amongst books

amongst books

Monday, October 09, 2006

Festival end

By about 5 pm on Saturday, I started to feel chilled and achey with a sore throat. (I don't blame you, Marcus) Uh oh...it was time to head home. So I missed the evening readings unfortunately, incluing one by Simon Ings who like me had synaesthesia . I probably would have missed this event anyway, since his book is titled The Weight of Numbers. This would have been a mistake, since the novel sounds darned interesting.

Highlights of the day for me were Baba Brinkman's Rap Canterbury Tales. He is an excellent performer and made Chaucer's tales come alive for me. As he did for the rest of the audience, who were wrapt.

After that, I particularly enjoyed Alan Cumyn's reading of Stones from the Ottawa Magazine's Summer Fiction Issue. In a quiet and calm voice, perhaps too quiet and calm for some on a Saturday afternoon, he narrated the love story of a husband who has cancer and the wife who would survive him. His use of first person narrative made the twist ending quite surprsing. I always enjoy an unreliable narrator ;) I loved how Cumyn weaved in the recurring metaphor of the stones where they made love early in their relationship, his delicate humour when it came to describing the cancer as Charlie. I liked the way Cumyn turned this into a piece of metafiction by referring to things like "the power of fiction" directly in his story. His was the most interesting story because it wasn't just a traditional narrative about themes we've heard a thousand times before; he pushed the boundaries of hohum fiction. In the magazine, I also enjoyed Melanie Little's story very much, but she wasn't there (not in Ottawa anymore alas).

It was great to receive complimentary copies of Ottawa Magazine's summer and fall issue; although I have to say that I find the magazine to be a tad thin. In the fall issue there are pages and pages on home renovation, for instance. On the other hand, Anita Lahey's article on local artist Jennifer Dickson was great. Lahey is a skilled researcher and journalist. Here's a quote about what Dickson learned from her etching instructor, Stanley William Hayter at Paris' innovative print-making studio Atelier 17:

"He taught us that art was a series of decisions....You need at crucial points to make decisions and suffer the consequences."

The festival was a marvel of literary splendour yet again. Ten years and still a vigorous and revitalizing experience that improves with age (like me;).

I am so amazed at the Wilsons' ability to keep the festival innovative and entertaining, all the while dealing with writers, who can't be easy to deal with. As one of the festival hosts, I was treated like a queen. I don't really know how to thank the Wilsons and the wonderful volunteers properly for their kindness, hard work and vision. If you have money, send it their way...become a festival member.

The Ottawa International Writers Festival, along with the small press fair are key reasons for any writer to plunk herself in Ottawa and stay for a good, long while.

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