Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Literary Weekend

I had the great pleasure of seeing Margaret Atwood at the Kitchener Public Library yesterday. Actually, I saw her via a live video feed, in a room adjacent to the library auditorium where she was speaking. The overflow crowd was enthusiastic all the same. It was enough to be next door to greatness.

When I saw the announcement months ago, I planned to show up early for the ticket distribution that took place two weeks before the event. I arrived 15 minutes before the doors opened, figuring that would surely be early enough. After all, we're talking about a reading by a novelist who writes serious literature, not a U2 concert. By the time I got to the front of the line, I was told the auditorium tickets were all gone and there were only a handful of overflow tickets left. I managed to snag two for myself and my friend Fei Min, and I saw over 50 people in the line behind me go home disappointed.

Margaret Atwood read from her new work, Year of the Flood, but much more enlightening and entertaining were her comments during the Q&A period. She covered utopian and dystopian literature, the purposes of blogging and Twittering, anecdotes from her early writing days, and much more. I didn't envy the interviewer, as this is one very sharp and quick woman. It must be tough keeping up with her.

We then lined up with the rest of the crowd to get our books signed. I had the new one, while Fei Min had her cherished copy of Alias Grace, which might very well be my favourite Atwood work, of the ones I've read so far. (I'd read this novel during the long hours breastfeeding Kate right after she was born; it was so compelling and disturbing that I didn't manage to get the sleep that I so badly needed at the time.) Fei Min and I then spent the next hour rehashing the event over a couple of sushi rolls. All in all, it was a terrific way to spend a Saturday!

This afternoon, I headed over to Victoria Park for the Word on the Street Festival. I picked up a few books for the kids and listened to a couple of readings. The highlight for me was attending Shane Peacock's reading from his first Boy Sherlock Holmes book, Eye of the Crow. I already knew he was a first-rate writer, but I discovered that he is a superb speaker as well. He spoke about his passion for Victorian England and his inspirations for this series. He also warned would-be young writers that it's very hard work to write. I believe him, as his books seem to be meticulously researched. After the reading, I got Kate's copy of Death in the Air signed. She couldn't come with me to the reading because of a previous commitment, but she was thrilled to see the signed book when she returned home in the evening.

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