Tag: Books

A big secret that everybody knows

| July 1, 2017 | 0 Comments
A big secret that everybody knows

I have a framed poster on my wall at home that illustrates 14 different types of small explosive devices. The same poster is found in nearly every elementary schoolroom in Laos (and Cambodia, too) where it’s intended to teach the little ones to refrain from, for instance, playing with landmines. My copy hangs above the […]

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Auto Draft

| April 11, 2017 | 0 Comments
Auto Draft

When the yoga instructor says “Go to your happy place,” I go to Shanghai in the 1930s. I’m not being facetious. In the years between the two world wars, Shanghai had an abundance of a priceless commodity that the world finds in such short supply today: freedom. I’ve spent much of my life looking for […]

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A strange tale of Palestine and Hollywood

| December 16, 2016 | 0 Comments
A strange tale of Palestine and Hollywood

Ben Hecht was a famous screenwriter and author who invented a pair of movie genres — the gangster film and the screwball comedy — and wrote two of the best Hitchcocks: Spellbound and Notorious. In fact, he wrote literally scores of fine films, often without credit, as was common practice in Hollywood in the ’30s […]

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Little-known fact: Winston Churchill was a shopaholic

| October 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
Little-known fact: Winston Churchill was a shopaholic

In 1929, Winston Churchill, who was then the chancellor of the exchequer in Stanley Baldwin’s government, was making a tour of Canada and the U.S. In a speech in Vancouver on Sept. 23, he said, “We see Canada growing in every way — education, civilization, numbers and wealth.” That was the day prices on U.S. […]

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Diplomatic behaviour

| June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Diplomatic behaviour

Many authors who write thick biographies of important political or cultural figures follow up later by editing their subject’s letters or private papers for publication. Norman Hillmer of Carleton University, perhaps the leading academic historian of Canadian-U.S. relations, has done the reverse. In 2013, he published O.D. Skelton: The Work of the World, 1923-1941 (McGill-Queen’s […]

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Revisionism revisited

| March 22, 2016 | 0 Comments
Revisionism revisited

As it happened, Ronald C. Rosbottom, a professor of French culture at Amherst College in New England, was in Paris on Jan. 7, 2015, the day of the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo. A bit of bad luck, one might say, but perhaps a bit of good luck as well, for Rosbottom […]

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A search for the middle ground

| January 4, 2016 | 0 Comments
A search for the middle ground

In 1962, George Woodcock, the Vancouver literary and social critic, published what turned out to be his most famous book, one that has stayed in print ever since. He called it Anarchism: A History of Libertarian Ideas and Movements. He always described himself as a “philosophical anarchist,” a phrase coined in reaction to that stereotype […]

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Out of Africa

| September 27, 2015 | 0 Comments
Out of Africa

In 2008, a British journalist named Tom Burgis, who helped cover Africa for the Financial Times, witnessed the mass murder of men, women and children at a place called Jos, along the invisible boundary that separates Nigeria’s Muslim north from its mostly Christian south. But the full effect of what he saw there didn’t strike […]

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Fu Manchu to you too

| June 23, 2015 | 0 Comments
Fu Manchu to you too

Here’s a story that’s been passed along in my family — which means that it’s most likely not true. The story is that my grandfather met Sax Rohmer, probably in San Francisco in 1919. Rohmer (real name: Arthur Henry Ward) was the British author of the Fu Manchu short stories and novels that did so […]

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An Iran-born Armenian-American in Turkey

| April 4, 2015 | 0 Comments
An Iran-born Armenian-American in Turkey

Meline Toumani is a young Iranian-born Armenian who grew up in New Jersey and began her writing career as an editorial assistant at the New York Times. So it was one day that she was in Times Square, a block from the office, when she saw the annual street protest of Turkish people with signs […]

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