Sunday, October 21, 2007

Two Nights At The IFOA

I've spent the past two nights out at the 28th annual International Festival of Authors. Even though I barely made it out the door yesterday, having come down with one awesomely evil cold, I am so glad that I did because it was the best night of readings I'd been to in ages.

But maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Friday night was also star-studded, with Michael Ondaatje, whom I adore, ending the evening with his dulcet tones and brilliant accent, reading from Divisadero, a novel I'm still deeply conflicted about despite its multiple nominations this fall. It's been years since I'd heard Ondaatje read his work, and the last time I saw him at Harbourfront, he read poetry. Small things I noticed this time: he's so jaunty, floating up to the stage with a bounce in his step, and being very unobtrusive about his own words that it belies the actual age, success and experience of the author himself. He stood with one foot slightly stepping on the other, like a child at a candy counter, shifting his weight back and forth as he read three different sections from the novel.

The other readers that night, including a new part to the evenings, poets "opening" for the fiction and memoir writers, were all satisfactory. And Marina Lewycka stood out in particular. But on the whole it was nothing compared to the brilliance of the readings we heard last night: Shalom Auslander, Amy Bloom, Anne Enright, Vendela Vida, Souvankham Thammavongsa.

Every single reader was excellent, even Souvankham Thammavongsa who seemed terribly nervous, did a good job, even if I might need to read her poetry on paper so I can truly understand the context of her work. Truly, however, it was Anne Enright's passionate, brittle (she'd had only four hours of sleep since her novel The Gathering "took" [her words] the Man-Booker on Tuesday), and gut-wrenching reading that made the night for me. So much so that I've moved The Gathering up on the night stand pile to follow A Farewell to Arms, which I'm enjoying immensely.

As always, it's such a treat to be at a "classy" (Vendela Vida's words) festival surrounded by literary superstars who glide up on stage to share their words and their voices with the masses of adoring fans like myself. Oh, and I heard some awesome gossip that I will not share in these pages but would be happy to get into over lunch at some point (insert wimpy emoticon here). And I would have more to say except this cold is forcing my fingers into numbness, fogging up my head, and I've still got a pile of editing to do for my latest abridgment.

A writer's work is never done (insert another lame emoticon here if you'd like and don't blame me that I'm resorting to them in a time of need). Sigh.

9 comments:

Melanie said...

The weekend sounds truly amazing. It's wonderful you got to hear all those authors - and at the same time. Next year I really have to plan my vacation around IFOA!

Tim said...

Tell us more about Vendela Vida if you find yourself so inclined. I'm a big fan since reading Let the Northern Lights.

Kerry said...

And I shall echo Tim...

hip_ragdoll said...

Keep in mind I had a cold, so I sniffed a lot during her reading. Honestly, she looked lovely, all blonde and thin, and so very pretty, and well dressed, unlike some who come to the IFOA (myself included) in jeans.

She read from the first part of "Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name." She was witty and opened with a quote from "Alice in Wonderland" about beginning at the beginning. She also managed to make the audience laugh when she skipped over a bit of the manuscript that was full of foul language because, in her words, it's a "classy" festival.

On the whole, it was, like I said, one of the best nights of readings I'd ever attended. Her book is definitely on my list now that I've heard her read.

b*babbler said...

Ooh, I'm feeling so jealous, as I'm missing the festival this year (again!) Last year I missed it while having my daughter, this year I'm missing it because I have a daughter. Sigh.

I love your description of Michael Ondaatje - it made me feel as I was right there with you.

And good literary gossip? Oooh... Having just quit my job at another publisher, I'm missing out now. Sigh.

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Sounds like you had a great time! I'm re-beginning Ondaatje's book...

Madox23 said...

I actually liked the Ondaatje book. I have heard him read, via book on tape and I swear his voice is very soothing. I actually forgot I was driving twice ( in a fifteen minute drive to work) I could only imagine what his voice sounded like in person! I also like (liked) the voice of Andy Sheppard on CBC's defunct After Hours Jazz program.

Lotus Reads said...

I had tickets to the Lewycka and Vendila Vida interview but I couldn't go because I was sick. I was soooo upset, glad you caught the event. I wish the IFOA's blog had more information, I would have enjoyed more write-ups on the readings and the authors. Thank you for blogging about the events you attended.

hip_ragdoll said...

Lotus: I'm so sorry to hear you were sick. That's a shame -- but it happened to me the following Friday, where I had to miss the readings I wanted to go to (including Tracy Chevalier) because I was ill. It's hard when that happens.