Wednesday, October 25, 2006

IFOA Readings 24th October @ Harbourfront Center

Sasgirl (who desperately needs to update her blog!) and I attended the IFOA -International Festival of Authors last night and had the great pleasure of listening to Kiran Desai, Anita Rau Badami, Kate Grenville and Stephanie Johnson read from their latest novels.

The evening began with Catherine Belyea ,the host of CBC Radio’s "The Singer and the Song", paying tribute to a Burmese Writer ( I wish I could remember his name) who is under house arrest and encouraged us to sign the petition for his release. She then introduced Anita Rau Badami who started us off with her latest book "Can you Hear the Nightbird Call?".

"Can You Hear The Nightbird Call?" is the story of three women linked in love and tragedy that sweeps from the Partition of India and Pakistan to the explosion of Air India Flight 182. Anita Rau Badami is a very elegant-looking lady and her serene face belies a great sense of humour. I am extremely eager for a taste of her new book. Her previous two, "Tamarind Mem" and "The Hero's Walk" were excellent reads and when someone asks me for book suggestions from the South-Asian literary genre, "Tamarind Mem" is always in my top 5.

Next up was Stephanie Johnson, one of New Zealand's most accomplished writers and co-founder of the Auckland Writers' Festival. Her new novel, "John Tomb's Head" is a unique work told from the perspective of John Tomb, a man dead for 200 years.

After an intermission of 15 mins during which I got chatting with a young woman who had travelled all the way from the UK for this literary festival (and I thought they only did that for rock stars!), we were comfortably tucked into our seats again readying ourselves for a reading with Kiran Desai, this year's Man Booker winner.

Kiran Desai is an engaging reader. She reads quickly and with a lot of energy and expression. Her body language is casual and she uses her hands a lot while reading, (just thought it worth mentioning because it's something I didn't see the others do). When she's not using her hands to make a point, she rests her chin on them, again, so different from the reading style of other authors I have seen. She's extremely effervescent , greeting most people with a hug wherever she went. I'm not sure if she's always been this friendly or if she is just buoyed by her recent success. Either way, it was wonderful to see an author this approachable....I'd love to go see her read again.

The last reader of the evening was Kate Grenville and she read from "The Secret River" which was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize and winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Christina Stead Award. "The Secret River" is a historical novel set between the slums of 19th-century London and the convict colonies of Australia.

She gave us a detailed and informative introduction to the novel explaining that the character William Thornhill in "The Secret River" was based on her great-great-great grandfather Solomon Wiseman who was a waterman on the Thames. In 1804 he was caught stealing a load of timber and was transported to New South Wales (Australia) , but once pardoned, he found himself falling in love with the country and continued to stay on becoming quite a wealthy man. In researching her grandfather from official records, Grenville found there was no mention of the Aboriginal people in the records -just silence. She says, her book aims to mend that, it aims to give the Aborignal people a voice with which to tell their part of the story. Both sasgirl and I agreed she had the most soothing and melodious voice of the four - perfect for storytelling!

After the readings we were encouraged to browse through the collection of books in the mobile bookstore after which we stood in line for the signings. As expected, the line for Kiran Desai was a mile long, so I went across to Anita rau Badami instead. Told her how much I had enjoyed "Tamarind Mem" and she very graciously signed my book. I so wanted to ask her if she would grace our bookclub with a visit, but my courage failed me at the last moment!

An update: Sasgirl has updated her blog! ;)


jenclair said...

What a great opportunity to see and hear authors you've already read and those whose works you would like to read. Hearing an author read his or her own work can alter your perception, can't it? Of both the author and the passages read...

hellomelissa said...

man, you have such cool events to attend. speaking of kiran desai, have you read your copy of 'inheritance of loss' yet? let me know when you do and we can read it in tandem and generate a discussion. maybe you can start a lotusreads book club!

Aneeta said...

Just one point - you said this: paying tribute to a Burmese Writer ( I wish I could remember his name) - It's a her and her name's Aung San Suu Kyii.

Interesting read, as always, nevertheless.

