Thursday, February 08, 2007

International Readings Harbourfront Centre 07 Feb

An Invitation

Wednesday, February 7, 2007
Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games
Neil Smith, Bang Crunch
Colm Tóíbin, Mothers and Sons

Two-time Commonwealth Prize winner Vikram Chandra reads from Sacred Games, the story of a notorious Hindu gangster and a police inspector whose lives unfold and intersect with cataclysmic consequences; Canada's Neil Smith debuts his first collection of short stories, Bang Crunch, where the title story zeroes in on a girl whose age expands and contracts like the universe; and Ireland's Colm Tóíbin reads from his new collection, Mothers and Sons, a beautifully written meditation on the dramas surrounding this elemental relationship.

All readings begin at 7:30 pm
Brigantine Room, York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay West

Tickets are $8, free for members and students with valid ID
Box Office | 416.973.4000

What a special treat it was to attend these three readings yesterday! As I entered the Brigantine Room at the York Quay Centre, I was greeted by some wonderful Hindi music playing over the loudspeakers. It was hard to identify the songs initially because people had already settled into their seats and were talking to each other animatedly, but soon I realized they were playing Bollywood tunes and the knowledge of that both surprised and pleased me. I thought the venue was nicely was contemporary and had the appearance of an amateur theatre. I thought it provided a nice intimate setting for the readings.

The first reader was two-time Commonwealth Writers Prize-winner Vikram Chandra.
With his cute boyish looks he was definitely easy on the eyes. He had a black jacket (definitely a sherwani of some kind) over a white shirt. He seemed very composed and got straight to the point reading three different (longish) passages from his tome of a book "Sacred Games".

I have skimmed the book and was very curious to see how a 928-page book with a strange foreign setting (Bombay), hundreds of Hindi terms and phrases sprinkled through the book and about 30 odd characters (all with hard-to-pronounce Indian names) would go down with a western audience, but judging by the copies being bought at the end of the reading, I would say he's got another bestseller on his hands. I had a dog-eared copy (given to me by Anocturne who has also written a fabulous review of the book) and I took it up to him to sign which he graciously did. He remarked that he was happy to see it so well thumbed through! :)

Next up was Montreal authorNeil Smith. His offering was a selection of Short Stories titled "Bang Crunch"which has received rave reviews from critics. I have to say I was completely blown away by his reading. He totally engaged the audience and has a huge sense of humor to boot. Best of all, he's friendly! During intermission, he was the only one of the three writers to mingle with the audience, signing books and chatting with everyone. I was most impressed and kicked myself for not buying his book. Remember his name, I predict he is going to do very well as a writer.

Last, but certainly not least, was Ireland's Colm Toibin ( of "The Master" fame). He was reading from his new collection of short stories titled "Mother and Sons". He was a very engaging reader, too, and I was delighted to be able to exchange a few words with him as he signed my copy. I am about halfway through the book and I recommend it very highly. Toibin's beautifully-observed stories all of which are based in contemporary Ireland, will truly touch a chord.

A thank you to Random House for making it possible for me to attend the readings!

(Pic of Vikram Chandra at the book launch in India courtesy hinduonnet
Other pictures, courtesy Random House Canada)


david mcmahon said...

Sounds like you had a great time. Your description really puts us in the room.

Lotus Reads said...

Thank you David, I know it won't be long before you are doing a reading from your book at the International Readings at the Harbourfront in Toronto. I look forward to the time!

jenclair said...

Sacred Games sounds excellent! Whew, 962 pages! Not this month, though. :)

Lotus Reads said...

lol, Jenclair, it's quite the tome, I know! Actually it's 928 pages...going to correct that on my original post! :)

Read@Peace said...

A tome alright.... but what a read 'Sacred Games' is. Thought after 'Shantaram' I'd never survive anything that size but I managed to get past it in a week's time. Loved every bit of it. Wish I could have heard Chandra read...

Jude said...

How exciting for you!
On a different topic, what's the weather like in Canada? Cold, I bet. Snow here today!!

Happy Reader said...

Lotus, I've been wanting to read Mothers and Sons ever since it came out and I am glad you like it so far!! Looking fwd to your review on it

lalitha said...

