Winning reads

Checking out readings from Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize Finalists

Last night I attended a reading by the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize finalists, a diverse mix of writers. Some I’m just discovering, like the very witty Rivka Galchen, the prize-collecting Rawi Hage and cutie pie Lee Henderson.


Some are on my greatest hits list, longtime favourites, Patrick Lane and the Miriam Toews.

The Writers’ Trust of Canada executive director Don Oravec was in attendance, and while chatting about which books were next on our respective to-read lists, he mentioned how pleased he was for the Trust to have an event at the IFOA this year. I have to say, it’s a good partnership – the readings were exceptional, each one prize-worthy.

The night started out with Galchen wishing she could juggle some fire or bowling balls, slipping seamlessly from clever banter into the voice of a 50-something man who believes his wife is an imposter, suffering as he does, from a rare neurological disorder. The hardcover book, the first by the former medical doctor, is so pretty it could pass for McSweeney’s.

Second on the bill was Rawi Hage, reading from Cockroach. Also on my to-read list, it was immediately evident why he keeps sweeping up all the crowns and sashes. The book is about a self-described ‘thief’ who immigrated to Montreal and is rescued after trying to hang himself in a public park. Hage read in a sly monotone, suiting the tone of the excerpt.

Lee Henderson, who looks like a cross between Jon K. Samson from the Weakerthans and Val Kilmer circa the Real Genius era, read from his book The Man Game, which is, I’m told by the National Post, even though the book is set in 1886 Vancouver, “a mix of hardcore wrestling, dance, and gravity-defying special moves drawn from button-mashing video games like Mortal Kombat.” You can view some how-to videos. On the to-read list, immediately. Especially since some blog spying reveals he loves Jonathan Safran Foer almost as much as I do.

Patrick Lane read from Red Dog, Red Dog, a book I was very happy to review for this week’s print issue of Now. Lane is so gifted at describing images of nature and then juxtaposing them against the brutality of human beings, through the story of one particularly broken, grief-stricken family.

And Miriam Toews was, as always, hilarious. I can’t really respond to hearing Toews read without speaking entirely in moron. All that adoration, idiot thoughts like “how did she think of that?” jumble into one indecipherable gushing spew of unintelligible babble and I have to just avoid the book table altogether.

I suspect once I crack the spine of The Flying Troutmans, it will top my list of novels this year, along with Red Dog, Red Dog, Through Black Spruce and of course Stunt, by Claudia Dey, that I’m buying everyone for Christmas.

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