I have immersed myself in the writing life this week – not so much the writing, though I’ve done that as well – but in the life that goes along with writing. Not the promotion, not the searching for an agent or an editor, not the blogging or the reviewing or the… (fill in the blanks), but in the joyous, wonderful life that writers and readers.
I saw Michael Ondaatje, one of my favorite writers, reading from his new book, The Cat’s Table, at this beautiful church down the street from my house. I spent two hours with hundreds of other lovers of books listening to Michael read the first few chapters in his lovely Sri Lankan and British accent. He answered questions from the audience and from Daphne Marlatt, a brilliant writer of poetry and memoir and non-fiction. Ondaatje (author of In the Skin of a Lion, The English Patient, Divisadero and Running in the Family, to name but a few) is one of those writers whose books I buy the minute they’re out. I don’t wait for them to come out in paperback or as e-books, I run to the store and buy them in all their glorious hardcover full price.
I’ve heard Michael read from his books since before the publication of his second novel, In the Skin of a Lion, back in 1986 and 1987. I was living in Toronto and Michael taught at one of the universities there and he read from the book while he was working on it and then again when it was published. I’ve read everything he’s written many times – poetry, non-fiction, novels – and I just wish he’d write faster. Much, much, much faster.
I haven’t yet read The Cat’s Table (a reference to the very worst table on a cruise ship), even though I bought it the very day it came out, because I was waiting to have his voice in my head before I did. I’ve saved it for a treat when I finish the project I’m working on this week.
The second thing I did was to spend the day at Word on the Street. WOTS is a book and magazine and reading and library and everything else reading related event that runs across Canada on the last Friday of September. I like to think, while I’m wandering with the hordes of other readers and writers, that people all across the country are doing the exact same thing.
They have tents – and a darn good thing it was too because it was pouring with rain – and readings of all kinds: children’s writers, poets, non-fiction writers, magazine authors. Many of these writers yelled into the microphones in order to be heard over the downpours. They have booths for writing organizations from editors to romance writers. They have booths for bookmakers and illustrators. They have publishers of all kinds – from large to small, from happy science to small literary publishers.
There’s something about being surrounded – first of all by the beautiful Central Library (designed by Moshe Safdie) and second by the crowds of people, young and old, who are so fascinated by the idea of reading that they’ll come from all over in the pouring rain to talk to writers, to other readers, to pick up books and magazines, to listen to readings, to plays, to watch the dragon dance, to simply be…
Right there, in the midst of the reading and writing world.
It’s amazing. Inspiring. Intoxicating.