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Maisonneuve: Read It! (A Review) - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
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Maisonneuve: Read It! (A Review) [Dec. 9th, 2004|08:32 pm]
Young Geoffrey
Nope, nothing controversial this time, Gentle Readers.

Some time ago - probably more than a year ago, now that I think of it - I posted a review of the first or second issue of The Walrus, a Canadian magazine explicitly modelled after Harper's, the brilliant publication edited by Lewis H. Lapham, arguably the best general-interest magazine in the English-speaking world. (The New Yorker> is close behind and, in its weird, libertarian way, so is The Economist.)

As I recall, my review of The Walrus was luke-warm. I was disappointed by its (very well-hyped) debut, but cautiously optimistic about its future. For a couple of decades, I have bemoaned this country's lack of a magazine that even approached Harper's for broadminded, literate and engaged topicality and depth. Not there yet, I thought The Walrus was nevertheless a comer - an ambitious kid with plenty of moxie and a fair amount of talent; a lot of growing to do, but I was happy to wait and see.

A year later, the kid still looks good, still promises to hit the big time, but there hasn't been much growth. I don't regret my 5-year subscription but the truth is, I wouldn't send the cheque today.

So much for hype. So much for slavish imitation. So far, the "Canadian Harper's" reads more like a pretentious Saturday Night than a really good magazine.

Meanwhile, last spring, I happened upon a publication out of Montreal, Maisonneuve.

Though printed on slick paper, the first issue I bought was a little ragged and uneven, but nevertheless, it contained a couple of pieces that would not have been out of place in Harper's, a couple of others that would have been - but not for a failure of quality, but rather one of tone - and none at all that I regretted the time spent reading them.

I've snatched up every subsequent issue and, yes, they've been uneven. One issue mis-fired quite badly, to my mind. But after 4 or 5 editions, that counts for little.

Maisonneuve almost certainly has a much smaller budget than does The Walrus, but the quality of the prose is easily its equal; its breadth of interest ranges far wider; and its sense of humour is robust and playful, where The Walrus seems to have none at all.

Where The Walrus tries and (so far) fails to match its American inspiration, Maisonneuve happily blazes its own trail. Canadian yes (heavens! More than that, it comes from Quebec!, Maisonneuve has the adult self-confidence to engage in the creation of its own identity, without seeking validation by imitating an older cousin.

Among other things, the current issue contains a sober and sad - but far from maudlin - account of the life of one-time heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry, a very strong piece of fiction, a visit to the stripclubs of a down and out midwestern American town and an auto-biographical account of an American Deportation Officer and, especially, "A Poet Goes to City Hall", by poet and Ottawa City councillor Clive Doucet (of whom I had never before heard). Doucet's quietly brilliant, short article manages the neat trick of being personal and political at the same time.

He clearly explains why we live in a country of booming suburbs and decaying downtowns, encapsulating the 100-year theft of public money - and the public good - by private interests, as well as why it is still happening, no matter that we've all read our Jane Jacobs (or at least, feel we have absorbed her ideas by osmossis).

It may be that "A Poet Goes to City Hall" struck me particularly hard because I have spent the past couple of weeks riding the streetcar to work rather than my bicycle, and have experienced first-hand the frustration of a public transit system that not so long ago was one of the best in the world in serious decline (yesterday, I missed a car and decided to walk for a bit; I made it from Spadina almost to Dufferin - the equivalent of almost 4 subway stops! - before another finally passed me). But I digress.

We have massive urban sprawl, highways and subdivisions burying irreplaceable farmland to thank for this. And you, Gentle Readers, are paying for it with your tax dollars.

The $67 million [for 7 kilometres of an extra two lanes of highway in Ottawa] is simply the cost of construction. If land must be purchased, urband roads can cost as much as $25 million a kilometre. To put this in perspective, the total cost of all the money spent for new community infrastructure is $19.3 million. That's right: Widening the road by two lanes for 7.7 kilometres costs more than three times the entire city budget for parks, community centres, swimming pools, ice rinks and daycares [italics are mine] for 800,000 people.

