Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Special Feature! Books Lovers Ball Guest Authors Dish on Favourite Reads, Going Black Tie & More!

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The Book Lover's Ball

You can't swing a streetcar in Toronto without coming across someone sporting a Toronto Public Library t-shirt or totebag. With its importance to families, children, students, new comers, job seekers and, of course, book lovers, Toronto's library system (one of the busiest in the world) is amongst our most beloved public entities, despite its constantly embattled status at City Hall.

Every year the Book Lover's Ball raises much-needed funds for the Toronto Public Library. A glamorous evening that connects donors to dozens of their favourite authors, the event has traditionally been held at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. For their tenth anniversary event, (which takes place one week from today on Thursday, February 5, 2015) however, the ball's organisers are taking their book lovers to the source, transforming the iconic Toronto Reference Library into a backdrop for a black tie evening. Also new this year is After Dark, an after party presented by TD that boasts a smaller price tag for library lovers whose pockets are not quite as deep.

We're thrilled to speak to four of the ball's 2015 guest authors about the CanLit icons they'd like to chat with, how they're getting decked out for the night and the book they'd love to give everyone in the room. Read on to hear from Martha Baillie, author of The Search for Heinrich Schlögel (Pedlar Press), Carl Dixon, author of A Strange Way to Live (Dundurn Press) and a member of The Guess Who and April Wine, Ian Hamilton, author of the Ava Lee mystery series with House of Anansi Press (recently optioned for a show on CBC television) and Marissa Stapley, author of Mating for Life (Simon & Schuster Canada).


Open Book:

If you could be seated beside any fellow Canadian author (living or dead) at the Book Lovers Ball, who would it be?

Martha Baillie:

Mavis Gallant or Margaret Laurence. I’d like to ask Mavis about recent events in France, and about so much else. I’m not sure where I’d begin with Margaret Lawrence, but I’d love to hear her laugh and to feel her physical presence beside me, to ask her where Canada is headed.

Carl Dixon:

Robertson Davies.

Ian Hamilton:

I would like to sit beside Mordecai Richler because drinks would flow freely, the conversation would be far reaching and maybe over the top, and no one would have to worry about hurting someone's feelings.

Marissa Stapley:

Alice Munro.


What will you be wearing to the ball?


Either a grey dress given to me by a friend, or a black, vintage dress given to me thirty years ago. Either way, someone’s cast-off. I loathe shopping for clothes. My shoes will be scuffed. I’ll pin-up my hair somehow.


Full formal evening attire of course.


Ill be wearing a tuxedo — assuming I still have one that fits. I actually have a few, including one with a white jacket that seemed like a good idea at the time. I had it made in Bangkok. It kind of worked in Bangkok, not so much here.


I have an appointment to try on gowns at Rent Frock Repeat this week, along with three author friends who are also attending the ball. It’s a great concept: we’re renting designer gowns we could never afford to buy. (Not that I’m suggesting the life of an author isn’t incredibly glamorous — but I’m actually a little worried that at the stroke of midnight we might revert back to our regular selves. Fingers crossed that the magic holds.)


If you could give a copy of any one book to all the guests at the Book Lovers Ball (aside from your own work), what title would you choose and why?


I’m tempted to say: David Malouf’s Remembering Babylon, because I’m in the middle of it and enthralled by his depiction of psychological manoeuvring between children and what it means to be an outsider; the complexity of belonging and the power of place, of land. And I’m tempted to say Andre Alexis’ not yet published Fifteen Dogs, as the three pages I heard him read were extraordinary. But I have to go with The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. It speaks with such a particular passion and subtlety about social inequality, human yearning and vulnerability. It is a work so true to itself.


Tough one. Maybe Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, which never fails to push my laugh buttons no matter how many times I've read it.


The one book I would give to everyone is Benham's Book of Quotations by Sir Gurney Benham, first published in 1907, but I believe out of print for some time. It is less comprehensive than Bartlett's, but more eccentric and less run of the mill. One of its delights is that the quotations from French, Spanish, Latin sources etc, are published in their original language as well as English. It is a complete joy to read and — with a little memorization — can help you look smart as you quote Voltaire in French.


Recommending books to other people makes me nervous — I have to force myself not to take it personally when a book I love isn’t received well by a person I love. However, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a book I’d foist upon anyone without apprehension. It’s got everything: intrigue, romance, politics, sex, science fiction. Plus it’s full of those signature Atwood lines that stop you in your tracks because they so perfectly capture the essence of the human experience. Lines like: “If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next — if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions — you'd be doomed. You'd be ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to.”

Martha Baillie is a writer and novelist. In 2009, her fourth novel, The Incident Report, was nominated for the Scotia Bank Giller Prize and was included in the Globe and Mail’s list of “100 Best Books.” To research her new novel, The Search for Heinrich Schlögel, Martha crossed the Arctic Circle on foot. The Search for Heinrich Schlögel was chosen by the editors of Oprah magazine as one of “thirteen powerful books to read in September.” Martha is a part-time library worker.

Singer-songwriter Carl Dixon was a member of popular bands The Guess Who, April Wine, and Coney Hatch. Dixon survived a life-threatening car crash but renewed his musical career and is also now a successful motivational speaker. He lives in Haliburton, Ontario.

Ian Hamilton is the author of seven novels in the Ava Lee series, including most recently The King of Shanghai. The Water Rat of Wanchai was the winner of the Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel, an Top 100 Book of the Year, an Top 100 Editors’ Pick, an Canadian Pick, an Mysteries and Thrillers Pick, a Toronto Star Top 5 Fiction Book of the Year, and a Quill & Quire Top 5 Fiction Book of the Year.

Marissa Staple is a writer and former magazine editor who contributes to Elle, The Globe and Mail and The National Post, among others. She also teaches writing at the University of Toronto and editing at Centennial College. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two young children.

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