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2013 Charles Taylor Prize Longlist

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The shortlist will be announced on January 9, and the winner will be announced on March 4, 2013 at events in downtown Toronto. http://www.thecharlestaylorprize.ca/latest-news.asp
The Pursuit of Perfection

The Pursuit of Perfection

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook Hardcover

Born into a working-class family in 1921, Celia Franca, though a capable dancer, was an unlikely candidate for ballet greatness. But Celia possessed a drive that was almost unrivalled, and went on to become one of the most important figures inCanadian ballet in the twentieth century.

 

Franca grew up in London, England, and started dancing when she was four, ultimately becoming a star performer with the Sadler’s Wells Ballet.

When a group from Toronto was hopeful of establishing a major ballet, t …

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Warlords

Warlords

Borden Mackenzie King And Canada's World Wars
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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Two portraits flank the doors leading into Canada’s House of Commons: Sir Robert Borden to the left and W.L.M. King to the right. While each man appears flatteringly stern, wise, and charismatic, it is the portrait plaques that are of particular interest. Borden's caption reads: “World War I War Leader, 1914–1918,” while King’s caption is similar: “World War II War Leader, 1939–1945.” No other dates are given.

Perhaps that definition makes sense for Borden, who did little of note …

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Journey with No Maps

Journey with No Maps

A Life of P.K. Page
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback eBook

Journey with No Maps is the first biography of P.K. Page, a brilliant twentieth-century poet and a fine artist. The Product of over a decade's research and writing, the book follows Page as she becomes one of Canada's best-loved and most influential writers. "A borderline being," as she called herself, she recognized the new choices offered to women by modern life but followed only those related to her quest for self-discovery. Tracing Page's life through two wars, world travels, the rise of mod …

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Solar Dance

Solar Dance

Genius, Forgery and the Crisis of Truth in the Modern Age
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

In Solar Dance, acclaimed writer and scholar Modris Eksteins uses Vincent van Gogh as his lens for this brilliant survey of Western culture and politics in the last century.
 
The long-awaited follow-up to Modris Eksteins' internationally acclaimed Rites of Spring and Walking Since Daybreak. Now he has produced another thrilling, iconoclastic work of cultural history that is a trailblazing biography of an era--from the eve of the First World War and the rise of Hitler to the fall of the Berlin W …

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Excerpt

The face is soft and pleasant, the forehead high, the brow clean. This man in his early thirties has wavy auburn hair and a mouth, small and gentle, poised on the verge of a smile that nonetheless never comes. The eyes, too, have a tentative look— perhaps ready to dart fawnlike side to side. The hands, however, are prominent and purposeful. Hands of a pianist? A painter? Perhaps a dancer, designed to lift, suspend, and suggest? This is Otto Wacker. He is on trial in the old Moabit courthouse in central Berlin. He stands accused of knowingly selling forged art. It is April 1932.
 
Wacker has made a name for himself. Within a few short years he has risen from provincial obscurity to national prominence. First dancer, then art dealer, gallery owner, and publisher, he has turned heads. In March 1928 the Gallery Schulte on Unter den Linden, Berlin’s famous promenade, home to libraries, embassies, a university, and the Imperial Palace, holds an exhibition of celebrity portraits from the world of film and theatre. One of those select images is of Otto Wacker.1 There he is in full glory on a wall of achievement. He represents youth, vitality, success. With his good looks and energy he embodies the aspirations of that postwar generation, enveloped as it is by the odour of death—some nine million had died in the Great War and at least twice as many in the influenza epidemic that followed— and yet exuberant about life.
 
Suddenly, in that same year, 1928, Wacker’s world implodes. He is accused of fraud, of selling forged pictures purportedly by Vincent van Gogh, an artist who lived in provincial obscurity akin to Otto Wacker’s experience as a youth but who now, nearly thirty years after his death, has shot like a comet to stardom. The trajectories of artist and dealer have striking similarities. Four years later, in 1932, Wacker’s case finally reaches the courts. He pleads innocence.
 
