Posts made in March, 2009

The revenge of the blog

Posted by on Mar 28, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

A brief review of a William F. Buckley Jr. book in today’s Globe and Mail (yes, we did manage to grab a Starbucks copy of the paper before they sold out) says that for forty years Buckley used his Notes & Asides column in the National Review to get back at the people who criticized him. “Buckley always had the last word,” says reviewer H. J. Kirchhoff. Most of us, of course, don’t have our own magazines to use as vehicles for answering our critics. But we do have the blog. We too can now have the last word. Never again will we have to suffer in silence or sit wondering for days if the paper will actually publish our polite rebuttal as a letter to the editor. Blogs are so empowering, don’t you know. By the way, the title of Buckley’s anthology, now in paperback, is Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription. Not only does it include Buckley’s original responses to his critics, but also comes with additional commentary, which Kirchhoff describes as “often hilarious.” Gotta find a...

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More to come

Posted by on Mar 26, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

I am in the process of moving my blog from Blogger to WordPress. Come back soon!

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Is the Globe headed for extinction?

Posted by on Mar 24, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

The Globe and Mail is our favourite Canadian newspaper, always has been. We like it because it’s a writers’ newspaper, featuring some of the best scribes in the country. For years we had a subscription to the print edition. When the paper failed to arrive on our doorstep three days out of the six, however, we finally cancelled it. A circulation manager actually urged us to do so, if you can believe that. “Can’t guarantee home delivery any more,” she said. “Great difficulty finding reliable carriers, you understand.” Not to worry, we thought. There are two Globe boxes within easy walking distance of our home in West Hillhurst. We can still have the paper with our morning tea after we stretch our legs and get a little fresh air. Six weeks ago, we noticed that both Globe boxes seemed to be eternally empty. Not just on Saturdays, when only the early birds catch the worms, but on every day of the week. We know the paper is good, but it can’t be THAT popular. Three weeks ago, the boxes were removed. Not just the boxes near our home, but all the boxes in Kensington. That meant we now had to hike eleven blocks to the nearest Starbucks to pick up a copy, if there was still one left. Still possible, we thought, but not such an appealing prospect when the temperature dips to twenty below. This past Saturday, there wasn’t a Globe to be found at Starbucks. There wasn’t a Globe to be found anywhere in Kensington. Is the print edition of the Globe headed for the same fate as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Christian Science Monitor? Don’t tell us we should get the National Post instead. We’ve already seen that...

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Reviewing the reviewer

Posted by on Mar 17, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 1 comment

The reviewer’s name is H. V. Nelles. That’s how his name is spelt. I mention this because my name is misspelt in his review of The Good Steward, published in the Literary Review of Canada. Yes, I have a thing about this. In the second of only two specific references to me in a piece running to more than one page, my surname is given as “Bennan.” A minor gaffe, granted, but it speaks to the credibility of this LRC review. Prof. Nelles is a leading academic historian. He holds the L. R. Wilson professorship in Canadian history at McMaster University. In that capacity, he accuses me of falling short in my research. “Regiments of documents in various archives are left undisturbed,” he writes. Regiments? In which archives, pray tell? Prof. Nelles knows from my endnotes that I probed the fonds at the University of Calgary, Glenbow Museum, University of Alberta, and the Provincial Archives of Alberta. Given that my stated mission was to shed light on the life of an Alberta public figure who zealously guarded his privacy, where else would he have me look? Nelles says “larger questions about Social Credit, public policy, and comparative provincial development remain unbroached.” Guilty as charged, say I. I never set out to write yet another tome about one of the most scrutinized political movements in Canadian history. I undertook to write the first popular biography of the radio evangelist who served as premier of Alberta for twenty-five years. And that speaks to the larger problem here. One of the serious shortcomings of Prof. Nelles’s review is that it singularly fails to acknowledge the difference between what storytellers do and what scholars do. Storytellers write for a general readership; scholars write for each other. Pierre Berton was fond of pointing this out. He was a storyteller, one of the best we’ve ever had. I would not presume to put myself in his league. Yet the academic reviewers used to say to Berton: “We know all this stuff. Why are you repeating it?” It never seemed to occur to them that the vast majority of Berton’s readers were unaware of the details he uncovered in his research. The details may have been old hat to the scholars, but they certainly were not familiar to those readers who vaulted The National Dream to the top of the Canadian bestseller lists. Before they read the book, did my readers know that Ernest Manning once put forward a plan to explode a nuclear bomb in the Athabasca oilsands to extract the bitumen from the sands? Did they know that the American oilman who won the first contract to commercially develop the oilsands secretly financed Manning’s radio program, Back to the Bible, for more than a decade? Likely not. Yet Prof. Nelles accuses me of simply replaying the old tunes, “pounded out in a rhythm as familiar as rugged hymns.” Don’t get me wrong here. I truly appreciate the importance of scholarly investigation. I could not have written my book without all the good digging done by the academics. But, to reprise this particular old tune, I submit that Prof. Nelles should have conceded the obvious: That I write for people who do their reading in places other than archives and specialized...

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Literary Review of Canada — Part 2

Posted by on Mar 16, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

I have received a copy of the Literary Review of Canada, thanks to the kindness of Alastair Cheng, assistant editor and associate publisher. Responding to my last blog posting, he e-mailed me a complimentary PDF of the issue in question. More later about the review itself …

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