Tag: Books

Nitty-gritty cities

| January 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
Nitty-gritty cities

Odd how certain dead film stars are often the subject of popular cults. Among those with the most enduring posthumous lives is the Hollywood femme fatale Hedy Lamarr, whom many enthusiasts practically fetishize. Little surprise then that last year, on the centenary of her birth, at least two new biographies of her appeared. For the […]

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Some diplomatic intrigues

| September 30, 2013 | 0 Comments
Some diplomatic intrigues

An error in Steven Spielberg’s film, Lincoln stirred up a little controversy last year. The movie, as most everyone now knows, depicts Abraham Lincoln’s manoeuvring to get the 13th amendment to the Constitution, the one abolishing slavery, passed by the House of Representatives. Tension builds to the scene where there is a roll-call vote. Two […]

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Summer reading: From Beverley Baxter to Joseph Kennedy

| July 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Summer reading: From Beverley Baxter to Joseph Kennedy

I’m not sure whether this was a joke or an urban legend, but there was supposedly a period in the 1950s when some members of the Canadian reading public were said to confuse Beverley Nichols with Beverley Baxter. Mr. Nichols was a prolific English author best known for his too-numerous books about gardening and cats. […]

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Opium as product and policy

| January 4, 2013 | 0 Comments
Opium as product and policy

Thomas Dormandy, a retired British pathologist who knows whereof he speaks, has a great deal to tell us about opium as well as morphine and heroin, the two even more powerful painkilling drugs derived from it. His exhaustive, but not exhausting, new book, Opium: Reality’s Dark Dream (Yale University Press, US$40), is a splendidly informative […]

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Islands at the end of the civilized world

| October 4, 2012 | 0 Comments
Islands at the end of the civilized world

  The idea of a prison located on an almost inaccessible island is supposed to strike special fear in people being kept there against their will. If the dot of land housing the facility is within sight of the mainland — in sight, that is, of freedom and civilization — then the cruelty of imprisonment […]

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I, spy

| June 28, 2012 | 0 Comments
I, spy

A remarkable true story of enterprise and espionage, of mystery and mayhem, in the Far East Jim Thompson was the best-known western businessman in Thailand, arguably the best known in all of Southeast Asia. Then one day, during a brief holiday in the highlands of Malaysia, he simply vanished — and became famous round the […]

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Four famous fully-engaged French writers

| April 12, 2012 | 0 Comments
Four famous fully-engaged French writers

  Writer/activists are coming back into fashion. It’s time to revisit their French ancestors. When I was about 15, I stumbled on a book no one else seemed to have checked out of the public library in decades: Emile Zola, Novelist and Reformer: An Account of his Life and Work. It was published in 1904, […]

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The walls of the world: keeping in, keeping out

| October 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
The walls of the world: keeping in, keeping out

  Wendy Brown’s Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (Zone Books/MIT Press, US$25.95 cloth) is concerned with the role that walls — the Berlin Wall, for example, or the Israeli wall that winds through the West Bank — play in modern political discourse and economic thinking. She begins by quoting Paul Hirst, the late British political theorist. […]

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Roy MacLaren: Memoir of a formidable man

| June 26, 2011 | 0 Comments
Roy MacLaren: Memoir of a formidable man

There are times in The Fundamental Things Apply (McGill-Queen’s University Press, $39.95), Roy Mac­Laren’s memoir of his life in diplomacy, business and politics, when one is reminded of the Lanny Budd cycle by Upton Sinclair. This is a sequence of 11 novels in which the character Budd, an American diplomat, seems to bump into all […]

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The Journey Of Pearl S. Buck

| December 1, 2010 | 0 Comments
The Journey Of Pearl S. Buck

In 1938, Pearl S. Buck, the author of The Good Earth, became the first American woman to win the Nobel Prize in literature. This simple statement, however, obscures what’s probably a more important one in terms of explaining her career. If you agree that T.S. Eliot, though born in the United States, was actually British, […]

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