Friday, October 21, 2011

Conversations with Bill at the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival


Some of the things I love about the writersfest have to do with the location, like taking the little ferry shuttle from English Bay over to Granville Island. We’ve been blessed with sunshine up until now, but it looks like there’ll be nothing but rain from here on.

False Creek Ferry
At the first event I attended today, Conversations with Bill, I was most excited to hear Kate Beaton but ended up being entranced (yet again) by Helen Oyeyemi. Three very different authors each had 30 minutes in the spotlight with the always charming Bill Richardson.

Helen Oyeyemi had a good rapport with Richardson, who recognized Mr. Fox and Mary Foxe in an English fairy tale collected by Joseph Jacobs – “Lady Mary was young and Lady Mary was fair” –  and Oyeyemi confirmed that these were stories she had grown up with. The Bluebeard stories bored her, however, because there wasn’t an explanation for why the husband killed his wives, plus she couldn’t relate to the moral that one should not be curious. I remembered my similar displeasure with Bluebeard as a child. Then I totally bonded with Oyeyemi’s dislike of Jane Eyre (creepy Mr. Rochester locking his wife in an attic). I hadn’t previously thought of it as a Bluebeard story. Anyway, Oyeyemi was gracious and well-spoken and I loved her.

Kate Beaton was not initially forthcoming with Richardson, but warmed up after a while. She had interesting things to say about publishing web comics as a full-time job – marketing t-shirts and prints as well as getting advertising revenue – since her comics are viewable free on the internet. Best was when she got talking about her passion for people in history; she got the audience laughing with her descriptions of Canadian historical figures. I admire her work but I didn't feel a need to join the long line-up to get her to sign the book I had bought. Check out Hark, a Vagrant online. (Beaton also gave a nice plug for Craig Thompson's Habibi. )

Barry Callaghan spoke about his stormy relationship with his famous father, Morley. He also read from his hilarious essay “Canadian Wry” written for Punch magazine to explain Canadians. (It is collected in Raise You Ten.) Callaghan’s anecdote about his disdain for Robertson Davies was candid and amusing, especially since he called him a windbag… the pot calling the kettle black?

It all added up to 90 minutes of eclectic entertainment.

2 comments:

Claire at Latitude said...

Your posts from the festival are most enjoyable - the writing and the pictures. But as a non-Canadian I have to ask: who ARE Barry and Morley Callaghan, apart from famous father and son?

Lindy said...

These writers are big fish in a small pond, I guess, since their fame has not spread to New Zealand.