Jonathan Goldstein’s short reading from I’ll Seize the Day Tomorrow was very funny.
He read its introduction, along with a short piece about Mary Poppins and The Penguin and umbrella usage, and a longer story about the time his mother asked him to go with her to the store to return a shirt she had bought at least five years before.
Even though he suspects that he is just a pain in the ass to his friends, and that they find him miserable most of the time, the beauty of art, he says, is that it allows his book to make him seem funnier than he actually is. “If I didn’t have this, I don’t know what I would do.”
Sometimes, he posits, its easier to be sitting on a stage (performing, or in this case being interviewed by Craig Norris) than it is to sit and have a really penetrating conversation with someone.
Sometimes, too, he states, he confuses a being personal and honest with simply embarrassing himself.
But, then, maybe what he says is true: if it didn’t feel true or honest, you wouldn’t be laughing along with him. (As I was, in the Brigantine Room on a lovely autumn Saturday at the IFOA.)
Have you heard about Northwords? Five authors travel north, to beautiful Torngat Mountains National Park in Northern Labrador, spend ten days on that land, and produce an original work which they share with the group after seven days.
The participating authors? Alissa York (who was in attendance for this screening), Rabindranath Maharaj, Noah Richler, Sarah Leavitt, and Joseph Boyden. (Their five works are available from House of Anansi.)
This screening was introduced by Shelagh Rogers (of CBC’s The Next Chapter), who plays a central role in the film, too. But, really, the starring role is the land itself. It’s breathtaking.
The preoccupying idea is how does one find the words to reflect the intense emotions that surface with the overwhelmingly strong connection to this landscape and with the history attached to it (the brutal reality of the missionary presence and government interference in the aboriginal peoples’ way of life on that land).
This is the kind of place that she, too, might have once described as wilderness, Shelagh Rogers explains, but reminds the studio audience and viewers that this is a homeland. You can see the trailer here. The trailer is very well done, but only the smallest taste.
The film will premiere on CBC’s Documentary Channel on Thursday night and there is an interactive media version of it here. See it, anyway you can, and often.
Put Anita Amirrezvani, Joanne Harris, and Amor Towles on a stage with Nathalie Atkinson, and what do you get? A round table discussion of “Where I’m Writing From”.
Anita Amirrezvani states that people don’t want to read your research because they could do that themselves; instead, she took the fact that Iran’s empires are not as well known as some other empires of the world and she put that with a real princess who had ambitions which were unusual for members of her sex at that time, and she turned it into story. And, that, we do want to read, of course: Equal of the Sun.
Joanne Harris discussed her belief that food is a bridge and in her books it acts as a metaphor. She thinks that small communities are pretty much the same all over the world, and the more you see the more true that becomes, but what does surprise her? What her characters do when life gets in their way. (Her new novel is Peaches for Monsieur le Curé.)
Amor Towles likes to filter jazz through language and his novel Rules of Civility even has a playlist online (ten tracks through each phase of jazz, so that there is a life for this book outside the pages). He believes that place is discovered by dwelling in it, and when you create a strong psychology for a character, and they make decisions that weren’t anticipated, you can then make discoveries about people and places simultaneously.
Claudia Hammond, Kjersti A. Skomsvold, Karen Thompson Walker (with Christopher Dewdney: It’s Time! Round Table Discussion: 2pm on Lakeside Terrace
Kjersti A. Skomsvold’s first novel, The Faster I Walk, The Smaller I Am, presents its Indonesian translators with a problem straight off. The first chapter is partially written in the past tense and partially in the present, to illuminate a character’s difficulty accepting a painful reality, which has left her partially residing in another time (if only in memory). But there is no past tense for the Indonesian translators to call upon. What does that mean for this character? Can see find a peace in a new translation?
Karen Thompson Walker learned that a natural disaster can slightly shift the tilt of the Earth to shorten/lengthen our “standard 24-hour-day” by microseconds; what happens to her characters when the shift is not only slight, but profound enough to create 6-day-long days and 6-night-long nights. She asked herself: “If there was an end to the world, what would adolescence be like?” Thinking about the future is a kind of storytelling that we all do, she says. (Her new novel is The Age of Miracles.)
Claudia Hammond’s Time Warped is a work of non-fiction which considers our subjective experiences of time. She became obsessed with the ways that authors think about time (in novels like Philip K. Dick’s 1967 novel, Counter-Clock World, and Martin Amis’ 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow) and is obviously thrilled by the matters discussed by both other authors on stage (as they, too, are equally and openly fascinated by the anecdotal and scientific information that she presents. (This one is a keeper, I can tell!)
Later in the day, on the Lakeside Terrace, the headlines read: Novelists for a New Age (Matt Lennox, Stacey Madden, Aga Maksimowska, Grace O’Connell, Tanis Rideout, with moderator Catherine Bush).
They discussed how difficult it was to reduce a manuscript’s size (like Matt Lennox and Tanis Rideout struggled with 600+ page drafts) and how hard it was to lengthen a work (which was Stacey Madden’s challenge). They debated the merits of first-person narratives versus third-person narratives and discussed navigating (or avoiding) the publicity-related tasks that a novelist must (or not) adopt.
And, what about you? Have you been attending the 33rd IFOA? (We’re not even halfway yet: check out the schedule here.)
Or, are you planning to? Or are you happily reading the books, no stage required?