The Sunday Magazine

The Sunday Edition for April 5, 2020

Listen to this week's episode with host Michael Enright.

Listen to this week's episode with host Michael Enright:

A COVID-19 confinement chronicle: week three — Michael's essay: "Garbage workers are crucial to the workings of a city, like bus drivers, firefighters, cops and grocery store workers. It is a mean, tough job. Garbage workers don't have the luxury of working from home. They do the job in all kinds of weather — winter storms or August heatwaves. They are taken for granted, like daycare workers, cabbies and school crossing guards. If the COVID-19 virus teaches us anything, it's to pay attention to people who rarely intrude on our thoughts."

How pandemics have remade politics, societies and culture: According to Yale University historian Frank Snowden, "infectious diseases are as important to understanding societal development as economic crises, wars, revolutions, and demographic change." His latest book, Epidemics and Society: From the Black Death to the Present, has been called the best book for context on the COVID-19 pandemic, and Professor Snowden speaks with Michael Enright about how pandemics have shaped history and how COVID-19 might change our present and future.

Echoes of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic in 2020: The speed at which COVID-19 has upended life in every corner of the globe makes it unique among disease outbreaks of the last half-century. But not in human history. Heather MacDougall is a historian of medicine, public health and health policy at the University of Waterloo, whose research looks at the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. She talks about the impact of the Spanish flu on Canadian society and public health and draws some parallels between that experience and the COVID-19 pandemic today.

Janitorial and cleaning staff — unsung essential workers in a pandemic: Along with healthcare workers, cleaners are on the frontlines of our current public health emergency — scrubbing down and sanitizing any surfaces where the virus might live. Their work is vital for the public's protection, and it's full of risk these days. And yet, janitorial workers have for years been among the lowest-paid in Canada. Deena Ladd is the executive director of the Workers' Action Centre, an organization in Toronto that works with people in low-wage and unstable employment. 

The unlikely literary success story of Biblioasis — and the fallout of COVID-19: Fifteen years ago, Windsor, Ontario's Dan Wells took a flyer and started a bookstore and publishing house called Biblioasis. It became one of North America's most successful small presses in terms of sales, awards and critical success. Michael did an upbeat interview with Wells in early March. But it was quite a different story this week when he had a followup conversation with Wells, whose business has been completely sideswiped by the pandemic.

The Two-Metres Apart Film Festival: If you've been filling your spare hours by watching movies or TV series, you may have found the experience both distracting and disconcerting. It's hard not to notice all the little behaviours that are now verboten — handshakes, hugs, even sitting together in a restaurant. We have good news. There's now a way to watch your favourite movies that won't give you that queasy feeling of nostalgia or fill you with the urge to yell, "Practise social distancing!" at the television.

Reprise: A book club for two — over the phone: The 37-year friendship of Sara Haddow and Amy Cserni has been defined by reading entire books aloud to each other — War and Peace, Middlemarch, Ulysses and countless others. When one moved to another city, they began to read to each other over the phone — the perfect kind of book club for our current age of physical distancing. Alisa Siegel's documentary, "Telephone Books," first aired in January, 2017. We revisit it this week with a postscript.

Reprise: Robert Harris's 20 Pieces of Music — "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?": A little more than a decade ago, The Sunday Edition launched one of the most popular series we have ever run — 20 Pieces of Music That Changed the World with Robert Harris. In March, 2009, as the world was in the depths of a severe recession in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Robert devoted an episode to the Depression-era classic, "Brother Can You Spare a Dime?" — an episode that seems as timely as ever with the world entering perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Depression.

Music this week by: John Coltrane, Mari Samuelson, Felix Mendelssohn, Manu Dibango, John Prine and Alison Young.

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