amongst books

amongst books

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

a feast of Ivan

Ivan E. Coyote read many stories for us tonight at a fundraiser for Capital Pride. I’ve been a big fan of Ivan’s since I first heard her read at Carleton a few years back and even before that when I picked up Closer to Spiderman from Venus Envy. Ivan is a storyteller who manages to look you right in the eye when he’s spinning her yarns, making you feel like he is telling the story directly to you. Ivan performed some of my favourites, including (and I’m sorry I don’t have all the titles)

the one about imaging if a certain type of boots were mandatory and your feet didn’t fit into them and now apply that to gender. Ivan doesn’t worry about which gender you assign her; that’s up to you.

Another story about a young girl who travelled far to hear Ivan perform was quite touching. The girl recognized herself in Ivan as i'm sure many people do.

Many of Ivan’s stories take place on a plane. He collects people instead of taking a photo or painting them. She memorizes their traits, their stories and their personalities and saves them for later, like the one about the grandmother whose husband died and who was en route to a cruise or the one about the fundamentalist christian who mistook Ivan for a clean cut young man as many people do and urged Ivan to marry his lady, with whom he was living in sin. Ivan winked at us and said that the guy didn’t even know just how much sin she was living in.

Another story was about going to Amsterdam to a sex shop with her girlfriend and being held responsible for knocking over and breaking some giant granite cocks, arguing with the sales clerk and then running off with his girlfirend, Bonnie and Clyde on the lam in Amsterdam. There’s a kind of bubbly boisterous jubilance about Ivan and her stories. That even in the face of some pretty heavy narrow-mindeness on the part of people he encounters, Ivan can not only handle it but can celebrate and enjoy people from all walks of life, perhaps demonstrating tolerance that she should receive by way of example.

The audience was clearly made up of Ivan’s great admirers. I’m hoping there were people who had never heard Ivan before and who were amazed and happy at the discovery of this talented writer and performer.

Ivan’s been Carleton’s writer-in-residence for 6 months, having to put up with her first Ottawa winter, a doozy, deciding that since the winter was so bad, he may as well quit smoking.

Another story about encountering an elderly homeless heroin addict in Vancouver’s east side was very compelling. Ivan’s ability to recreate the voices of these interesting characters is excellent. She reminded us that while this part of Vancouver has been exploited in stories in the media, it is also a community with real people.

Every one of the people she talks about remind us of his interest and care about people, such as the story about the travelling snowglobe salesman who writes a novel in his spare evenings and has a wife who hasn’t touched him in years. And then there are the stories about the insensitivy of people who ask Ivan if he’s a boy or a girl, how she handles it with both grace and bravery.

I’m very pleased Ivan’s novel, Bow Grip, won a ReLit award last year. He’s a talented writer. Her next collection of stories, a continuation of Loose End will be published in the fall. As a devourer of his work, I’m happy to hear she’s got something new coming out.

Go to Ivan’s site to find her CDs, or stop in at Venus Envy or Mother Tongue Books to pick up his excellent novel and her short story collections.

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