April 17th, 2010


I went to a wonderful performance last week, a world-renown Canadian artist with a huge and frantically loyal following. I myself am new to this talent, but I attended the event with a group of sincere enthusiasts, who see this fellow on every tour, and buy pretty much everything he puts out as soon as it’s available. We went over 40 minutes early, and already there was a sizeable group there, staking out the good seats. When we ran into another group of folks I know, they were even more enthusiastic, and everyone was instantly able to chat about complex details of this guy’s work. When he finally took the stage, there was uproarious applause from the standing-room-only crowd and even some hoots at his knowing, witty banter with the crowd.

Rock concert? No, it was a reading: this really happened.

It was last Thursday, at the Toronto reference library, the world-wide launch of Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay, which consisted of a reading and staged interview with Jared Bland.

It was a stellar reading and a fascinating interview, much like many I’ve seen in Toronto over the past few years. What was different was the massive, wildly enthused crowd–not like I’ve never seen one, but not to this degree. I don’t have much of a spatial eye, but I’m going to guess close to 300 people. Unlike me, most of those weren’t just there to see what all the fuss was about–most of these folks had read at least two or three of Kay’s 11 novels, which are mainly 400-500 epic tomes with a lot of complicated history, maps and family trees in the frontises, and three years of research behind them. I was pretty impressed at this well-read readership–who says they aren’t out there? How inspiring.

And, of course, the show was pretty stellar on its own–Kay is an assured reader, and a convivial modest interviewee. Bland’s questions came from close reading of not only the book at hand but numerous of Kay’s others. The author seemed very pleased to answer such insightful, thoughtful questions (no “What sort of pen do you use?” generica) and the interview seemed more like an extremely well-spoken chat–with 300 people raptly listening (and occasionally hooting) in the background.

It just makes me really happy that such a crowd could gather at the library on a Wednesday for this sort of event, let alone be so incredible gleeful about it. Scott lent me Ysabel by way of GGK introduction, and I really hope that I like it so I count myself among that crowd. And even though it’s likely some Rose-coloured readers find that Kay’s work is not something you dig, I just thought the event itself was really cool and inspiring.

Some other events this week, which are likely to be equally fun and fascinating though a little less crowded and rowdy:

Tomorrow (aka Sunday) at 3pm, the Draft Reading series (pretty much the only series that I know of on Toronto’s lovely east side–can you think of any others?) presents Dani Couture, Michael Bryson, Mark Sampson, Ian Burgham and Ellen S. Jaffe.

Wednesday evening, 7pm–The Free Times Cafe (on college, just west of Bathurst)–the Hear Hear Reading Series presents Adrienne Gruber, Andrew Daley, Julia Tausch, and yours truly. People never hoot during my readings but it would actually probably throw me off a lot if they did.

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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