Friday, February 06, 2009


It is always interesting meeting an author off the page and in the flesh. I had to be dragged to a reading last night over at the U of A but as always happens I'm glad I went. Three writers were reading, two that teach at the university: Thomas Wharton and Marina Endicott and one from the U of C: Charlotte Gill. I was suprised by Gill as her Governor-General's Award-nominated book of stories, Ladykiller, is full of nasty and unlikeable folk. I had an impression in my mind of someone tough, punkish, maybe goth-y or grunge-y. In fact Gill was a slim, polished, fashionable woman wearing killer boots. So I recalibrated my perceptions more along the lines of Kitsilano-yoga-latte person. But my attempt to stereotype her was dashed again when the moderator noted that Gill is currently working on a non-fiction book about tree-planting, based on her many years' experience as a tree planter! And tree planting may take all kinds, but Kitsilano-yoga-latte people aren't the type one would normally associate with the trade. You can read a piece about tree planting on Gill's website here. Gill is currently at the U of C as Writer in Residence.
Gill read a bit from Ladykiller, the title story I think. Endicott read a bit from a work in progress, a novel she is working on about the Belle Auroras, a sister-trio vaudeville act touring Alberta and Montana in 1909. It sounds quite different than her Giller-nominated novel, Good to a Fault, and should be interesting. [*** Save the date: Marina Endicott will visit St. Albert Library on March 8th, 2pm!] Wharton read a delightful bit from his book The Logogryph. All three were witty and wise during questions from the audience. And in the audience was U of A's Writer in Residence, Lynn Coady (author of the excellent Mean Boy, among others).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Getting a Grip

If the Obama-induced optimism you felt last month is ebbing away with the usual doom and gloom in the news, get over to the University of Alberta. February 2-6 is the 24th annual International Week at the U of A, with another rich menu of inspiring speakers, workshops, performances and displays. This year’s theme is "Hungry for Change: Transcending Feast, Famine and Frenzy". It is perhaps counter intuitive, but listening and talking about global issues like climate change, economic disparity and food security can be cheering.
Look at Monday's keynote speaker, activist and writer Francis Moore Lappé. You would think a talk on hunger and global inequity would be depressing, but she left the crowd at Horowitz Theatre filled with the possbilities of change. Known as a "warrior for hope" she once noted: “Hope is a stance, not a calculation. We don’t find hope. We become hope.” Lappé is well-known for her 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, which sold over 3 million copies. Her most recent book, Getting a Grip: Clarity, Creativity and Courage in a World Gone Mad, is an empowering call to action.
Lappé is interviewed by Byran Birtles in Edmonton's Vue Weekly here. Todd Babiak wrote about her and local food and land issues in this column in the Journal here.
Other Lappé books at the Library:
Today's special speaker (via live TV feed) is writer George Monbiot, who published Heat: How to Stop the Planet from Burning in 2006 to great acclaim. His latest, Bring on the Apocalypse: Essays on Self-Destruction (cheery title that!) is a collection of his columns written for The Guardian.