What to see at IFOA

October 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For ten days each October, the International Festival of Authors gathers some of the most prestigious international literary talent in one place for a series of readings, panel discussions, and author signings. Administered by Authors at Harbourfront Centre, this year marks the Toronto festival’s thirty-third anniversary. This year’s festival kicks off tonight with a PEN Canada benefit featuring a rare appearance by Rohinton Mistry, and continues with readings by the nominees for a quartet of prestigious Canadian literary prizes: the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction; the Governor General’s Literary Award; the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize; and the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

This year features appearances by international bestsellers Michael Chabon, Junot Díaz, Louise Erdrich, Deborah Harkness, and Richard Ford, along with established and upcoming Canadian talent including Vincent Lam, Sandra Ridley, Linden MacIntyre, and Larissa Andrusyshyn.

With more than 70 different events featuring more than 200 participants, there is always more to do than can possibly be done by any single person attending the festival. But here is a very shortlist of events that have piqued my interest.

Reading/Interview: Lee Child
Lee Child is an international bestselling author of thrillers featuring ex-U.S. military man Jack Reacher. They are the kind of bubble-gum actioners that get snapped up by the bushel by commuters and beach readers, and there’s a film out this December starring Tom Cruise as Reacher. Although Child’s brand of escapist entertainment is not totally my speed, I’m intrigued by the pairing of the author with interviewer Adrienne Clarkson, who seems at first glance a counterintuitive choice. This kind of iconoclastic pairing often makes for the most intriguing conversations.
Saturday, October 20, 2 p.m. Brigantine Room

Reading/Round Table: Roo Borson, Phil Hall, Don McKay, Sadiqa de Meijer
Poetry gets short shrift in this country, selling in even lower numbers than short-story collections. Which is a shame, because Canada features no shortage of strong poets, both veterans and newcomers. Three of the former – Borson, Hall, and McKay – join the winner of this year’s CBC Poetry Prize for a reading and discussion moderated by Garvia Bailey of the Ceeb. For verse enthusiasts, this event should prove enlightening and entertaining.
Saturday, October 20, 4 p.m., Studio Theatre

Reading/Interview: John Ralston Saul
The author of Voltaire’s Bastards is an intimidating public intellectual, and it takes a brave soul to go toe-to-toe with him. Philosopher, professor, and author Mark Kingwell may be one of the few people who can fill the bill. This discussion should be all the more interesting given that Saul’s new book, Dark Diversions, is the author’s first work of fiction in over a decade and a half.
Sunday, October 21, 12 p.m., Fleck Dance Theatre

Round Table: Matt Lennox, Stacey Madden, Aga Maksimowska, Grace O’Connell, Tanis Rideout
“The novel is dead” seems to be a perennial theme among people who talk about literary matters, but this quintet of young authors, all graduates of the University of Guelph’s well-regarded MFA program would beg to differ. Each writer has a debut novel out this year, and this discussion about breaking into the industry and the challenges facing new writers in a rapidly evolving literary landscape sounds interesting. Novelist Catherine Bush, who administers the Guelph program, moderates.
Sunday, October 21, 4 p.m., Lakeside Terrace

Publishing Keynote Speaker and Interview: Jonathan Galassi
Each year, IFOA sponsors the International Visitors Programme, which offers publishing industry insiders the opportunity to come together for discussion, networking, and socializing. This year’s participants include some international heavy-hitters, such as Virago Press publisher Lennie Goodings and Blue Rider Press president and publisher David Rosenthal. This year’s keynote address, which is open to the public, is presented by Jonathan Galassi, president and publisher of Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Galassi will be interviewed by David Kent, president and CEO of HarperCollins Canada.
Monday, October 22, 4:30 p.m., Studio Theatre

Round Table: Marjorie Celona, Anakana Schofield, Rebecca Lee, Leanne Shapton
The women on this panel are unafraid to take risks with their approach to storytelling, employing a variety of forms – from short story to innovative memoir – to explore the idea of narrative. This discussion, titled “Basic Instinct: Style vs. Content,” is moderated by NOW magazine’s Susan G. Cole.
Wednesday, October 24, 8:00 p.m., Lakeside Terrace

Round Table: Deborah Harkness, Alen Mattich, Jo Nesbø, Corey Redekop
Take an historian descended from a line of witches, a secret policeman being targeted by Bosnian thugs in the Yugoslavia of 1991, a hard-boiled Norwegian detective, and a gay actor who just happens to be a zombie, and you’ve pretty much got a recipe for a lively conversation about genre, the supernatural, and the modern novel. Bestselling literary thriller writer Andrew Pyper moderates.
Saturday, October 27, 12 p.m., Brigantine Room

Round Table: Emma Donoghue, Andri Snær Magnason, Alix Ohlin, Cordelia Strube
This group of writers defines the term “iconoclastic,” representing a wide variety of approaches and attitudes to fiction. How do these writers settle on their subjects, styles, narrative voices, and settings? How do these choices affect the stories they tell? I’m moderating this one myself, so feel free to come out and watch me get totally schooled on the art of fiction.
Saturday, October 27, 5:00 p.m., Brigantine Room

Found in Translation: Japan@IFOA
Next to poetry and short fiction, works in translation are among the least-read in Canada, which is baffling to me given our multicultural makeup and a vibrant publishing scene in Quebec. For my money, Japan has produced some of the most fascinating works of world literature in the past decade, so I’m interested to hear the writers on this panel – poet Hiromi Ito, novelist Hiromi Kawakami, and translator Motoyuki Shibata – talk about their work and their approach to writing. York University professor of Japanese literature and film Ted Gossen hosts.
Sunday, October 28, 4:00 p.m., Studio Theatre

More information about these and other IFOA events, as well as location and ticketing information, can be found at the IFOA website.

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