That is so exciting to meet all these authors.I think I would like to read "Mothers & Sons."

Sanjay said...

Thank you for letting us experience the book readings via your post. I enjoyed it, and wish I could be there too.
I almost picked up Chandra's book yesterday at the book store.

Sai said...

Hey Lotus:
THat certain sounds like an enjoyable experience. Your post has helped me enjoy it as well!

Sai said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Radha said...

Hi Lotus

I'm so jealous! It must've been fun at the reading.

So are you going to put up a review of Sacred Games next?

Anoc said...

which three did he read? i can't see how he could have avoided the gaalis! mucho gracias for the heads-up. glad you had fun!

Lotus Reads said...

Hello Read@peace, lovely to have you here and to know you enjoyed both "Shantaram" and "Sacred Games". I have "Shantaram" up next and I am very excited about the read, except, I am going to take while to finish it, I think. Goodness, you finished "Sacred Games" in a week? Actually I am happy to note that, it must flow.

@Jude, yes, I read that Heathrow was closed for a while yesterday - enjoy the snow. We're in a deep freeze here and likely to stay that way until Sunday! So glad you dropped by.

@Chitts, I may not do a separate review for "Mothers and Sons", but I will tell you that it's a wonderful's my first time reading Colm Toibin and now I want to get my hands on everything he has ever written, especially 'The Master'!

@Lalitha, "Mothers and Sons" is a moving read and being a book of short stories, it doesn't take long. You can always read it along with another book which is what I am doing. I have always loved stories from Ireland and this book feeds that ever so nicely.

@Sanjay, yeah, you would have loved it. It's especially nice after the readings when you get to chat with the authors a little and they sign your books. Ooops, I am beginning to sound like a lit. groupie, lol

Lotus Reads said...

@Sai, thanks! :)

@Radha, not sure when and if I'll get to "Sacred Games", I have "Shantaram" and Suketu Mehta's books to read first. How is "Sacred Games" doing in Dubai? Lots of publicity?

@Anoc, thanks so much for your beautiful review and for giving me your copy! He read something about a Mary Mascarenhas in a salon in Pali Hill and how she was privy to her customers' secrets and two other passages about Gaitonde and Sartraj. I will locate them in the book and tell you exactly what they were about. I don't recall any gaalis, but there were quite a few Hindi words and phrases. Wish you could have been there!

iliana said...

Sounds like such a fun time! Sacred Games seems to be getting a lot of buzz recently. Sounds intriguing but 928 pages? Well, that would be perfect for the Chunkster Challenge :)

beenzzz said...

That sounds like such a wonderful afternoon, Lotus!!!! I am so envious! :) So, Vikran Chandra was easy on the eyes, eh? ;) Toibins book sounds like a great read. Is it sort of akin to "Angela's Ashes?" I know they are short stories, so maybe they have a variety of themes.... How cool is it that you met the author and got an autograph too!!!!

None said...


so u made it to chandra's! i couldnt do desai; was stuck at work and cursing, but there it was.
I;ve just finished reading vikram chandra and am itching to write a review... just have to find the right time for it! :)
and boy, vikram-ji looks very unlike his authorly self! :)


ML said...

Sounds like a really great day for you! I wish I could have experienced that - you are so lucky! :)

Fay said...

The shortlists for the Commonwealth Writers Prize have just been announced, and _Sacred Games_ by Vikram Chandra has been named among the finalists. The length is daunting, and it may be some time before I can get around to it.

danielle said...

How fun to go to something like this! All the books sound interesting! I am getting a copy of Bang Crunch--looking forward to reading it!

Lotus Reads said...

@Iliana, yes it absolutely would and I was toying with the idea of adding it to my list, but with "Shantaram" and the Suketu Mehta book ("Maximum City: Bombay Lost and FOund) also on the list, I might OD on Bombay! :)

Only had time to respond to one comment...will return!

Lotus Reads said...

@beenzzz, oh yeah, he's really cute! ;) Toibin's novel is set more in contemporary Ireland and one of the reasons he set out to write this book is to show all of us that Irish mothers (who have always been portrayed as religious, poor,self-sacrificing and long-suffering) have so much more to them. I think it's a very touching collection of stories.

