Articles by: Don MacLeanDon MacLean
Don MacLean holds graduate degrees in political science and environmental studies. He is a staff writer with an interest in politics, economics, the environment and books. He can be reached at donaldm@magma.ca .

Talking About a Murder

December 10, 2014 10:07 am
Talking About a Murder

Why is the podcast “Serial” so popular? The place of podcasts in the wider culture is still uncertain. I have a few friends who embrace the medium. They might listen to Radiolab or The Partially Examined Life or to CBC podcasts. They think of podcasts as part of a freely […]

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Learning How to Die – Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

December 4, 2014 9:59 am
Learning How to Die – Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

In his latest thoughtful, moving book Being Mortal: Medicine And What Matters in the End the doctor and writer Atul Gawande tells the achingly sad story of Sara. In the prime of life and while pregnant with her first child, Sara was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Doctors induced labour […]

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Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead

November 10, 2014 2:59 pm
Into the Blizzard: Walking the Fields of the Newfoundland Dead

In October 1914, 537 young men from Newfoundland boarded the Florizel, the ship that would sail them across the Atlantic and towards the battle shores of Europe. The Great War had started in August of that year and Newfoundland’s governor had offered England this small contingent of soldiers. As a […]

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Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

February 12, 2014 4:34 pm
Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

The Lowland Jhumpa Lahiri Knopf Publishing, Toronto, 2013, 340pp. Reviewed by Don MacLean February 2014.     A scene in the early pages of Jhumpa Lahiri’s marvelous novel The Lowland is formative for the story’s two main characters. Suhhash and Udayan are young brothers, separated by only 15 months, growing up […]

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Family Ties

January 15, 2014 9:08 am
Family Ties

 Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire Vintage Books, 2012, 353pp. By Andrea Stuart Reviewed by Don MacLean Family trees are all the rage. Part of their appeal is surely the element of surprise. The deeper one digs, the more likely a discovery that the tree’s […]

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Distant Stars – John Banville – Ancient Light

December 2, 2013 2:40 pm
Distant Stars – John Banville – Ancient Light

John Banville – Ancient Light Vintage Canada 2012 Reviewed by Don MacLean Readers familiar with the great Irish writer John Banville will also be familiar with the characters Alexander (Alex) Cleave, his wife Lydia and their troubled daughter Catherine (Cass), all of whom feature prominently in some of his previous […]

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Guns, America and Tragedy: The View From Here

December 31, 2012 10:17 am
Guns, America and Tragedy: The View From Here

As everyone knows, there was another gun massacre in America on Friday December 14th, this one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut.  The horrific details are almost too painful to recall. Adam Lanza – a bright, quiet, socially awkward 20 year old – first shot his mom multiple […]

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Freedom and Darkness in Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton

November 14, 2012 1:37 pm
Freedom and Darkness in Salman Rushdie’s Joseph Anton

Salman Rushdie begins his brilliant new memoir Joseph Anton (Knopf Canada, 2012) by describing a phone call from a BBC journalist in February 1989 in which she asks what it’s like knowing that he’s going to be killed. Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini, she went on to tell him, had issued a fatwa […]

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To the Sea, a Book Review

August 8, 2012 5:54 pm
To the Sea, a Book Review

Newfoundland and Labrador 1700: in the morning dawn, boat crews are setting off the southeastern coast for another day of cod fishing. The water is calm, the skies clear. The fishermen travel steadily out to sea before bringing their vessels to rest. Hand lines are tossed into the water, the tips covered with squid or capelin, the favorite bait used to draw cod close to their boats.

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Living In the Past: Review of The Chemistry of Tears By Peter Carey

July 4, 2012 9:00 am
Living In the Past: Review of The Chemistry of Tears By Peter Carey

The climate crisis is among the themes in Carey’s latest novel, The Chemistry of Tears. The peril in which the planet finds itself serves as a backdrop to the story of the novel’s two main characters, one from the 19th century and the other living in the present.

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Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age

May 3, 2012 5:40 pm
Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery, and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age

Today Vincent Van Gogh is everywhere. Prints of the Dutch master’s most famous paintings adorn student dormitories, living rooms and cafes. Why then did a painter exert such a profound influence on our understanding of the 20th century? What accounts for the enormous appeal of his work? These are among the questions that run through Modris Eksteins’s new book, Solar Dance: Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age.

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Shallow Graves

March 19, 2012 4:34 pm
Shallow Graves

The murder of Mohammad Shafia and Tooba Yahya’s three daughters and Mohammad’s first wife raises questions for which there are no easy answers.

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Book Review – Civilization: The West and the Rest

February 10, 2012 9:23 am
Book Review – Civilization: The West and the Rest

The combination of economic stagnation and political paralysis in both America and among European Union member countries makes any book about the fate of the West timely reading. The potential for western civilization’s slow demise is one of the themes of Niall Ferguson’s latest book, Civilization: The West and the Rest.

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Book Review: Winter ~ Five Windows on the Season

November 24, 2011 4:35 pm
Book Review: Winter ~ Five Windows on the Season

As Adam Gopnik’s book Winter (and this year’s CBC/Massey Lectures) makes clear, winter is at once a season of struggle and joy. Yes winter is a period of sustained darkness and biting cold. But for Gopnik, who was born in Philadelphia but raised in Montreal, few images resonate more strongly than of kids playing hockey on frozen ponds as dusk falls on a cold December day or of scenes of families huddling by the fire, while frost builds on the windows.

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Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth By Edmund Russell

September 13, 2011 11:09 am
Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth By Edmund Russell

Edmund Russell’s book, Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth explores virtually every large scale human endeavour, and the evolutionary impacts not only on humans but on the natural world.

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Hockey’s Summer of Discontent

September 7, 2011 7:39 am
Hockey’s Summer of Discontent

Wade Belak was found dead last week in Toronto. Only a few weeks ago Rick Rypien of the Winnipeg Jets committed suicide as well. In May of this year Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers was found dead in his home after consuming a toxic mix of drugs and alcohol. The death of three players in only a few months whose main role was to fight will invariably draw attention to this aspect of the game.

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The Politics of America’s Economic Decline

September 6, 2011 9:27 am
The Politics of America’s Economic Decline

America’s economic crisis is showing no signs of abating. Late last week it was announced that no new jobs were created in the month of August. The most recent figures suggest over 14 million Americans are jobless; the real figure is undoubtedly much higher. Panic grips the stock market every second day or so. The U.S. housing market remains depressed in many pockets throughout the country. Perhaps most distressing of all, governments seem either ineffectual or simply powerless to address the economy’s chronic problems.

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