But I digress again.

Maisonneuve is an excellent magazine - outgoing, curious, broadminded, sometimes funny and utterly self-confident. It may not have a trust-fund and it certainly doesn't have the pretentions of its more well-publicized cousin The Walrus, but it is its own person, making its way in the hard and largely indifferent (if not outright hostile) world of Canadian thought and letters.

It you let it, it will take you places you never even imagined you might want to visit.
linkReply

Comments:
From: patriarch420
2004-12-11 02:56 am (UTC)

Narf

ZzZzZz...

On a completely unrelated topic...

long purple dress or pinstripe pants and a nice black button-up shirt for tomorrow? Im torn :(

have a good night sweetheart, see you tomorrow around 6ish

*kiss kiss*

-laura-
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-11 01:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Narf

ZzZzZz...

Shaddap.



I was (barely) inclining towards the purple dress, but if you're going to be out and about all day, the pants might make more sense; besides, then we'd match. Incidentally, Ann seemed to think dressing up would be overkill - all the more reason to do it, I say.

I had a lovely evening (and tried not to rant too much about your many sterling qualities) and hope you did too.

*kiss kiss* right back at'cha.
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[User Picture]From: madrigalia
2004-12-12 02:44 am (UTC)
I suddenly feel like I'm walking in on something private....

Although I can't afford to read the Walrus often, I met its publisher this summer during a conference. Ken Alexander was quite insistent that his magazine not be lumped in with Canadiana such as Saturday Night, adding that he sees it as a competitor of Harper's that just happens to be Canadian.

Personally, I'd rather read another Saturday Night. As you noted, the Walrus is interesting at times, dull at others, but overall hasn't attained the status it aspires to. It strikes me as insufferably elitist, but so does the New Yorker (which I read anyway).

It's not doing well financially, either, and that's certainly reminiscent of a previously mentioned Canadian magazine.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-13 12:41 am (UTC)
I suddenly feel like I'm walking in on something private....

Not really, though I was recently informed that Laura and I can get a little "nauseating" at times. I'm unlikely to change my behaviour here, but I take the point.

Personally, I'd rather read another Saturday Night. As you noted, the Walrus is interesting at times, dull at others, but overall hasn't attained the status it aspires to.

To be honest, I haven't read an issue of Saturday Night in a few years, so anything I have to say about it may well be out of date - what about it appeals to you? As for The Walrus, to me it comes across as too parochial for its aspirations.

It strikes me as insufferably elitist, but so does the New Yorker (which I read anyway).

"Elitist?" I'd describe The Walrus as pretentious, largely because it is failing to be what it aspires to - but The New Yorker? It is what it is, but doesn't put on airs.

Regardless, I'm not happy to here that The Walrus isn't doing well; it does have potential.
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[User Picture]From: madrigalia
2004-12-15 04:56 am (UTC)
"I'm unlikely to change my behaviour here"--of course not. True sentiment warms cold little hearts everywhere.

I liked the fact that Saturday Night used its nationality to its advantage, producing a magazine for Canadians by Canadians. I can't say I've read it much either since the Post took it over.

Perhaps I see the New Yorker as elitist because I can't afford a bloody thing they advertise. Maybe someday...
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-17 03:39 am (UTC)
I liked the fact that Saturday Night used its nationality to its advantage, producing a magazine for Canadians by Canadians.

Hate to start arguing with you soon quickly (he lied), but I think that describes at least part of what I don't like about The Walrus. I prefer Maisonneuve's confident indifference to the fact of its nationality, combined with its interest in it.

Perhaps I see the New Yorker as elitist because I can't afford a bloody thing they advertise.

I just flip the pages. If all readers were like me, magazines would be three times the price they are now.
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From: cool_hand89
2004-12-13 07:01 pm (UTC)

What?

You have shamed me, faithful correspondent, into indulging your wish that I disport myself in this forum, as much as I loathe its shoddy interface.

