Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

New Book Due This Fall

July 12, 2014

My new book, Closing Time, is safely in the hands of the printer and is due to appear from Douglas & McIntyre this fall. Here is the cover.

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It is an illustrated history of prohibition in Canada, from the temperance movements of the nineteenth century to the "bad old days" of rum-runners and blind pigs in the 1920s and 1930s. What with the popularity of Boardwalk Empire and the notoriety of gangsters like Al Capone, many Canadians are unaware that we had our own experiment with prohibition, with just about as little success as the Americans.

The book is beautifully designed by Roberto Dosil, who has won so many design awards he must have a special room in his home to hold them all. Look for it in stores in October.

 

July 5, 2014

The latest issue of Geist magazine (#93) is out. Along with my regular books column, it contains my feature article on Richard Maurice Bucke, the 19th century alienist and religious mystic.

I first got interested in Bucke when I was in graduate school in the 1970s. His story is fairly well known to specialists -- there is an unfortunately lifeless 1986 biography by Sam Shortt, Victorian Lunacy -- but not I suspect to the general...

July 3, 2014

Yesterday my peregrinations took me to the People's Co-op Bookstore on Vancouver's Commercial Drive where I was delighted to find Rolf Maurer tending the cash. Rolf, whose job-job is the publisher of New Star Books, is a determined volunteer at the store, as well as the recent chronicler of its history. (The story, which is a fascinating one for anyone interested in the recent history of the book trade, may be found at New Star's blog, ...

June 28, 2014

Today marks one hundred years to the day that the young Serb nationalist, Gavrilo Princip, shot and killed Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo, setting the world on the road to war. Philip Larkin, in his poem MCMXIV, captures the watershed moment as posterity has come to see it.

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of...

June 21, 2014

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Thursday last the Vancouver Heritage Foundation held a drinks party in the lobby of the Sun Tower and I was invited along to say a few words about one of my favourite subjects, Louis Taylor. The highlight of the evening for me was a chance to venture into the upper storeys of the Tower where some of the original fittings and fixtures are still in place.

The...

June 17, 2014

For several years a few of us have gathered each Christmas season to dine at the Kathmandu Cafe on Commercial Drive in Vancouver. A meal of goat curry and momos always seems like a nice distraction from more conventional holiday festivities. During this time we have come to know Abi Sharma, the Kathmandu's genial proprietor.

Last night a group of regular patrons convened beneath the stunning photographs of the Himalayas that decorate the walls of the cafe to bid farewell to Abi, who...

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