It’s a busy reading season, and being smitten with prizelists adds to its intensity. As does the amazing schedule of events at the International Festival of Authors.
Which included a reading, on Monday night, of the Governor General’s English Fiction shortlist, which includes Tamas Dobozy’s Siege 13, Robert Hough’s Dr Brinkley’s Tower, Vincent Lam’s The Headmaster’s Wager, Carrie Snyder’s The Juliet Stories, and Linda Spalding’s The Purchase.
Are you following the GG’s? Maybe you were there in the audience? With only a few seats left in the backrow, it was a packed house at the Fleck Dance Theatre, and Shelagh Rogers was a charming MC.
I don’t attend many readings at this festival (I prefer the round table discussions and the interviews), so I found it very interesting to hear all five nominees and compare and contrast their performance styles and the excerpts from their works.
Tamas Dobozy delivered what he called a “hybrid” performance, because his stories are too long to completely read in the allotted time, so he spoke about the motivation for writing the stories, the research that he did, his personal experiences (and those of family members) and the importance of storytelling, all of which comprised the greater portion of listening, though he did read from Siege 13. He performed in a tone like a burst of energy: fast-paced, emotive and charged.
Robert Hough read in a tone that I associate with a seasoned dinner host; he was animated and entertaining, and he seemed to want to include more than he sought to perform. He stated that drawing out any single portion of Dr Brinkley’s Tower is difficult because the segment does not work the same way outside of the novel, but I was happy to hear the excerpt all the same, because it’s one of my favourite novels of this reading year.
Vincent Lam’s performance from The Headmaster’s Wager was deliberate and measured; it was almost startling, the change in mood from the heightened pace of the first two authors. Only occasionally were bits of dialogue delivered in a rush; sometimes single words and short phrases were laid out for the listeners, like place settings at a wedding. And, even when he adjusted his glasses, it was accomplished as though in slow-motion: very classy.
The nominee I was most excited to see was Carrie Snyder, whose The Juliet Stories is phenomenal. And, oh my: she spoke in Juliet’s voice exactly. Her pace was closer to Vincent Lam’s than to the other two nominees, and Juliet’s mix of confidence and vulnerability settled on the room like the scent of hot sun, with an air of expectation and uncertainty: the perfect reflection of this young heroine.
And, finally, Linda Spalding’s elegant presentation of two short segments from The Purchase. One of the passages in particular was very powerful, and it was delivered with grace and style. Her considerable experience in literary venues added to her impressive stage presence, and the final reading was a satisfying performance indeed.
In all, the evening made me question my decision to attend only two readings during this event (in favour of the other events).
Of course the GG’s are not always about English fiction. Salty Ink is sampling the poetry shortlist (here, for instance) and I am particularly obsessed with the nominees for children’s illustration this year.
(Have I missed your/another Giller reading project? Let me know: I’d love to follow along. My last read will be Marjorie Celona’s Y, which I have saved until last because I have heard so many amazing things about it.)
And the ReLit Awards’ shortlists have been announced, but I’m still sampling from their longlists too. And so is Salty Ink. Here’s their first sample, and their second and their third.
And the Writers’ Trust shortlist?
Tim Bowling’s The Tinsmith, Tamas Dobozy’s Siege 13, Rawi Hage’s Carnival, Alix Ohlin’s Inside, Linda Spalding’s The Purchase
What are your bookish obsessions these days?