Bruce Gillespie

A blog by freelance writer and editor Bruce Gillespie.

Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Shoe violations and The New Yorker

Every year at about this time, I start debating whether I should let my subscription to The New Yorker lapse. Certainly, it is a fine magazine, and the Canadian subscription price of a little more than $100 for 47 issues is a steal compared to the newsstand price of $5.99 an issue.

And yet, I often find (as I’m sure most subscribers do) that the issues tend to pile up before I’ve had a chance to go through them, and before long, my house is littered with piles of New Yorkers. I like to think I make an effort to read all of them before they head to the recycling box, but often I just end up scooping them up and dumping them in the bin to get rid of the mess and hope I haven’t missed anything really great.

Inevitably, I wind up extending my subscription and promising myself that I’ll do a better job of trying to read each issue–or, at least the cartoons–before I recycle them. And I’m glad I do: not only are they nice to have around when I feel like something quick to read or when I’m in between books, but I shudder to think of all the great writing I’d miss if I didn’t keep up with them.

For instance: in the latest issue delivered to my door (March 23), there’s a great piece by Nancy Franklin,one of my favourite critics who usually writes about television. This time, however, she’s written a Talk of the Town piece about attending the Madoff trial, which is every bit as sharp as her reviews and full of great details, like this:

The proceeding was scheduled for 10 A.M., and anyone could attend. It was in many ways a normal day, albeit with a little more electricity in the air and more guards in the lobby. They were on high alert, but were also chatty; when a woman set off the metal detector, a guard told her to take off her shoes. “Shoe violation,” he said. “Shoe violation?” she said back. The guard then sang the words “shoe violation” to the melody of “She Works Hard for the Money.”

It just doesn’t get much better than that. I know that we’re supposed to love The New Yorker for its long-form writing, but for me, it’s just as often the short pieces filled with great, unexpected details that keep me renewing year after year.

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Written by bgillesp

March 19, 2009 at 9:43 am

Posted in Journalism, Reading

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Gone fishing

I have a story in the new issue of Canadian Geographic Travel magazine, which hits newsstands across the country this week. It is my account of the three days and two nights my partner and I spent camped out in an ice hut near North Bay, Ont., this past February.

As I say in the story, we aren’t the sort of guys you’d expect to find ice fishing, but I actually did a lot of it as a kid with my grandfather, so my editor, Patricia D’Souza, thought it would be fun for me (and readers!) to have another go at it.

Against almost all of my friends’ and family’s expectations, we had a really good time, which I chalk up to the hospitality of Scott Nelson, who owns Glen Echo Cottages, and our fantastic photographer, Harry Nowell.

You can check out a preview of the story here, but if you want to read the whole thing, and find out if we caught any fish, you’ll have to track down a copy of Canadian Geographic Travel.

Written by bgillesp

October 15, 2008 at 4:12 pm

Posted in Journalism, Writing

Going to school with David Leach

This is my last full day in Victoria, and I’ll be spending the afternoon at the University of Victoria. I’ll be speaking with one of David Leach‘s creative nonfiction classes about the challenges of writing and editing family memoirs. I’m looking forward to it because David is someone I’ve known by byline for many years, but I’ve never had the chance to meet him in person until this week. The former arts editor of Victoria’s Monday Magazine and the former managing editor of explore: Canada’s Outdoor Magazine, in Toronto, David is now a full-time assistant professor at UVic’s Department of Writing.

If you haven’t his book Fatal Tide, released this past spring by Viking Canada, I highly recommend it. Here’s a short description from the book jacket:

On June 1, 2002, sixty-eight after-work athletes and other “weekend warriors” set off from Saint John, New Brunswick, for a sweaty day of competitive adventure: 15 kilometres of trail running, 40K of mountain biking, and 12 kilometres of sea kayaking on the legendary Bay of Fundy. However, as a storm swept across the final paddling section, what began as a fun introduction to the sport of adventure racing soon turned into a tragedy that would haunt many of the participants for years to come.

Fatal Tide: When the Race of a Lifetime Goes Wrong is a work of investigative journalism that dramatizes, in the storytelling style of such non-fiction bestsellers as Into the Wild and The Perfect Storm, precisely what happened at the controversial Fundy Multi-Sport Race. Fatal Tide also explores the psychology of risk taking in the outdoors, the contemporary culture of reality TV and extreme sports, the science and treatment of hypothermia, as well as the legal and emotional fallout from the first death of an adventure racer in North America.

Admittedly, I don’t read a lot of adventure or travel writing, but David’s book is a compelling read that is hard to put down. It also went a long way toward explaining the appeal of adventure sports to someone like me, who would barely qualify as even an armchair adventurer. So, if you haven’t picked it up, you really should; you won’t regret it.

Written by bgillesp

October 2, 2008 at 10:57 am

Posted in Journalism, Writing