Thursday, October 23, 2008


What have I been up to all week? Taking notes, certainly, writing reviews there and here, but nothing so far as far as a proper report until now. You takes what you can, my son. Previous highlights of the festival, I must say, have included Maggie Helwig reading from her new Coach House Press novel, Ottawa author Andrew Steinmetz reading from his first novel, published by Gaspereau, that John Ralston Saul event on Sunday, and the John Newlove Awards. I can’t write daily reports, but at least here is something from some of what happened last night:

Wednesday, October 22; Because they’ve been putting events overtop each other, I decided to forego “The Poetic Past” event with Douglas Burnet Smith and Troy Jollimore for “Moving Stories Film Festival,” co-hosted by Paul Quarrington, showing numerous short films based upon published books. Many of these seemed to be promotional shorts produced by the publishers and/or publicity machines that go along with the books, which I have no problem with, and found the mix of these against more “straight” films rather interesting, including a lovely piece, “No Bikini,” produced from a short story by Ivan E. Coyote, who has been Ottawa-based these past fourteen months (she returns to Vancouver, unfortunately for us, in November). Pieces included shorts from Andrew Davidson’s massively pushed novel The Gargoyle (he was the one who got that HUGE advance), Douglas Coupland’s JPOD, and a piece on a non-fiction title, Food, Sex, and Salmonella by David Walter-Toews. There was even one from a poetry collection, Randall Maggs’ Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems. I think one of the real highlights had to be the short film A Life’s Passion, where James McCreath talks about how he got to the point of writing his historical novel Renaldo, which mixed just the right amount of biography and book. It felt more like interview than film. How do we get to these places?

The following event was “Writing Life #3,” with Pasha Malla, Rebecca Rosenblum and Ivan E. Coyote, all working in the short story. It was interesting, how host Neil Wilson tried to bring in the recent controversy that John Metcalf and others have created because of the new Penguin anthology of Canadian short stories edited by Jane Urquhart. Part of the “controversy” is frustrating because Metcalf’s arguments seem not to be any more than “why aren’t these people in the book?” and arguing that the book has little or no merit because of it; what? What is the purpose of the short story, what is the purpose of an anthology? I’ve edited numerous anthologies over the years, and there’s always someone who yells, no matter what it is you do, what it is you are trying to do. Someone else always thinks the book a failure because of who you leave out, or simply don’t include. The conversation is good, but the yelling is not.

Pasha Malla read from his new short story collection from Anansi, and also had a new poetry collection with Snare, neither of which I’ve properly seen yet (despite all my requests to the respective publishers); why is it I still have to beg for books? It was good to hear Rebecca Rosenblum read from her Once (Biblioasis), her first published collection of short fiction, after meeting her at Eden Mills (I deliberately missed her reading there, knowing I would catch it here). There is something that comes out in her reading that I didn’t catch when I was reading the stories myself, something that helps as a more effective entry point, and the story she read was one of my favourite, “Chilly Girl,” from the collection. Ivan E. Coyote is just brilliant. Everyone should go to hear Ivan read. So there.

Today includes the Arc Poetry Magazine thirtieth anniversary reading, with Steven Heighton, Roo Borson, Sonnet L’Abbé and Mary Dalton, a performance by Paul Quarrington’s band, Porkbelly Futures, and a talk with Judith Keenan and Quarrington on putting literary works on screen. Will I see you there?

1 comment:

BookShorts said...

Thanks Rob - for making the leap with us from page to screen! Being that this is the very first tour & curated program, your feedback is very valuable indeed.

WIth appreciation,
Judith Keenan