Squeeze a dollop of today’s society out onto a petri dish, stare at it for a while, and inevitably you’ll come to realize that most of those bright little colourful clusters flitting about in the slime are powered by a potent, barely visible urge to dominate. Crank up the lens another fold or two and […]

Book collecting finds its best start in your passions. If you love something, you’re going to want to learn as much about it as you possibly can. Let’s say for example it’s beer. Everything about it fascinates you – its taste, color, texture, the process by which it’s made, the bottles it comes in, the […]

• What are the non-electronic precursors of book blogging? Short answer: anything that enabled the A) storage and/or B) sharing of ideas. A) Given that I call my site “a commonplace book blog”: “A place to quote, abridge, and commonplace passages of rhetorical, dialectic and factual interest, mix them with comment and reflection, and index […]

Jburlinson First appeared in Guerilla Magazine Charles Foran: Mordecai Richler was a person of notable contradictions: a Jew accused of being anti-Semitic; an ‘un-Canadian’ Canadian; a dutiful son who hated his mother. Nigel Beale: How do you think this kind of ‘definition by opposition’ played out in relation to Montreal, the city in which he […]

First appeared in Guerilla Magazine When an accomplished poet tells you that he also builds boats, makes guitars, and catalogues micro-organisms it’s pretty hard not to want to connect the dots. But what if the poet tells you there are no lines to be drawn? Bruce Taylor lives with his wife and two teenaged children […]

First appeared in The Guardian Too many academics have abandoned clarity and enthusiasm for cliquey obscurity Most readers of lit crit would doubtless agree that clear, persuasive, interesting writing is key. Why then are academics so intent on obfuscation? I recently found myself browsing and brooding over some early works by the literary critics Frank […]

First appeared in The Guardian Helvetica’s clear, transparent appearance would seem to make it ideal for books. So why is it used so infrequently? I watched the documentary film ‘Helvetica‘ last night. It illustrates how ubiquitously this typeface lives in our visual culture, and argues that typography plays a crucial role in conveying and influencing […]

Whatever else it is, the Communist Party Manifesto is the world’s greatest ad copy First appeared in The Guardian Several weeks ago in a Guardian blog post, Ben Myers suggested that copywriting is as valid a literary discipline as any, citing many writers who “have churned out lines to help companies sell their wares, especially […]

First appeared in The Guardian Writing about sex is never easy, but if authors pay attention to the darker side of desire they’re in with a chance Freud called the human tendency to inflict and receive pain during sex “the most common and important of all perversions”. We all harbour conflicting urges, he argued, both […]

First appeared in The Guardian The Booker prize should employ more critical rigour if it wants to avoid becoming the literary equivalent of American Idol If critic John Sutherland laments the wobbly status of newspaper-hosted lit-crit, Victoria Glendinning has just taken a club to the last legs it stands on. “Why should five people sit […]