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Issue Five

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Getting Into It Through The Guns: The Thomson Collection of Ship Models at the AGO

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French prisoners of war held in Britain built some of the ship models in the Thomson Collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Cream-white as if carved in ivory but made from bones in the prisoners’ rations and other humble materials like straw and human hair, the “Prisoner of War Models” are masterfully crafted and exquisitely beautiful, despite their genesis in misery and their deathly...

Poem: My Life Aboard the Last Sailing Ship Carrying Cumberland Coal

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    You give your firstborn daughter A central-Asian name Meaning blue or water. Years later two bluebirds alight on either arm And an artist’s quick needlework Stitches birds to skin So even In your obsequies your fetlocks Wing away, appear then disappear. Of course Now you are a horse   With pale blue withers on a high Afghan plain. What does it mean to be Such a thing? Behind...

If Netizens United: Rebecca MacKinnon’s Consent of the Networked

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 A review of Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (Basic Books, 2012), by Rebecca MacKinnon Chinese journalist Shi Tao was jailed in 2005 after Yahoo provided Chinese state security agents with emails he had sent on a Yahoo China account. The emails had alerted a New York web editor of a recent Chinese government document instructing national media in what not to...

Instruments for the Elevation of the Soul: The Plight of the Book in Twenty-First Century Paris

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Paris conjures up many images. Some visualize the Seine and arching footbridges; others see patisseries shaded by plane trees or a five a.m. street crêpe; others still, think of books. Writers and writing infuse the city’s marrow, from contemporary stars like Muriel Barbery to the 1920s icons Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Beach, and James Joyce, and back even earlier to Victor Hugo and Voltaire. Today...

Cloud Cartography: On Tubes by Andrew Blum

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A review of Tubes: A Journey to the Centre of the Internet (Ecco, 2012), by Andrew Blum When U.S. Senator Ted Stevens, speaking in opposition to net neutrality in June 2006, infamously described the Internet as “a series of tubes,” he was ridiculed for being out of touch with technology. The phrase was quickly absorbed into the lexicon, becoming tongue-in-cheek shorthand for describing an...

Not Himself: On Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary

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A review of Witold Gombrowicz’s Diary (Yale, 2012), translated by Lillian Vallee. The Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz arrived in Buenos Aires in August of 1939 on the maiden voyage of the trans-Atlantic liner Chrobry. He had been able to use his minor notoriety as an avant-garde writer in Poland to receive a free ticket on the ship, ostensibly as a representative of Polish culture. Within 10 days...

Yerevan, Armenia: World Book Capital

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When Johanna Skibsrud’s The Sentimentalists won the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2010, reviews in the Globe and Mail and the National Post commented at length about the beautiful book produced by Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Press, where books are printed by hand, carefully bound, and often include letter-pressed dust jackets and patterned end papers. These volumes are works of art in and of themselves...

Poem: Three Studies of Fruit

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  Have I painted these scenes? Or merely collected them? I will try to display them in pure colours, simplest form. i.   First: the orange of an orange1 in the dining room, Caroline is cutting the fruit for me and I am sitting on her lap when a cow rushes past the window startling me so I startle the knife and it bites2 my thumb between the knuckles.   I do not remember the cut...

Suicide as a Sort of Present: The Cult of DFW

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A review of Every Love Story is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, by D. T. Max (Viking, 2012). For the flawless. [Editor’s note: Hover over the footnotes to read them, or scroll to the bottom of the essay.] You are, unfortunately, a scholar1 of the works of the late David Foster Wallace (suicide, a trellis-and-belt hanging, Sept.12, 2008).2 Early in 2002, while researching what...

Not Nothing: A Review of Artist’s Statements

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[British artist] Damien Hirst  What do you mean, an artist’s statement?[Art writer] Sarah Borusso  Just a statement of purpose or… it’s up to you really, we run them just to give a context to your work… It’s kind of up to you. DH  OK, I can do one now. SB  OK. It’s a kind of separate thing from the interview. DH  No, I can think of a really good one. SB  Oh, you can? DH  The only...

Editor’s Note: Issue Five

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This season we watched deep cuts to Library and Archives Canada begin to take effect as we learned how the archives cached by web browsers make websites load more quickly. We said goodbye to the Toronto Women’s Bookstore and Douglas and McIntyre, Canada’s biggest independent publishing house. We witnessed our sometime newspaper of record, the Globe and Mail, try to discount allegations of...