Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

oh yeah, it's the ifoa

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oh yeah, it's the ifoa

So I have been remiss in not mentioning that the biggest literary festival in the city is happening right now. I figure anyone who reads this website is already down at Harbourfront watching their favourite writers read, panel, and sign books at the International Festival of Authors. Some of you have even crashed the Hospitality Suite at the Westin Harbour Castle and knocked back drinks and shrimp rings with the famous and those who followed them into the penthouse.

There are so many great things worth checking out, I won't even dare to try to outline a schedule for you. My schedule is such that I'm finding I'm not able to go see as many events as I would like. For example, I would have really enjoyed going to hear Sherman Alexie tonight, but I couldn't make it. I interviewed him when he was here for the festival a few years ago and he is a dynamite reader — it's no accident that he's laughing in most of his author photos.

I did leave the house during a mini-blackout last night (a little rain and I lost power for 45 minutes) to see Toronto poet Kyle Buckley read from his excellent book The Laundromat Essay at the Fleck Dance Theatre. He was great, very dry and funny, and the way you couldn't always tell when he was talking and when he was reading from the work reminded me of how Robert Creeley would slide in and out of his own text while giving readings. (I watched a lot of footage of Creeley in out-takes from Ron Mann's documentary Poetry and Motion when I worked on a TV project with him a couple years ago.) And yet, Kyle's style is all his own — fluid and warm and wry.

I also loved hearing Nicholson Baker read from his new book The Anthologist, which I bought on the spot. I was already interested in the book, because I like Baker's writing and I'm intrigued how the novelist would portray a poet. His reading was so playful and hilarious, brimming over with a sense of deep compassion and eccentric intelligence, that I picked up a copy right there, even though I knew it would have been cheaper to buy it on my next trip to the States now that our dollars are basically on par. (Is this not driving anyone else a little crazy? I mean, especially on American titles? Why do I have to pay $10 more? I know, I know, it's complicated. I'm still going to grumble about it, as book buying is my biggest vice.) And then I waited in line to get it signed, because I am a dork and care about things like that.

In order to start his novel, Baker said he dressed up like his poet (he grew a spectacular Little Whitman beard as well — see photo) and filmed himself for days talking in character. This is the kind of anecdote I leave my house during a blackout to hear. It also got me to thinking about the ways poets appear as characters in other mediums. One of the truest portraits I've ever seen is Diane Keaton's Renata in Woody Allen's much-maligned Interiors. Even though I was a huge Woody Allen fan in high school, I avoided Interiors for years because I was told it was a bad Bergman rip-off. Which it is, but it's still totally worth seeing. The dialogue is pretty wooden (perhaps this makes it seem more European, like they're speaking through subtitles) and Keaton has to deliver some truly embarrassing existential monologues, but the characters are wonderfully drawn and the story is pretty riveting. Geraldine Page and Maureen Stapleton are incredible as rival archetypes (rigid and frail versus free and tough) in an age group that rarely gets such juicy roles written for them and Mary Beth Hurt is perfectly hateful as a would-be artist who lacks talent and empathy. It's not a nice movie, but it's a good one. And it has a great look — very cold and austere, very Swedish-by-way-of-South-Hampton.

I found Diane Keaton believable as a poet, though the fact that they use the word "poetess" in the film makes me want to scream. It's like nails on a chalkboard that word. It's like being named Smurfette because you're the only stunted, floppy-hatted, blue-bodied creature who happens to be female. It's lame. So be warned: it's used in this scene I'm attaching.

And as a side note, this scene makes me happy that I'm not married to another writer, though I know it works for some people no problem. Still, this deserves an award for most uncomfortable couple fight on film ever. Okay, there might be better, but this is in the running. "I'm sick of your needs! I'm tired of your idiosyncrasy and your competitiveness! I have my own problems!" The whole movie is filled with this stuff.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Damian Rogers

Damian Rogers lives in Toronto. Paper Radio (ECW Press) is her first book.

Go to Damian Rogers’s Author Page