L said...

hello lotus reads! thanks for stopping by and therefore helping me stumble across your blog too. Have bookmarked as well.

Jay said...

THere is nothing like hearing an author read from her work. I just love that.

Lotus Reads said...

You know, Jenclair, you are absolutely right. I don't think I will be able to pick up any Kiran Desai book without being reminded of her bubbly personality and perhaps that could alter how I perceive the book...we'll have to see!

Melissa All of those events could be cooler still if you lived closer! :) A LotusReads book club? You do have the nicest ideas! :))) Seriously tho', we could read the Kiran Desai book in tandem (Sas Girl is reading it now, I am sure she'd love to join us). I haven't received the book yet...will let you know when I do!

Hi, Aneeta Thanks for helping out, but no, it's not Aung San Suu Kyii. It was a "he" ( I saw his picture). Will call up the IFOA (if I remember) and get the name. How sad to be silenced in that way, isn't it? Thanks so much for stopping by!

I love your blog Lavanya I am happy I chanced upon it. Thanks for the return visit!

Hi, Jay I agree! It was a treat listening to these authors read. The one person I would love to go listen to if he ever returns to Toronto, is Frank McCourt. Love that Irish brogue!

Cereal Girl said...

Thank you for all your (pleasant) work. I enjoy reading about the readings, even if I wasn't there. Happy belated Diwali too. When I'm not in school to remind me, I tend to forget about it.

P.S. How did you mangage to set up a Blog and a Beta Blog? I'm new to these mysteries...

piksea said...

I just finished 'The Inheritance of Loss' and the book before that was 'The Secret River.' I found them both to be very difficult reads. Have you read them both? I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on them.

sasgirl said...

Yes, as Lotus mentioned, what a great event! We had a great time with each other as always! It's always fun to hang out with her. :)

And yes, I have to update my blog. :) I'm in the process of writing my book review of Marie Antoinette, should be published today or tomorrow.

I'm currently reading Inheritance of Loss and after hearing Kiran read it, I'm hearing her voice when I read it! It was so neat to hear an author read her own words. It's a great book so far, highly recommended!

Just curious, piksea, how did you find it a difficult read?

Yes, Kate Grenville had a very nice soothing voice. For the first few authors, my baby was kicking but when Kate spoke, he/she had calmed down. (yes, i'm pregnant! :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hello, Cereal Girl!

Thanks for dropping by. Blogger allows you to switch to the beta version in a couple of simple steps - I think all the instructions (simple) are on the sign in page. I'm not terribly web savvy, so if I could do it, you'll find it easy-peasy! :)

Hello piksea

I haven't read either book,no, wait,that's a lie, I started "Inheritance of Loss" but had to return it to the library ( I was only on pg. 50 or thereabouts). I will continue reading it as soon as my prize gets here. Would be delighted to compare notes when I am finished. I haven't read "Secret River" but am waiting on a friend to send me her copy, which will probably be sometime in the new year.

hi, sasgirl Will look forward to the Marie Antoinette review! Also looking forward to reading your observations on "The Inheritance of Loss", boy, she (Kiran Desai) really does seem to dislike the title now, doesn't she?

Let's do another event soon - I always enjoy your company!

Bookfool said...


You are so fortunate to be able to attend such a wonderful event. Incidentally, you're making my wish list much, much worse. LOL

Saaleha said...

Gwarsh Lotus, you have just turned me green with envy. You are so lucky. I've been dying to read Kiran Desai. And you got to hear her read. Does it get any better?

Lotus Reads said...

Hello bookfool & Saaleha Yes, I do feel lucky. I guess living in a big metropolis does have its advantages. I'll have to remind myself of this festival everytime I grumble about the noise, traffic and pollution of the city! ;)

Foodie's Hope said...

How lucky you are to attend that and listen to them reading! WOW!The only store we have here is B&N!:) oh well, I just come here to your blog and read all great books you recommend.Thank you!

Lotus Reads said...

You're welcome Foodie's Hope, although it is I that should be saying thank you for all the wonderful recipes you share with us!