Knowing your history

In which Kyle Shaw unsuccessfully tries to catch up on 150 years of reading.

I’m a sucker for magazine special issues, so the January/February edition of The Atlantic had my attention from the first line of the editorial.

“With this issue The Atlantic Monthly begins a year-long celebration of our upcoming 150th anniversary,” the editors write. “Fifteen decades is a long time; only a handful of publications anywhere have exceeded that benchmark.” (Strange given Gutenberg invented the press in the early 1400s, but maybe magazine publishing has always been a volatile business.) The issue does its part to get ready for the birthday by reprinting selections from articles about American presidents that the magazine has run over the years, including a piece from 1860 in support of a candidate named Abraham Lincoln.

I was all set to dig in to these ancient texts, when I noticed an item in the table of contents called “Nova Scotia, Mon Amour.” An informative history lesson about some of the world’s most interesting people, or a potentially trite travel piece on a subject I know far too much about already? You can guess how this one ends. Here’s writer Alex Beam on our fair SuperCity and nearby attractions, and you can see that despite being a little too taken with quirkiness and natural beauty, his head is in the right place:

“My wife would have you visit Halifax; I am not so sure. I do love the grass-covered old fortress, the Citadel, but I love the grassy old battleworks in Annapolis Royal, 120 miles to the west, much more. (And be sure to check out the eye-popping Annapolis Royal Historical Gardens.) Halifax bills itself as “a hot spot” — “Exciting. Eclectic. Romantic” — and perhaps it is all of those things. … I do admit to having wonderful memories of Halifax. One night, while my mother and I were attending the Atlantic Film Festival — think Cannes, but smaller and colder — a driver parked directly athwart our parking space, so we couldn’t get out. A hearty band of inebriates streamed out of the local pub, lifted the offending automobile, and dumped it in the middle of the street. … Tourism officials would insist that you visit the painfully quaint town of Lunenburg, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It leaves me cold.”

I insist you share the finest of reading materials from any century with: Anablog c/o The Coast, 5435 Portland Place, Halifax, B3K 6R7.

About The Author

Kyle Shaw

Kyle is the editor of The Coast. He was a founding member of the newspaper in 1993 and was the paper’s first publisher. Kyle occasionally teaches creative nonfiction writing (think magazine-style #longreads) and copy editing at the University of King’s College School of Journalism.

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