On the illustrated cover of Welshman Joe Dunthorne's hilarious debut novel, Submarine, there is a rendering of a naked woman from the waist up (find it here, down in the bottom-right corner). Or should I say, on the UK/Canada cover there is a rendering of a naked woman from the waist up. Incredibly, or perhaps predictably, the American cover for Dunthorne's book is identical except for one small detail. Find it here, and see if you can spot the difference.
This is the story Joe Dunthorne opened with last night, as he took the stage with an accomplished, world-renowned list of authors in the Fleck. Before him came Hermenegilde Chiasson (the Acadian Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick and GG-shortlisted poet) and Nadeem Aslam (IMPAC-Dublin shortlisted novelist). After him came the ever-casual, hand-in-pocket, glasses-on-string, sermonesque David Adams Richards (Giller winner, two-time GG winner). And I gotta say, Dunthorne stole the show. His protagonist, Oliver Tate, is hysterically funny as he seeks to unravel the secrets of his parents' hidden lives. He is also poignantly, sadly real. When Oliver purposely vomits on the hood of his pansexual neighbour's yellow Lotus, the audience - already overcome by the sheer power of Chiasson and the whisper-howl of Aslam's haunting voice - let it all out. We laughed, and boy it felt good.
I must admit, as a fellow debut author at the festival, I was terribly impressed by Dunthorne's self-possession on stage. I couldn't help thinking about my own upcoming event, and whether or not I would be able to banish my nerves in quite the fashion Joe did.
Anyway, enough about me. Later on over drinks in the Hospitality Suite, Nadeem Aslam seemed to loosen up a bit and told me a hilarious story of his own (the man is much funnier in person than his intense fiction might suggest). When he first visited Toronto from the UK, Nadeem - a massive Ondaatje fan - breathlessly asked a cab driver to take him straight to the Bloor Street Viaduct.
You can imagine the cabbie's response.
Quote of Day One (from Wednesday): cell conversation, overheard in Il Fornello bathroom:
"Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Can you hear me? Your team's name is Journeyman's Elf!"
(thank you Dinah)
Quote of Day Two: over dinner at the Pearl:
"And therefore, I am one of the few people who can say he's been in bed with two Booker Prize winners. And both at the same time!"
- Dermot Bolger, author of The Journey Home. (There is a completely legitimate explanation for this quote. Ask Dermot about it if you run into him. Or try to figure it out for yourself here.)
Here's just a sample of the media frenzy going on around IFOA right now:
Canada.com, Toronto Star, The Ampersand
TONIGHT: Three events to choose from. Rohinton and Sheers, anybody? Barfoot and Prose, people? A fascinating round-table? See you there...