My Picks at Blue Met
I’d like to tell you that the event you shouldn’t miss at the upcoming Blue Metropolis literary festival is one in which I’ll be participating, but that might seem like shameless self-promotion. Seriously, though, the reason I attend this and other literary festivals – besides being invited to do so – is for the surprises. Not the authors I know, but the ones I don’t know. And my event, on May 3 at 3:30 at the Las Américas bookstore, features two other writers who intrigue me: the Mexican-American Luis Alberto Urrea, and the single-named Ondjaki, who apparently comes from Angola and writes in Portuguese. Who are these guys? I want to know. And it looks like I’ll be able to find out.
One of the dilemmas of all literary festivals is the fact that events tend to overlap. Blame the schedule-makers. I will have to run from the McCord Museum to make my own event, because at the McCord at 2 pm, writers such as Lisa Moore, Alex Ohlin, Madeleine Thien and Zoe Whittal (are any male authors allowed? You’ll have to go to the event to find out.) are going to exchange their ideas on “States of Mind.”
I know I’m not going to make the interview with Richard Ford at 4 pm that same day. Too bad, because Michael Enright is one of the good interviewers we have; no doubt you’ll be able to catch the conversation on CBC at some later date. I spoke to Ford recently about his latest novel Canada, another piece of excellent fiction from him. Before getting down to business, we reminisced about the last time we saw Allen Ginsberg before his death: it was in Paris, at the American ambassador’s residence. The author of Howl, the book that shaped our young lives, standing before us in that incongruous setting… I was talking to Ford for a piece I was doing for Destinations, the Via Rail magazine. The bad news, I told him, is that the publication is rather on the down-market side. But the good news, I added, is that since the trains are nearly always late, the bored passengers are desperate for something to read.
If you’re like me, and can’t manage to be everywhere at once, take heart: almost all the writers appear more than once. That’s the case with Ford, Ondjaki, Urrea and most others. As well, this year the festival has created something call the Espresso Break (no coffee, thank you, I’ll have a glass of wine), a 30-minute, one-on-one session with the authors. Sounds more civilized to me. Not to mention that these breaks take place in the festival bookstore, always a propitious place.
The festival seems to have taken a therapeutic turn this year. Example: the Writing Dementia discussion about Alzheimer’s on Sunday. If you forget to go to that event, a little bit later in the day you can catch German writer Katharina Hagena, who featured a character fighting dementia in one of her novels. Not surprisingly, both these events are co-sponsored by the Douglas Institute.
For the whole low-down on the event, go to the festival site: http://www.bluemetropolis.org
A farewell to blogs: as part of my residence at the Library, I have been keeping up this blog since last September – and this is the last one. The residence officially ends with a wine and cheese the evening of May 21, so come by and say hi.