Essays, Reviews, & Op-Eds

I have written a number of essays, reviews, review-essays, and Op-Eds over the years, and intend to do more of them in the near future.

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Dying in Hell: Canada’s Great War comes alive on film and in print.

A review of the Paul Gross WWI film Passchendaele, by far the biggest Canadian war movie until Gross's next film, Hyena Road. I applaud most everything about the film, including its unsentimental grit, until the rather too neat, too symbolical climax. The first thing I wrote for the Literary Review of Canada, March 2009. Available online.

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A Loaded Anniversary: Books and pundits tackle the Plains of Abraham, but do they go far enough?

A review of five books related to the controversy-filled 250th anniversary of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13 September 2009, as well as a meditation on Canadian pundits' and politicians' ambivalent relationship to history and historical identity. Literary Review of Canada, September 2009. Available online. Mentioned in The Globe and Mail as one of the best pieces on the newsstand that month.

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Quebec's Anti-Hero

A review of Daniel Poliquin's critically acclaimed biography of René Lévesque, René Lévesque. I praise the concise form, the engaged style of the author, though I am bemused by his weakness for psychoanalysis. Literary Review of Canada, April 2010. Available here as a scan.

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Doing as the Romans Do: How classical inspiration fired modern upheaval

A review of Imperial Republics: Revolution, War and Territorial Expansion from the English Civil War to the French Revolution, by Edward G. Andrew. I liked the book and the subject, but was skeptical as to whether "Republicanism" (i.e. non-monarchy) is a coherent concept in itself. Literary Review of Canada, December 2011. Available online.

One of my better pieces, I'd say, but have not had any feedback on it!

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War of Words: Canada’s linguistic struggles have turned some victims vicious

A review of Speaking Up:  History of Language and Politics in Canada and Quebec, by Marcel Martel and Martin Pâquet, translated by Patricia Dumas. A hostile review of an unashamedly nationalistic history of Canadian language politics. Literary Review of Canada, November 2012. Available online.

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Athens on the Hill

An Op-Ed proposal, co-authored with my brother and fellow veteran of Rhapsodic Tour 2005, Dave Mitchell, for a radical revision of the principles of representation in Canada's House of Commons. We suggest that 1/3rd of the members be chosen at random from voters, partly to boost voter turnout but mainly so as to force MP's and ministers to have to convince a listener instead of alternately grandstanding and preaching to the choir. Published in the National Post on 22 September 2005 (Issues and Ideas, Page 23). Available to download as a .pdf.

A strange sequel to this Op-Ed: it seemed to make no impression at the time, and the principle of random selection has not been prominent, or even mentioned, in recent debates on changing the electoral system, but in my Ancient History class at Dalhousie University in 2014 there was a first-year student from Addis Adaba, Ethiopia, who reported that his high school teacher there had devoted a whole week to studying the Op-Ed and its radical idea! I was as gratified to learn it as I was amazed.

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If MPs vote for Reform Act, democracy could break out

An Op-Ed in support of Michael Chong's Reform Act of 2014, which was then in danger of being undemocratically destroyed in the Canadian Senate. Glad to report that it passed, though perhaps not as a result of my Op-Ed! In the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 19 September 2014. Available online.