Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bloody Brilliant Barbara

Last night Zesty and I met for our usual foray into author events at the Harbourfront. While I didn't end up in tears like the last time after seeing Colm Toibin, I certainly felt the wit and wisdom of Barbara Gowdy was well worth the price of admission. But first, the readings.

Up first was Nuruddin Farah, who read from his latest novel, Knots. Suspenseful and mysterious, the piece he read followed a young Somalian woman Cambara (pronounced "Ambara") who ends up in Mogadishu looking for answers (in this piece in a mysterious house where a stranger has given her water) or even meaning behind a great tragedy in her life. The second book in a trilogy, I'm inclined to order the first book, Links, as the Somalian entry in my Around the World in 52 Books challenge. Farah had a lovely aura about him: soft, supple, yet smart and exceptionally serious. It was a good reading, even if it didn't hold my attention firmly throughout.

But the superstar of Wednesday night was absolutely Barbara Gowdy. Trim, with her hair tucked back by a barrette, she approached the podium and read a section from her new novel, Helpless. Never one to disappoint, Gowdy, instead of reading any of the more sensational aspects of the novel, read from a portion of the book that delves further into the backstory of Ron, the man who steals young Rachel away from her mother. The short reading described Ron's life after his mother died tragically on his birthday, moved into how Ron coped with her absence, and described how everything changed once his father's lover and her daughter moved into their home. A touching bit to read especially when all the audience knows of Ron is that he's the man who is responsible for the unpardonable action within the novel.

Once the reading was finished, after the break, we were treated to an on stage interview between Gowdy and Now magazine's Susan G. Cole. The most interesting parts of their discussion revolved around Gowdy's own point of view when it came to the complex and conflicted character of Ron. In Gowdy's mind, he's an almost-pedophile. A man not unlike Lewis Carroll who felt "urges" but didn't act on them, never taking his obsession too far, as if the act of kidnapping Rachel, because of its motivations, didn't necessarily cross the line. It's an interesting distinction, and sort of what I was trying to get at in my review of the book, that while Ron's actions are abhorrent, he maintains a certain level of control over his deplorable urges. In short, Gowdy insists, his actions are driven forward by love.

When asked about her own writing process, Gowdy told Cole that it was a long, painful process. She agonizes over ideas for almost a year until finally finding an anchor for a new book and describes her writing work as "putting the hours in." Her house is spotless for all of her procrastination, something all of us aspiring writers can most certainly relate to. All in all, it was a great old literary evening.

1 comment:

Kailana said...

It would be so interesting to see Gowdy give a reading. I really luck out in that department because none of the really good authors come near where I live. Someday I am going to move where I can see some readings.

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