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New Orphic Review Closes after Twenty Great Years

Monday, November 3, 2008

INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS

I spent a few days in Toronto at the International Festival of Authors, a week long sprawl of an event with 200 plus writers and dozens of workshops, spread here and there among the forlorn spaces of two enormous Harbourfront buildings. The Sleeping Giant Writers Festival it ain’t. No informal lunches, coffees or the chance to engage the writers in conversation. In Toronto the writers disappeared after each workshop except when they hung around to sell their books.

I was lucky to run into an old friend, Wayson Choy, looking dapper and healthy. Wayson’s many friends from the Humber School for Writers will be happy to hear he was chosen to receive the Harbourfront Festival Prize, presented to a person who has made a significant contribution to Canadian writing. Wayson’s work as a novelist, memoirist and creative writing teacher as well as his volunteer work with literacy and AIDS garnered him a nice cheque of $10,000 as well as a Waterford Crystal bowl. Rumour has it he will release a new book this spring.

The final evening of the festival featured readings by the five Giller Prize finalists.
Authors and books were:
Joseph Boyden Through Black Spruce
Anthony De Sa Barnacle Love
Marina Endicott Good to a Fault
Rawi Hage Cockroach
Mary Swan The Boys in the Trees

All the books were good but one affected me strongly. This was Boyden’s reading of two excerpts from his novel Through Black Spruce. Two separate sections, one of survival in the bush and the other of survival on the streets of Toronto, were told with such gutsy emotion, such northern power, I could hardly stand it. The writing carried me away.

The local libraries carry cards for you to guess the winner. I know who I am rooting for,

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