You wrote:

Harper's, the brilliant publication edited by Lewis H. Lapham, arguably the best general-interest magazine in the English-speaking world. (The New Yorker> is close behind and, in its weird, libertarian way, so is The Economist.)

I am not sure what will be gained by comparing The Economist to Harper's -- the two are so different. First, The Economist is not a "general-interest magazine", whatever that is. The Economist is a news magazine that purports to uphold the separation between news and editorial content. Harper's cannot claim as much. Second, Harper's comes off as a magazine by and for those with only a passing acquaintance with business, economics or even, dare I say it, mathematics. For all its attempts to change our consciousness through language, it is not a magazine that engages the business-minded reader. The Economist, for better and for worse, is aimed at just such an audience.

On a somewhat different topic, I have never understood Lapham's appeal, as you know. His essays return so little for the investment of time needed to parse his overly elaborate rhetoric and syntax. So many words to convey so little thought. Yes, he makes clever use of labels and slogans, but I want to know is there any "there" there?

I am in the minority, I know: he is well-loved by the intelligentsia, and so he must be good. I just don't get the appeal.

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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-17 03:26 am (UTC)

Re: What?

...as much as I loathe its shoddy interface.

I may go into greater detail in my next letter, but for now I'll admit that I don't share your antipathy towards this interface. Granted, it doesn't have the clean structure of a newsgroup thread, but it isn't that much more of a pain to navigate. And I like being able to post purty pi'tchers from time to time.

I am not sure what will be gained by comparing The Economist to Harper's...

The comparison was intended to make the point that both are superb examples of their own kind. In other words, compared to say, Time or MacLeans, The Economist is vastly superior to both.

Harper's comes off as a magazine by and for those with only a passing acquaintance with business, economics or even,

I think you're confusing Harper's' tendency to question the mainstream paradigms of business and econmic thinking with an ignorance of those fields. Where The Economist assumes the world in which we live is both inevitable and - but for a few tweaks - nearing the ideal, Harper's continually questions those assumptions. (I'll grant you, it has as a weakness a liberal arts tendency towards ignoring science, unless to use it to remind us of its excesses.)

dare I say it, mathematics.

Remind me never to tell you if I put my knee out.

I have never understood Lapham's appeal, as you know. His essays return so little for the investment of time needed to parse his overly elaborate rhetoric and syntax. So many words to convey so little thought. Yes, he makes clever use of labels and slogans, but I want to know is there any "there" there?

Lapham has two qualities that appeal to me. First, the aesthetic - where you see "overly elaborate rhetoric and syntax" I satire and irony, a bruised but vibrant idealism - for democracy, liberty and (yes) for America's quiescent but still existent potential.

Second, I think there is a "there, there". I think his analysis of the ongoing hijacking of the American body politic is both insightful and powerful. You, of course, may argue that he simply massages my prejudices.

I am in the minority, I know: he is well-loved by the intelligentsia

You're not in the minority. The Atlantic outsells Harper's by a considerable margin. I think his relatively large presence as a public intelletual is due as much to the historical prestige of the magazine he edits as it is to the fact he is easy to trot out as a member of the opposition - no matter that after Lapham, Naomi Klein and a couple of others, the list gets pretty thin. (And I suspect he isn't nearly as much in demand down south; Canada is considerably more liberal than the US.)
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From: patriarch420
2004-12-14 01:59 am (UTC)

Nothing to do with your post..

Some food for thought- that (as mentioned abovE) has nothing to do with your post.

Title: THE YEAR IN MEDICINE FROM A TO Z.
Authors: Bjerklie, David
Park, Alice
Song, Sora
Source: Time; 12/6/2004, Vol. 164 Issue 23, p82, 10p, 31c


SMOKING

Why are some people hopelessly addicted to cigarettes, while others can seemingly quit at will? It may be, suggests recent research, that in those unlucky individuals who appear to be "born to smoke," nicotine triggers a pattern of brain activity that makes kicking the habit practically impossible. This strong neurobiological reaction to nicotine appears to be associated with hostile personalities marked by anger, aggression and anxiety.

