“The Medium of the Archive” is an article by Elizabeth Dauphinee which appears in Best Canadian Essays (2021); it’s a great article about the writing of history

The article, from the Fall 2000 issue of The New Quarterly, concerns a heritage house that the author purchased north of Toronto.

An excerpt reads:

The house offers up its first artifact in July, right after I move in. The toilet leaks in the tiny bathroom under the stairs and destroys the subfloor. The water also wicks up the hundred-year-old plaster, and the walls have to be torn out. In the quiet heat of the early afternoon, while cracking out chalky chunks of horse-hair-reinforced plaster, I find, stuffed in an electrical box wedged inside a hole in the lathe, a half sheet of folded yellow newspaper. The corner is torn and the date is missing, but I know it’s from 1945 because the photograph is iconic – The Big Three: Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin – plus Molotov, at Yalta. I smooth it out on the floor with my plaster-dusted hands. It has the smell of the university’s library, the smell of disintegrating paper and thirst.

Best Canadian Essays 2021

The article appears in Best Canadian Essays 2021 (2021).

An excerpt from a blurb reads:

A Winnipeg Free Press Top Read of 2021

The thirteenth instalment of Canada’s annual volume of essays showcases diverse nonfiction writing from across the country.

“The exceptional essay,” writes editor Bruce Whiteman, “derives from a passionate feeling, love and anger being perhaps its upper and lower limits, coexisting with a desire for truth, and it aims for the radiance of what is.” In the 2021 edition of Best Canadian Essays, Whiteman’s selections seek truth in all the places it may be found, from walks in brambled woods and ancient cities to memories of childhoods that shape a life; to analyses of artifacts both legislative and cultural that advance equality long overdue; to reports from the field that articulate the poetry of the present, the invisibility of the poor, the social contours and consuming mental contagions of the ongoing pandemic. Drawn from leading magazines and journals published in 2020, the fifteen essays gathered here brilliantly illuminate what is.

Heritage houses

The article brings to mind things I’ve written at this site about heritage preservation.

Here’s a list of posts that come to mind, in particular:

I’m looking forward to a webinar about Toronto laneway houses; the webinar has prompted me to think about great design in general – as at 58 Wheatfield Road

Many resources are available for the restoration of heritage properties

Long Branch Historical Society: June 2012 update

Boarded-up early 1900s house at Trafalgar Road and Derry Road retains echoes of bygone days

Derry and Trafalgar: view looking east along Derry Road, May 24, 2019. Jaan Pill photo

On Sept. 2, 2021, we met for a high school picnic at an apartment parking lot with a great view of Lake Ontario. We learned how Bois-de-Saraguay in Montreal was saved from destruction.

Enthusiasm for local history is not enough, by itself, to preserve and repurpose heritage buildings

Best Canadian Essays 2021 makes for great reading

I’ve been reading Best Canadian Essays 2021 because I read all the time.

At Note 2 at a previous post, I’ve mentioned other books I’ve found of interest.

Stephen King has written a valuable book about writing: On writing: A Memoir of the Craft (2020).

A blurb reads:

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work. “Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

Another useful resource is The Clockwork Muse: A Practical Guide to Writing Theses. Dissertations, and Books (1999) by Eviatar Zerubavel.

A blurb reads:

For anyone who has blanched at the uphill prospect of finishing a long piece of writing, this book holds out something more practical than hope: it offers a plan. The Clockwork Muse is designed to help prospective authors develop a workable timetable for completing long and often formidable projects.

The idea of dashing off a manuscript in a fit of manic inspiration may be romantic, but it is not particularly practical. Instead, Eviatar Zerubavel, a prolific and successful author, describes how to set up a writing schedule and regular work habits that will take most of the anxiety and procrastination out of long-term writing, and even make it enjoyable. The dreaded ‘writer’s block’ often turns out to be simply a need for a better grasp of the temporal organization of work.

The Clockwork Muse rethinks the writing process in terms of time and organization. It offers writers a simple yet comprehensive framework that considers such variables as when to write, for how long, and how often, while keeping a sense of momentum throughout the entire project. It shows how to set priorities, balance ideals against constraints, and find the ideal time to write. For all those whose writing has languished, waiting for the “right moment,” The Clockwork Muse announces that the moment has arrived.

Invasion of the ticks

All the articles in The Best Canadian Essays 2021 are worth a read. One that I’ve been reading just now is “Tick Tock: Inside the Quest to Track One of Humanity’s Tiniest Deadly Predators” by Stephanie Nolan.

The article was originally published as “Invasion of the Ticks: Inside the quest to track one of humanity’s tiniest deadly predators” in the September/October 2020 issues of Walrus Magazine; a note reads:

Updated 10:01, Sep. 9, 2020 | Published 12:37, Jul. 21, 2020

This article was published over a year ago. Some information may no longer be current.

An excerpt reads:

Clow hurries to me, leans in for a look, and lights up like Christmas morning. I have picked up an adult female blacklegged tick, with a black hood on a handsome dark-red scutum. A short while later, Clow finds a tick on her own blanket and is equally pleased: you’d never guess she has encountered 10,000 ticks in her professional life. She identifies it—another I. scapularis—then sets it gently down on a leaf so I can have a good look. The tick immediately scooches to the end of the leaf and begins to wave its front legs back and forth.

“Ooh,” Clow croons. “She’s questing!”

A questing tick waits at the end of a blade of grass or leaf, with its legs outstretched, tracking the changes in heat and CO2 that signal that something biteable is walking by, poised to jump aboard—a sort of arthropod hitchhiking. Watching Clow watch the tick, I recognize the phenomenon that I saw in Robbin Lindsay and every other tick expert I talked to: the admiration for ticks, for their adaptability and ingenuity and complexity.

A second excerpt reads:

So there you are, with a tick feeding and passing pathogens into your body after having disarmed your immune system. It’s the ideal situation, Ogden says, for a virus or bacterium looking to fulfill its evolutionary obligation by finding new animals to infect. “If a bug has to get from an arthropod into a host, what a wonderful gateway it is, where the tick’s feeding.”

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