Penguin Canada trotted out their heavy-hitting authors fest writers at a crammed party at Czehoski last night.
The bar/resto has a problematic set-up, so the stairs to the second floor main space empty out into the crush right in front of the bar. Managed to get through by following one of the servers - amazing how things open up when the food comes through.
Had a terrific conversation with multiple award winner Justin Cartwright (The Song Before It Is Sung,), a Raincoast writer, by the way, and friend of JK Rowling, that writer whose appearance in town the day before was the buzz event of the fest. He suggested to me that Rowling had a hard time with crowds, especially crowds of kids, and that he admired her fortitude in facing her fans head-on. The inference? Not surprising that she's put an end to the series.
Note to Cartwright conversationalists. Don't let him offer to get you a drink. I was on my way when he did the gentlemanly, "Oh, no. I'll get you one." But he never made it to the bar, waylaid by fans who easily succumbed to his charms. Who could blame them?
Actor turned novelist David Thewlis, here with his debut fiction,The Late Hector Kipling, stayed on the back patio so he could smoke, where he was mostly left alone - typical of the Canadian response to celebrity. I asked him the difference between film parties and literary parties, and he was quick to offer, "At film parties, you can recognize just about every face there. Here, there could be the world's greatest genius behind you and you'd never know it."
He was nursing a water just before his Harbourfront reading - "I never drink before I go on stage," he told me - except in the film Total Eclipse, where he played famously alcoholic Paul Verlaine opposite Leonardo DiCaprio'a Arthur Rimbeau. Director Agnieszka Holland insisted he drink real ouzo during one scene - no other liquid could replicate the cloudiness ouzo takes on when you put an ice cube in it - and by the fourth take, each involving three shots, he was hammered.
When I asked why he had to be drinking ouzo, he laughed, "She wanted real drunkenness. Being drunk is hard to act. People think it's all about weaving but it's not physical. It's in the eyes, that glazed look. Amazing thing is," he said, "the next day I said I wanted to see the dailies because I couldn't remember anything and they were actually good. Look at the film again and you'll see the effect."
He warned me that he could tell stories non-stop and that I should shut him up I got bored. No chance.
Michael Winter (The Big Why), carrying his baby in a snuggly, made like the perfect dad. Devyani Saltzman (Shooting Water), unlocked the chains to her desk where she's writing her first novel to attend the event. Festival director Geoffrey Taylor, looking more relaxed with every event, has obviously warmed to his role.
Photos from the party
Here I am with Justin Cartwright
CBC's Q host Jian Ghomeshi looks for David Thewlis, who'd done his show that afternoon
David Thewlis, without the glazed look
Michael Winter - I think that's a baby blanket behind his left shoulder