Monday, September 20, 2010

Sniffles, festivals and the great god Giller

So I made it back to Toronto last night from the Eden Mills Writers' Festival, and had a fantastic time despite being nearly debilitated by one of the worst chest cold of my life, a completely unrelated but no less horrendous case of dyspepsia, and a badly bruised wallet from spending so much money on books. Okay, that last bit's a touch hyperbolic - I bought exactly four books and received a fifth (advanced reading copy) for free. But the nightstand here at home now resembles a rather competitive game of 'Book Janga'; and my heartburn was so bad last night that I was actually hoping Jonathan Franzen's Freedom would tip over and kill me in my sleep.

The highlights of the festival included:
  • Seeing Leon Rooke read from his newly released novella Pope and Her Lady, which is written in this bizarre strand of Glaswegian street slang. Rooke apologized in advance for his attempts at the Scottish patois, but as far as I could tell he nailed it.
  • Popping by the Biblioasis table and talking to publisher Dan Wells about the various titles he's released this fall, including Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod (which has, it was announced this morning, made the long list for this year's Giller) and A.J. Somerset's Combat Camera, this year's winner of the Metcalf-Rooke Award.
  • Chatting up Kim Jernigan, editor at The New Quarterly, about the hidden messages embedded in the old vehicle featured on the cover of the new issue. (You'll have to visit your nearest news stand to see what I mean.)
  • Seeing the ever-talented Kerry Clare read from her short story “You Can’t Run a Show on Stage Management Alone” as part of the Fringe show.
  • Having a grasshopper land on my hand as RR and I lay in the long grass listening to Dionne Brand read from her poetry collection, Ossuaries, at The Mill. It was a rather fitting incident, actually: we marveled at the intricacies of the little critter's body as the intricacies of Brand's words filled the air around us. Also fitting: As soon as the poetry ended, the grasshopper jumped off my hand with surprising vigour and returned to the greenery from whence it came.
As mentioned above, the Giller long list was announced this morning. I was impressed to see good representation among the smaller and mid-sized presses; let's hope it follows through when the short list is released. You can check out the full long list here.

Okay, enough happy reminisces for now. Time to find my bottle of Pepto Bismol and go back to the couch.

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