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Too many magazine articles are, frankly, formulaic and predictable. Read enough profiles and essays and service pieces in enough different publications and you come to believe you’ve read every variation of every type of story under the sun.
Then there are the rare exceptions: pieces so unexpected and arresting, even shocking, you never forget them. I vividly recall, reading an issue of the Walrus a few years ago, the devastating impact of Bill Cameron’s “Chasing the Crab,” in which the late broadcaster chronicled his demise from esophageal cancer. David Foster Wallace’s descriptive and analytical powers in his profile of a tennis great in the New York Times (“Roger Federer As Religious Experience”) left me in awe. And I remember reading Jon Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air,” in Outside (before the article became a book and a film) and feeling that something inside me had permanently shifted.
I think “Blood Brothers” may prove to be as affecting and enduring. It’s an account that spans decades and continents and would be dismissed as hopelessly implausible if it were fiction. I won’t spoil its surprises beyond saying that there are two men in Vancouver, one Iranian and one Iraqi, whose intertwined lives are the stuff of bestselling books and Steven Spielberg movies. The privations they suffered and the price they paid to get here may startle you and make you grateful for the simple gift of a relatively uneventful life.
“Blood Brothers” is written by Timothy Taylor, who made his name in literary circles a decade ago with his first novel, Stanley Park. His latest, The Blue Light Project, out this month, is an ambitious fiction built around a hostage-taking incident. Taylor’s equally adept at journalism; his articles have won many awards. Of “Blood Brothers,” he says: “I was amazed and moved by the men’s stories. I think May 24 will be a day I’ll mentally mark now, too-the day a martyr did not die and a liberator was not freed. This is an assignment that will stay with me.”
It’s an assignment that resulted in a magazine piece, I promise you, the likes of which you’ve not read before.
Roberta Staley overcame her queasiness at the sight of blood while watching graphic videos of sexual-reassignment surgeries performed by plastic surgeon (and former rock musician) Dr. Cameron Bowman. Staley details Bowman’s medical crusade, and the politics surrounding his work, can be read here.
Carlos Engel did the calligraphic lettering for “Blood Brothers.” Born in Bogotá, he resides in Barcelona. He’s a graduate of the ProDiseño Design School in Caracas, Venezuela, and he counts among his influences Ricardo Quesada, Jordan Jelev, and Christophe Szpajdel.
Alexandra Gill is one of the most informed and incisive observers of the city’s dining culture, which she covers for the Globe and Mail. For Vancouver, she explores the growing influence of Asian flavours and cooking methods on our restaurants—an influence she says we should more consciously be celebrating.