiobook AREN’T ALL THE BEST MYTHS REALLY about the price of information? We have Adam and Eve ousted from Eden for wanting “the eyes of them both [to be] opened.” There’s poor Prometheus, who gets his liver pecked in perpetuity for disclosing the secret of fire and “all manner of arts” to humans. And there’s Odysseus, beckoned by the Sirens’ perilous revelation of “everything that happens on the fruitful earth.” In each case, the moral of the story is the same: you don’t want to know. It has not stopped us from trying. In the post-Enlightenment era, the continuous acquisition of knowledge has become our prerogative. It’s telling that the different versions of the Faustian…