With over 85 authors to choose from, navigating your way through Calgary’s celebration of literary craft and daring, Wordfest, can be a daunting – albeit delightful – task. While you’ll get your money’s worth and more at any session you choose, here are three picks to ponder.
Tasty Bites: Michael Redhill & Linda Spalding (Oct. 10, noon, Memorial Park Library)
Toronto author Michael Redhill’s last offering, Bellevue Square, stays glued in your hands long after it was time to turn off the lights. The story of a bookseller and the emotional maze she navigates to discover her doppelganger is mirrored by the physical maze of people and incidents she weaves through near Kensington Market. The story is told as it unfolds for her — with a mix of sardonic surrealism grounded by frank, to-the-point details.
The novel is an impressive addition to Redhill’s already impressive curriculum vitae — this former Giller Prize nominee moves between novels, short stories, plays and poetry as easily as walking from one room in a house to another.
Add Toronto writer Linda Spalding to this, whose recent book The Purchase nabbed the Governor General’s Award, and this lunch hour event is sure to satiate.
Happy Hour: The Way We Wear (Oct. 11, 5:00 p.m., Big Secret Theatre)
Wordfest CEO Shelley Youngblut hosts this delightful array of writers. The stage is going to be crowded with Vancouver writers Geoff Berner, Bill Richardson and Susin Nielsen, Toronto’s Claire Cameron, Nanaimo’s Susan Juby, and Calgary’s Taylor Lambert, all topped off with Montreal’s Heather O’Neill. Between them, this group has released six musical albums, a Northern Lit Award, a Rolling Stone Best Top 40 Novel, a Governor General’s Literary Award, some Giller nominations and a Stephen Leacock Humour award. That is some cerebrally flashy stuff.
The session theme is fashion, as these writers discuss the hows and whys of what’s in their closets. Youngblut confides that O’Neill is one of Canada’s most fashion-savvy writers, so the fashion bar will be set as high as the literary bar O’Neill set in her latest novel, The Lonely Hearts Hotel. The story of two orphans who weather The Great Depression in Montreal highlights O’Neill’s breathtaking, stop-and-read-the-sentence-again-just-to-savour-it way with words, whether she is describing sexual acts with a whispering touch of the mundane or adding a black cat and a sprinkle of mysticism.
Wear your heels, because for this event, the literary, fashion, and cocktail bars will soar.
Late Night Series: The Third Pint of Beer
October 13, 9:15 p.m., Glenbow Museum Theatre
By placing Joey Comeau, Kevin Hardcastle, and Ed O’Loughlin together onstage well past the start of beer o’clock, the stage has been set for some liberated, off-the-tap thinking.
Toronto’s Hardcastle, whose work has been anthologized internationally, throws a knock-out punch with the simple spiral of his novel In the Cage, which shows what happens when a fighter crosses the line into the underworld. Man-Booker nominee Irish-Canadian writer O’Loughlin, a Man Booker nominee, brings together people in search of their family histories in Inuvik in his Minds of Winter, looking at Canada’s vast space and history through diverse eyes.
Halifax’s Comeau brings his fourth novel, Malagaash, to the barstool — and after reading this short novel that says so much about family, dystopian technology, dying and living in under 200 wondrous pages, you might need that drink.
(Photo: Geoff Berner, courtesy GENEVIEVE BUECHNER)
Wordfest takes place Oct. 9 to 15. For ticket information, go to http://wordfest.com/
Mary-Lynn Wardle is a Bragg Creek writer who has been writing about music, horses, and books for over 25 years in The Calgary Herald, FFWD Weekly, Swerve, Western Horseman, Western Horse Review and other publications.