Event 3 – 8:00 p.m. Saturday, October 20th, after disappointing meal at Il Fornillo and zero fantastic moments of unabashed eavesdropping on famous authors.
Anansi’s 40th Annniversary Party
The Premiere Dance Theatre (aka The Theatre in the Mall) was aglow with revelers celebrating the joy that is House of Anansi Press. It struck me how I consider the press to be so establishment and high-brow, but it was birthed to be subversive, idealistic, devoted to innovative independent literature that went against the grain. Who knew?
The line-up was star-studded and varied, a fantastic mix of old-guard and new talent. No one went on too long and the readings were broken up by the witty banter of host Albert Schultz, who excelled at transforming circle-A T-shirts to projectiles. First up was our-lady-of-Can lit. Margaret Atwood reads like she just answered the door and you are Jehovah’s Witnesses and perhaps if she speaks betraying zero intonation in one low similarly-pitched mumble, you just might leave her be. Still, I felt enthralled to be in her presence despite my status as a decided non-fan. Graeme Gibson read from his novel Five Legs, apparently for the second time since it was published in the 70s. What I wrote home about, though, was Roch Carrier reading from the Hockey Sweater, because like every Quebec kid, I was read the picture book as a child so freqeuently it was almost committed to memory. Kevin Connelly brought the house to intermission. His brand of funny surrealist poetry is usually a highlight and didn't disappoint. For once the poet wasn’t put on first to warm up the audience for the real serious business of fiction.
The absolute highlight, (besides indie-rock darling closer Jason Collette lighting everyone on fire...with excellent mid-set banter about grade-nine catholic-school girl finger-banging) was the combination of A.L. Kennedy’s deadpan detailing of a dud dinner party and Elyse Friedman’s hilarious short story about a desperate blind date between two characters who say exactly what they mean. Genius. I know the evening is a success when someone reads something so funny I nearly barf into my hands. It was definitely a palms-poised reading.
Reading – Emma Donaghue, Nancy Huston, Nikita Lalwani, Gail Tsukiyama, Emily Schultz, hosted by Nathan Whitlock.
I’ll make this one short form –
It's 4 at the mall theatre and Emily Schultz opens the event with poems from Songs for the Dancing Chicken. I won’t comment on her because she is my friend, and I don’t want to sound like an over-proud step-sister or something. But she rocked. Nikita Lalwani wins best sassy outfits at the festival and best soothing reading voice. I’m looking forward to reading Gifted and everything else she writes. Emma Donaghue is a fantastic reader, and I must say I shed a little overly-emo tear for a femme writer reading about contemporary gaylord themes in such a general, non-ghettoized literary space. Go team!
Event One - 1:00 p.m.
The first IFOA event I attended was Marina Lewycka and Vendela Vida interviewed by G & M's Sandra Martin. My primary motivation was to glimpse Vida who intrigues me frankly because Why Didn’t I Think of Starting The Believer Magazine? And Wow, McSweeney’s! It’s an unabashed celebri-lit moment. Not only does she have the glow of geographical priviledge on her side, the Columbia MFA, the traveled-the-world thing, she’s a stunning lady. When she was signing my book I wanted to demand she list one flaw on the inside front cover. Instead I just spelled my name like a slow grade-schooler and went back to get another free cup of corporate dark roast.
The Q & A session itself was really warm and inviting, both authors were gracious and humble, but totally unflustered and articulate. I was too shy to approach Lewycka because my review in this week’s Now magazine was somewhat critical, although I very much enjoyed her second book on the whole. Her stories of trying to make it as an author were sincere and resonant. “I was a runaway failure!” she laughed, talked of two complete books and piles of rejection letters and the jobs she had to get in order to survive, how they got in the way of writing. “It wouldn’t let go of me. It wasn’t rational.” There was pure enthusiasm in the way she talked about her books and the writing process. Sandra was able to sustain a lively conversation that touched on travel, violence against women and the writing life and I left feeling motivated and inspired. Good times.