Leonard Cohen and me: A reminiscence
By Jay Stone
Even if we stated our case very clearly and all those who held as we do came to our side, all of them, we would still be very few. -- Leonard Cohen, Parasites of Heaven When he died last week his constituency emerged, thousands, millions perhaps, smitten, devoted, some with stories of how they had gone to his house in Montreal and he had made them egg salad sandwiches. He was gracious, modest, haunting, and with the key to something we thought was ours alone. “Have you ever noticed how private a wet tree is, a curtain of razor blades?,” he wrote (in A Cross Didn’t Fall On Me), and suddenly you did notice. A poem is something that everyone knows but no one ever said before. I found him by accident. When I was a teenager, there was a copy of his first novel, The Favourite Game, on the bookshelf in my father’s den when we lived in north Toronto. I don’t know how it got there, but my father got a lot of books from publishers because he was on the radio ...
Penetrating Helen Gurley Brown
Books: Not Pretty Enough - The Unlikely Triumph of Helen Gurley Brown
New biography of the woman who recreated Cosmopolitan as a vehicle of sexual empowerment reveals lifelong insecurities and a penchant for moisturizing with baking lard
Paul McCartney biography blows up Beatles lore
Book Review: Paul McCartney: The Life by Philip Norman
When Philip Norman first wrote about The Beatles in his 1981 book Shout, he earned Paul's wrath by claiming John Lennon was "three-quarters" of the band, but 25 years later he sets the creative record straight by hailing Paul as the boundary-breaking Beatle
Big Time, Small Talk, Woodstock
Book Review: Small Town Talk
Barney Hoskyns is the leading chronicler of the Woodstock generation and he explores the lasting legacy of a mindset birthed in mud-covered love in his new book, Small Town Talk
David Bezmozgis dives into Russian diaspora
Interview: David Bezmozgis on Natasha
The Toronto-based writer-director grew up in a community of Russian Jews who left the Soviet Union, but decades later he says the "Russian immigrant experience" has become more difficult to define -- yet far more interesting to explore through drama
By Katherine Monk
The “immigrant experience” is a phrase that’s been getting a lot of media mileage in the wake of Syria’s collapse and continuing mass displacement due to climate change, but as a phrase, it’s generic. It assumes all immigrants share a similar reality: a sense of exile and limited expression until assimilation takes hold. Toronto author and filmmaker David Bezmozgis thinks the North American “immigrant community” deserves better than a broad label between quotation marks, so he wrote a short story called Natasha, originally published in Harper’s before appearing in a bound collection in 2004. A Lolita-like yarn about a sexy young Russian girl who moves ...
Pop This! Patti Smith’s M Train
Podcast: Pop This!
The pop culture savants are bowled over with emotion as they crack the spine of Patti Smith's latest book about 'grief, coffee and travel' in their first-ever book club episode
The Man Who Mistook his Life for a Notebook
A cartoonist confesses to an Oliver Sacks obsession that has him flexing his mental muscles in way he never thought possible
By Alan King
I have a confession to make. I’ve read just about every word Oliver Sacks ever wrote and, God knows, the man wrote a lot. Yes, I know it sounds like an unhealthy interest in medical literature — borderline OCD. But it’s not like I’ve read all of Sherwin Nolan or Jerome Groopman or Atul Gawande — just Sacks. I read him endlessly, page after fascinating page. You could think of it as a mental disorder or a ‘cerebral deficit’ if you like. My doctor certainly does. In fact he has a name for it: florid non-sackistic verbo-dysplasia. It’s a rare, somewhat disabling affliction. There are maybe 50 people on the planet who have it and sufferers typically live only on beautiful, faraway tropical islands, hilltop Tuscan villages or have been institutionalized for decades without ever seeing the outside world. I’m one ...
Searching for the legacy of Al Purdy
When film critic Brian D. Johnson retired, he became a filmmaker himself. His first project: a documentary about the difficult, brilliant (and strangely forgotten) Canadian poet
By Jay Stone
TORONTO — “You can argue whether he was our greatest poet, but certainly he was our most Canadian poet. No one wrote about the land the way that he did. If the Group of Seven was a bar band, they might sound like Al Purdy.” It’s a warm September afternoon and Brian D. Johnson is sitting at an outdoor table at a coffee place he likes near the Toronto International Film Festival. He’s in the sun, hatless, and there is sweat on his forehead. Furthermore, people keep stopping to interrupt us because Johnson is a pretty popular guy in the film festival district, and also because, at this year’s festival, he’s a bit of a celebrity. He was the film critic for Maclean’s magazine for 28 years. Now, at 66, he has retired (“I’ve had a career. I’m looking for the sweeter ...