Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative


September 6, 2013

A project that has kept me busy this summer is an illustrated history of prohibition in Canada. Titled Closing Time, it will be published next year.

American prohibition has been enjoying a lot of attention lately. Last year PBS aired a Ken Burns documentary on the subject, based on Daniel Okrent's best-selling book Last Call, and the TV drama "Boardwalk Empire" has had huge success. But most Canadians don't realize that we had our own experience with prohibition....

September 1, 2013

Two blogs to recommend, both by old pals.

If you have any interest in out-of-the-way corners of Canadian literature, pay a visit to Brian Busby's entertaining blog, The Dusty Bookcase, if for no other reason than Brian holds a watching brief on the (non) appearance of Prime Minister Harper's much ballyhooed hockey book.


August 26, 2013

On the west side of Granville Street in downtown Vancouver, near the corner of Smythe next door to the McDonald’s, there is a storefront which for many years has been occupied by a camera shop. In the 1960s, however, it was home to The Book Barrel, the largest link in a small chain of book stores owned by Ted Fraser. (There was also The Book Bin at the north end of the Granville Bridge and a third store on Robson Street.) Mostly forgotten now, Fraser at the time was the only competition...

August 20, 2013

When it comes to canoeing, Canadians can be divided into two groups of people, Johnsonians and Leacockians.

As children, Johnsonians invariably went to summer camp in the woods where they chanted Pauline Johnson's anthem, "The Song My Paddle Sings," around the campfire each night. ("Be strong, O paddle! be brave, canoe!") Later in life they spend their holidays hurtling down one pest-infested waterway after another.

As you may infer, I am a Leacockian. We feel as Stephen...

August 16, 2013

On a recent visit to Shawnigan Lake on southern Vancouver Island I seized the opportunity to visit the Kinsol Trestle, one of British Columbia's most impressive feats of engineering.


Located just north of Shawnigan, it towers 44.2 metres (145 feet) above the Koksilah River. It is the tallest surviving timber trestle in Canada and the oldest trestle of its kind in the world. Even...