In the courtroom the young man is beset by a different generation, stooped and grey, bespectacled and earnest. All its members are primly attired, in legal garb or dark suits. The tone, among judges, lawyers, and witnesses, is sombre. Credibility is on the line—the integrity of experts, dealers, the art market, and even the legal system of the postwar German Republic. But beyond that, an entire world is called into question, a world of fixity, defined values, and acknowledged standards. Mired in an ever-deepening depression, the German economy is in shambles. In politics the rise of Adolf Hitler is the talk of the day. In the Moabit courtroom, legitimacy and authority are on trial, along with Otto Wacker.
 
That Vincent van Gogh is central to this drama is no coincidence. His life story and his art are key evidence of the mounting existential crisis that marks modernism—that spiritual journey of the Western world from a vision of moderation and progressivism to a culture of ever greater extravagance. By the early 1920s his fame is on the rise. His work, with its colour, energy, and implicit tragedy, obviously speaks to people, not just critics and collectors but the broader public. Many feel a deep kinship with this man who, in any conventional terms, was a complete failure in his life and in his art: he sold but one painting; he hurt people deeply; he spent time in an asylum; and he committed suicide. Yet, within a few decades of his death in 1890, his story is well known and the demand for his work far exceeds the supply. At the same time, as the acceptance in some quarters verges on worship, elsewhere the denunciations multiply. For his detractors, Van Gogh represents disintegration and collapse, the very death of art, of beauty and truth. Vincent van Gogh has become a symbol of the modern condition that some see as an eruption of life, a birthing, and others regard as a hysterical move from stability to excess.
 
The trial of Otto Wacker lasts for the better part of two weeks. Emotions run high: reputations are at stake, worlds in conflict. The defendant could have been the subject of a Van Gogh portrait— his eyes give him the look of a naïf, a victim. He would fit alongside Armand Roulin (F 492), The One-Eyed Man (F 532), Young Man with a Cap (F 536), or even the iconic Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (F 527). Wacker’s life itself is plausibly a modern work of art: truth and falsehood, beauty and ugliness, all in one, with categories blurring and collapsing.
 
If modernism and postmodernism, the two dominant cultural “isms” of the past century, have had a unifying motif, it is the quest for authenticity and the concomitant breakdown of previous distinctions. The tale of Otto Wacker and Vincent van Gogh takes us to the very heart of that quest that confronts us all. What is real? What is true?

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A Season In Hell

A Season In Hell

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

For decades, Robert R. Fowler was a dominant force in Canadian foreign affairs. In one heart-stopping minute, all of that changed. On December 14, 2008, Fowler, acting as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Niger, was kidnapped by Al Qaeda, becoming the highest ranked UN official ever held captive. Along with his colleague Louis Guay, Fowler lived, slept and ate with his captors for nearly five months, gaining rare first-hand insight into the motivations of the world’s most feared te …

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Plutocrats

Plutocrats

The Rise of the New Global Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback
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In the last few decades what it means to be rich has changed dramatically. Forget the 1%; it's the wealthiest .01% who are fast outpacing the rest of us. Today's colossal fortunes are amassed by the diligent toiling of smart, perceptive businessmen who see themselves as deserving victors in a cutthroat international competition.
 
Cracking open this tight-knit world is Chrystia Freeland, an acclaimed business journalist. At ease in Davos or Dubai, Freeland has reported on the lives and minds o …

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March Forth

March Forth

The Inspiring True Story Of A Canadian Soldier's Journey Of Love, Hope And Survival
edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback

At the age of forty-one, Trevor Greene, a journalist and a reservist in the Canadian Army, deployed to Kandahar with the 1st Battalion PPCLI Battle Group. On March 4th, 2006, while meeting with village elders in a remote village in Kandahar Province, Greene removed his helmet out of respect, confident that a centuries-old pact would protect him from harm. Without warning, a teenage boy under the influence of the Taliban came up behind Greene and swung a rusty axe deep into his skull, nearly spl …

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Leonardo and the Last Supper

Leonardo and the Last Supper

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback Hardcover Paperback
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Early in 1495, Leonardo da Vinci began work in Milan on what would become one of history's most influential and beloved works of art-The Last Supper. After a dozen years at the court of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo was at a low point personally and professionally: at forty-three, in an era when he had almost reached the average life expectancy, he had failed, despite a number of prestigious commissions, to complete anything that truly fulfilled his astonishing promise. His lates …

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