Susan G. Cole
The author of this blog partying at the IFOA gala. For more images of authors and partiers, see the bottom of this article.
What makes an authors festival party rock? Writers, of course. And they were out in full force at last night's International Festival of Authors gala.
It felt like they - as distinct from the publicists and the suits, which is often the case - set the tone, engaging in conversations of real substance. The vibe was friendly and high. Give credit to festival coordinators who programmed young, hot scribes who energized the festival and the party.
Ran into Patrick Crean, head honcho at Thomas Allen Books, who was chatting with festival director Geoffrey Taylor. Creanwas assessing the festival's round table round table on the future of reading and just as he was commenting on how the program really should have been called The Future Of Think, I was pulled away by Covenrty author and one of my personal favourites Helen Humphreys.
Diving deeper into the crowd caught up with Miriam Toews, author of The Flying Troutmans, that's sitting on the Writers Trust short list and Canada's bestsellers list. I asked her about her appearance in Carlos Reygada's strangely moving film Still Life, about Mennonites living in Mexico. How did Reygadas find her? "He read my book and saw my picture," she said. "And he only uses non-professionals."
Before I knew it I was caught between two guys who looked nothing like the other sweet scruffy authors at the party. Turns out, they were Coilin McAllister and Justin Ryan, aka Colin & Justin of the TV show Colin and Justin's Home Heist. True, they assured me, they do have a book out called Home Heist, but trust me, they added the glam factor to the event.
Couldn't help but buttonhole John Ralston Saul, whose book Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada, describes us as a nation defined by Metis principles. Had to ask him about Dick Pound's infamous "sauvages" gaffe and Margaret Wente's off the charts column in last Saturday's Globe and Maill, suggesting that Pound was right, first nations were nowhere near as developed as western cultures in the 17th century.
Once I opened the cork, Ralston Saul spewed on for at least 10 minutes on how hopelessly behind Pound, Wente and Robert Fulford - who trashed his book - are. "Pound just should have said, 'Look I'm an old white guy who doesn't know any better,' Ralston Saul insisted. It was a great encounter but it meant that I couldn't grab hold of Rivka Galchen, whom I caught sight of as Ralston Saul was talking but who, by the time I broke away, had left to prep for her reading as part of the Governor Generals Award slate that followed the bash.
Wayson Choy, winner of the Harbourfront Festival Prize, was basking in the glow. Christopher Dewdney was looking forward to his reading this weekend. Michael Helms, Catherine Bush and Trevor Cole jumped into a conversation about writers' imagination, spinning off a story I was telling about the round table I hosted last Saturday. An audience member had asked Resistance writer Owen Sheers how he could dare to speculate on what would happen if Hitler won. The writers on the panel jumped down the guy's throat, defending an author's right and responsibility to speculate. and Cole, Bush and Helms got right into it, too.
On the way out, I said hi to Joe Dunthorne, author of Submarine and one of my round tablists, who's been having a terrific time on Toronto. He and his partner actually cycled through Cabbagetown during his down time so he could get a feel for our city.