If that's not scary enough, scientists pursuing another line of research believe they have found a physiological reason why nicotine and alcohol so often share each other's company. Even a small quantity of alcohol seems to significantly boost the pleasurable effects of nicotine. The numbers certainly won't comfort smoking barflies: 80% to 90% of alcoholics smoke, and alcoholism is 10 times as prevalent among smokers as among nonsmokers.

HERBAL SUPPLEMENTS
Most consumers assume that dietary supplements marketed as "all natural" are safe. How far that is from being true was underscored this year by the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, which issued a "dirty dozen" list of supplements that have been linked to cancer, kidney or liver damage and heart problems and some of which have been banned in Europe and Asia. What to avoid: aristolochic acid, comfrey, androstenedione, chaparral, germander, kava, bitter orange, organ or gland extracts, lobelia, pennyroyal oil, scullcap and yohimbe. In addition, the FDA says, consumers should steer clear of supplements called Actra-Rx and Yilishen, which contain prescription-strength levels of sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. It can lower blood pressure to dangerous levels.

NOISE
We're so used to noise, we hardly hear it anymore. Wailing car alarms, barking dogs, roaring leaf blowers, honking horns, grumbling washing machines, blaring TVs, squeaking baby toys--they all add up to the sound track of daily life. If it's not enough to drive you insane, says the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, it can still make you sick. Some 30 million Americans are exposed to daily noise levels that will eventually impair their hearing. Moreover, those who were destined to go deaf are doing so decades earlier than expected. Although it takes noises louder than 85 decibels (a typical hair dryer hits 90 db) to cause hearing loss, even softer sounds, like a ringing phone, can lead to hypertension, stress and depression.


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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-17 03:35 am (UTC)

Re: Nothing to do with your post..

This strong neurobiological reaction to nicotine appears to be associated with hostile personalities marked by anger, aggression and anxiety.

Thank god I don't display any of those traits. :)

Even a small quantity of alcohol seems to significantly boost the pleasurable effects of nicotine.

That sure as hell sounds true.

At least my apartment is quiet and I'm not taking any of those supplements.
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From: patriarch420
2004-12-17 07:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Nothing to do with your post..

You forgot about the **anxiety** one... which may apply.
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-18 08:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Nothing to do with your post..

Who, me? Anxious?

Next thing, you'll be accusing me of being bitchy about lousy restaurant service.
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From: patriarch420
2004-12-14 02:01 am (UTC)

And Finally..

The one that actually brings *good* news

CAFFEINE
Two separate reports showed a link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes. In a study that tracked coffee drinkers in the U.S. over a period of 18 years, doctors found that men who drank at least six cups a day were half as likely to develop diabetes, while women cut their risk 30%. In a separate study in Finland, which boasts the world's highest per capita coffee consumption, people who drank three to four cups of coffee a day had an almost 30% lower risk of diabetes, and serious caffeine users (more than 10 cups a day) cut their risk 60%. It's not clear whether the coffee was directly responsible for the lower diabetes rates, but further studies may confirm the connection, as caffeine is known to influence the way the body processes sugar.


*lix* have a nice night dear- despite you not being able to see this until...however long it takes you to get reconnected
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-17 03:36 am (UTC)

Re: And Finally..

Two separate reports showed a link between coffee consumption and a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes.

Just for the records, sweet Laura: I doubt those studies were talking about whipped-cream topped lattes.

*Young Geoffrey* runs for cover*
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From: patriarch420
2004-12-17 07:08 pm (UTC)

Re: And Finally..

RUN FASTER!! AND FIND A DAMN GOOD HIDING PLACE YOU!!! *throws rocks at Young G-fry* ...and I know those studies exclude my Caramel Corretos and Banana Chocolate Brownie Lattes.... and what not. See you soon, sweetheart... -laura p.s.....I'll put your chest hair-count down to 15 if you aren't careful!!
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[User Picture]From: ed_rex
2004-12-18 08:51 pm (UTC)

Re: And Finally..

Hiding from you is going to be difficult unless I change me lock.
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