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.