Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Word on the Street

On Sunday, Kate and I attended Word on the Street in Kitchener. This festival occurs simultaneously in several other Canadian cities. The Kitchener festival is much smaller than some of the others, but there was a terrific line-up of authors, both for adult and children's literature.

I started the day volunteering at The Literacy Group's booth, where people who gave a donation of any amount could take away a bagful of books, chosen from the piles of used books we had scattered around the booth. There were some real gems there, including a dozen Dr. Who books that were snatched up fairly early in the day. We were located right across from the authors' tent, and I initially had some hope of hearing the readings from the booth, but we had so much traffic (a good thing, of course) that I didn't have a free moment the entire time.

Kate joined me in the afternoon and we went to hear Erin Bow (in the photo above) reading from her debut novel, Plain Kate. All the reviews of this book that I've seen so far have been very positive, and we were excited about getting a copy and having it signed by Erin. How cool would it have been to have a message addressed to Kate on a copy of Plain Kate, and from an author who had once studied particle physics! Alas, there were no more copies available for sale at the reading, so we'll have to pick up a copy from our local bookstore and track down Erin Bow another time.

I missed seeing Louise Penny because she was scheduled to read the same time as Erin Bow. I'm a big fan of her Inspector Armand Gamache series, and it seems that a great number of other people are fans too, as her tent was packed. I did catch the last five minutes of the Q&A session, and was amused to hear that she too was annoyed with the narrator's pronunciation of tuque as "toke" in the audiobook version of her books. I should add that this is the only complaint I had about the audiobooks. Ralph Cosham does a fine job otherwise.

There were several more authors I would have liked to see, including Claire Holden Rothman, author of The Heart Specialist, but we had to take off early because of another commitment for that afternoon. All in all, it was a good event and I look forward to going again next year.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Never Let Me Go

Unlike the books Kate and I have reviewed so far for this blog, Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is neither recently published nor written by a Canadian, but I had to say something about it, as it was part of my TIFF 2010 experience. I'd been meaning to read one of Ishiguro's works for a long time. After all, he is a Booker prize winner and several of his works are on Peter Boxall's 1001 list. In July, finally, I picked up Never Let Me Go in an Ithaca, NY used-book store, and after finishing it, I couldn't help regretting that I'd waited so long to discover this author's works. Never Let Me Go is well-known and has been thoroughly reviewed, so I won't say too much about it here, except that it was haunting and subtle, and the story stayed with me for a long time afterward.

When I bought the book, I had no clue that a movie was forthcoming. My older daughter, Julia, who keeps a closer eye on Hollywood than I do, was the one who informed me of this fact, and she mentioned that Keira Knightley was starring in it. Well, when I saw it on the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) schedule, I just had to go see it. It was one of the premium showings, which meant that it cost twice as much as the regular showings, but the whole TIFF experience, including the after-film Q&A (featuring, among others, director Mark Romanek and Ishiguro himself!) made it very worthwhile.

Usually, seeing a movie based on a book I loved is a huge disappointment, so my expectations were low, but I went away reasonably satisfied. Knightley as Ruth was good, but Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, playing Kathy and Tommy, were fantastic. There were some minor disappointments: the pacing is different compared to the book, a few significant scenes were cut, and certain pieces of information were given to us upfront, rather than revealed slowly as in the novel. Still, the film is beautifully shot and really does capture the essence of the novel, which explores the innocence of childhood and the definition of humanity.

Here is a final book-related anecdote. In my last post, I talked about my new BookCrossing experiences. A few weeks before TIFF, I finished Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, and I decided that the showing of Never Let Me Go would be the perfect place to release it into the wild. I arrived at Ryerson Theatre half-an-hour before the start of the film, and the queue went most of the way around a city block. Figuring that someone in the queue would want to take the book home, I gave it to the person in front of me and asked her to either keep it or pass it along to the front. I have no idea where the book ended up but I hope it now has a new owner who enjoys it as much as I did.