@Ramya, oh, sorry you didn't get to go to the Desai reading. Now that she's decided to spend a lot more time in INdia, hopefully you will get other opportunities to hear her read. Oh, please,please write up something on "Sacred Games" I would love to read it!

@ml, yes, I was lucky to attend these readings - now when I read Colm Toibin's book, I hear his voice in my head, it's fun! lol

@Fay, thank you for the headsup! I am so thrilled for him, he's in a tough group tho', isn't he? Was also happy to see Chimanada Adichie's book nominated. Have you read "Half of the Yellow Sun"? YOu have a wonderful blog - will be over to visit soon.

@Danielle, thanks! I haven't read "Bang Crunch" yet, but judging by the rave reviews it has been receiving, I'm sure it will be a great read. Look forward to hearing what you think!

Fay said...

_Half of the Yellow Sun_ has been getting so much praise everywhere. A serious reader told me that it is exquisitely written and grueling to read, and because it is so exquisitely written, it is even more grueling to read. I feel like I need to just grow up and read it, even if it hurts.

Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

I've got a copy of Bang Crunch that I haven't started yet. You make me want to get to it very soon. The author sounds wonderfully down to earth!

Milan-zzz said...

It sounds like a great experience indeed! Wish I could be there ...
And of course again after reading your post I have to increase my wish list.
I love Toibin's work very, very much but I wasn't familiar with this new book.

gautami tripathy said...

Where is my invite and the flight tkts?


Beloved Dreamer said...

Great Reviews Lotus. It seems that Rndom House is very impressed with you and your abilibites but then I could have told them that. I am longing to buy Sacred Games but must wait awhile. I am so happy for you my dear. You are finally getting the notice you well deserved.


david mcmahon said...

Hi Lotus,
Thank you. Being at the Harbourfront would be very nice!
By the way, this is entirely up to you, but would you like me to give you something you can post on your blog? It's just a few paragraphs about Gerald Durrell and how he was the first person I ever interviewed as a cadet journalist. I still have the sketches he drew for me in my copy of `My Family And Other Animals'. Little did I think then that his publisher, Penguin, would publish my first novel, `Vegemite Vindaloo'. Small world, isn't it!

Anali said...

Very cool! That's great that you were able to attend these readings. And so nice to hear first-hand about the experience!

booklogged said...

Sounds like a wonderful event. You are always doing some fun literary things in your area. Such an interesting cover on Bang Crunch.

I am having big troubles with my Sage reader. It won't indicate when someone has a new post. I'm sure I've jimmied it some how, so I'll have to spend some time trying to ungum the works. In the meantime I guess I'll just have to check every day or two for new posts. Darn this new technology that promises much, but frustrates more when it doesn't work.

Sugarlips said...

I'm sure you had good time :)
Really enjoyed your post :)

Stay Beautiful...!!

Sugarlips said...

Lotus...I need to know about Vikra, Chandra's book...I was about to my yesterday then thought will ask u 1st cuz its a HUGE book :p

Stay Beautiful...!!

Lotus Reads said...

@Fay, let me start by saying you have such a beautiful blog. I have enjoyed my visits there. I read "Half Of A Yellow Sun", infact, I went to a reading and interview by the was a beautiful experience, hearing in her own words why she thought it was important to write about the Biafran War. I think you will enjoy (for want of a better word) the reading experience immensely.

@Heather, I can't wait to hear what you think of "Bang Crunch". I would like to read it at some point - but I need to get done with these challenges first.

@Beloved Dreamer, thanks

@David - Great suggestion, thank you so much for offering, but may I get back to you on that? Many thanks!

@Anali, you're welcome! :)

@booklogged, thank you! I figured that since the city has all these literary events on offer, I might as well make use of them! :) Sorry to hear about your sage reader - I do appreciate you visiting. Always love hearing from you!

@Sugarlips, so wish I could help you, but I haven't read it yet. I'm not even sure I will. Yes, you're right, it's a huge book and will require a major investment of one's time, but those that have read it say it's been well worth it. Sorry I wasn't much help, lol, do tell me if you pick it up! :)

Hugs, sweetie!