Wednesday, November 5, 2008

IFOA 29: The Photo Diary (i.e., the evidence)

As promised, a photographic trip down memory boulevard, a visual diary of IFOA 29 in no particular order.

The festival begins with Don McKellar in "spirited conversation" with Roddy Doyle.

Chip Kidd interviewed by Christopher Butcher at the intimate Studio Theatre.

David Benioff (author/screenwriter/heartthrob) reads from his newest, City of Thieves.

Lee Henderson (the real Lee, that is), prepares to sign copies of The Man Game outside the Brigantine Room.

The funniest panel I saw this year. Hugo Hamilton, Dermot Bolger, Emma Donoghue and David Park discuss contemporary Irish literature, moderated by Bert Archer.

Junot Diaz, somehow managing to looks sneaky, seductive and brilliant all at the same time.

The menu for just one of the remarkable authors' dinners during the festival. This one was at Le Select Bistro. I had the cock's crowns and the lamb's neck. Believe it or not, I used to be a vegetarian.

Austin Clarke interviewed by CBC's The Scene at the IFOA/Hello! Magazine Welcome party.

Colm Toibin and Eugene McCabe trying to decide who's round it is at the IFOA/Hello! party. Fellas! The drinks were free!

2008 Harboufront Festival Prize winner Wayson Choy enjoying himself at the IFOA/Hello! party.

And finally, Moyez Gulamhussein (M.G.) Vassanji steals a moment of serenity before I annihilate him on the squash court... I mean, before he steps on stage.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

DAY ELEVEN: One last perfect heated evening

Geoffrey Taylor said it well last night, during his introductory speech to the Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist readings, the final event of this year's IFOA: "This has been, by all accounts, our most successful festival year."

The Fleck Dance Theatre was packed. I'd arrived just moments before Maeve Binchy welcomed us to the festival for the very last time. I'd only been able to find a seat at the back of the balcony, where the combined heat of hundreds had accumulated, where a few of the men had stripped down to their t-shirts. It felt appropriate, this heat, as if all the hard-won and beautiful words, sentences and stories that have been spoken onstage over the last eleven days had somehow arrived here, too, hanging on for one last hurrah.

We sat rapt as five Canadians, all of them either debut or sophomore authors, cast spells on us with pitch-perfect scenes of hilarity, brutality, heredity and love, their shoulders, for the most part, slouched over the podium as if guarding their books from over-exposure. I do not need to name them, as most readers of this little rag already know who they are - some of you were likely there last night, and perhaps remember the heat. What I will do is name their books, because as much as this last eleven days has been a celebration of authors, it has also been a celebration of what authors create, what they give to the world, what they share with us every time we turn a page.

Through Black Spruce
Barnacle Love
Good To A Fault
The Boys in the Trees

I know literary prizes aren't the endgame of this big, fantastical publishing world. I know there are hundreds of books published every year, and that many of them deserve so much more attention than they get. But last night no one was thinking these things. No one was thinking anything, in fact.

We were listening; we were reading.

I'm off to bed, to curl up with a good book. But stay tuned, because in the next few days I'll post a recap of IFOA 29, with all my favourite photos, quotes, and stories. And maybe, just maybe, I'll convince Colm Toibin to write me a few lines about his experiences guest-curating the most successful IFOA ever.

To everyone who has done so, thank you for reading. Ciao for now.


Almost forgot.
On a more serious note, the Quote of Day Eleven:
"Show me a computer and my back-hair begins to rise."
- Farley Mowat

Introducing the "Guess the Giller" Winners...

When Laura Trunkey, herself a debut children's author, found out she had won last year's Guess The Giller Contest, she tried to keep things quiet. She'd found out by cellphone while riding a city bus to work in Victoria, and she didn't want to cause a scene.

But earlier that morning her partner, photographer and teacher Mike McLean, had received the initial congratulatory phonecall from Toronto, and he had been decidedly more excited.

"It was very early. I was still a bit groggy. I thought they'd said Laura had won the Giller Prize!"

Once the confusion was cleared up, Laura and Mike were left with a decision: which literary festival should they attend? They could chose any festival in Canada. They could even choose their hotel. For the two of them, the decision was simple. They chose IFOA, and the Gladstone, and I met up with them last night to see how their week has been.

"We've had so much fun," said Laura. "It's been amazing."

They've had a fantastic week, attending multiple events nearly every day and reveling in the comfortable, cozy atmosphere not just of the Canadiana Room at the Gladdy, but of the festival as well. "My favourite event, if I have to choose, was Eleanor Wachtel interviewing Amitav Ghosh. It was like we were in a living room having a conversation. But really, so many events were amazing. "

Laura and Mike may have traveled farther than any other audience members just to attend events at IFOA.

"We've never been to this festival" said Mike. "But we'll definitely come again."

Laura Trunkey and Mike McLean outside the Fleck Dance Theatre.

To enter this year's Guess the Giller, click here.


Quote of the Moment:
"The last time we stayed in Toronto we had bedbugs. This time was the exact opposite."
- Laura Trunkey

DAY TEN: What happened to Day Ten?

That's a very good question.
Here's what I do know:
1. The Walrus party on Thursday night went so late, I thought I saw a lineup of children walking to the Friday morning YoungIFOA event as I hailed a cab to go home.
2. It was Halloween, and the hallways of the Harbourfront Centre were crawling with children all day, many of them in adorable costumes, as they attended events and made frighteningly well-themed crafts.
3. An evening of ghoulish events was highlighted by C.C. Humphreys' thrilling reading from Vlad: The Last Confession.
4. I dressed up as a guy with a massive headache, passed out in his own bed catching the first real sleep he's had in ten days, thanking the heavens his friend Becky suggested he take the night off.

The 2008 Harbourfront Festival Prize goes to...

A wee shout-out to Wayson Choy, who was awarded the $10,000 Harbourfront Festival Prize last night in recognition of his "substantial contribution to the world of books and writing." By all accounts, the man is a tireless and passionate teacher (in addition to being brilliant on the page). As they say in my adopted native homeland of Newcastle, in the north of England, "Howay the lad!"

Shinan and Me: We're doing OK

Just realized I never updated you all on the outcome of the "Battle of the Bloggers."

Long before Quillblog picked up on it, and well in advance of Bookninja's guest-blogger Claire Cameron's suggestion I was acting like a child for busting a salaried member of the National Post for ripping off me words (OK, I was acting like a child, but he started it), Shinan Govani sent me a very gracious little mea culpa email. He apologized. I accepted his apology. So let's call off the dogs, shall we?

Of course, Shinan said nothing of my blog-off challenge. So I did what any self-respecting twelve-year-old would do: I invited him to my book launch. This Wednesday, Nov 5th, 7pm at the Cobourg on Parliament Street. Stay tuned...