Writers write. That’s what they do. And if said writers are any good, they come to develop what are called readers. There is the simple divide: writers and readers. Yet despite what seems like a clear distinction, there is a compulsive need in readers to turn writers into what they are inherently not. Thus, we have the delightful cultural phenomenon known as the book reading. Some great writers are awful readers. Anyone who has attended readings, listened to recordings or watched YouTube videos of well-known authors can often attest to the deplorable reality that a talent for written poetry or prose does not necessarily extend to public speaking. In fact, writers often tend to write because they are inept at so-called social situations. Though, to be fair, some writers have mastered both written and spoken mediums, surely sparking feelings of bitterness and jealousy amongst their less gifted peers.
Regardless of their vocal aptitude, however, as readers we persist in our desires to see our favorite contemporary writers stand atop a dais, protected only by a podium, reading to us. Blame our modern culture, if you so desire, which feeds on visual and auditory stimuli. Blame our capitalist society, too, for its incessant need to market, package and promote. Blame yourselves for all I care. The plain truth is that, in the literary world, famous writers are the closest thing we have to rock stars. We need them. We love them. And why not, really? After countless hours of solitary toil sitting behind a desk, writers deserve more than a little live public adoration from the masses.
Don’t get me wrong, readings make for more than just pleasant entertainment; good or bad, they narrow the gulf between writers and readers. In that space of time we are all connected by words. To get downright philosophical about it, readings are the exemplification of human communion. No matter what your social rank, educational level or economic background, readings provide an environment where the free exchange of ideas happens through a shared love of language and the way it can make us feel. How wonderful is that? We are fortunate, then, that Toronto has such an extensive array of bookish happenings. As spring tentatively begins to show its face, TheSceneinTO felt it our literary civic duty to remind you of some upcoming opportunities to take part in writer/reader moments.
The Toronto Public Library is bringing its “Eh List” Author Series to a close at the end of this month. The highly successful run has brought renowned Canadian talents Russell Smith, Sylvia Tyson, and David Bezmozgis, amongst others, to read to our fair town. This coming week will showcase memoirist Nazneen Sheikh (Northern District branch on the 19th), as well as excellent Haitian-born novelist Dany Laferrière (in English with David Homel on the 18th at the Runnymede branch and in French on the 19th at the Yorkville branch). The following week will feature well-known crime writer Peter Robinson, on both the 25th and 26th, at the S. Walter Stewart and Reference Library branches respectively. The magnificent Appel Salon, at the Reference Library, will also host its own events. CBC journalist Mellissa Fung will discuss Under an Afghan Sky, the memoir of her kidnapping, with Anna Maria Tremonti on Monday, May 16. Meanwhile, on May 27, Graeme Gibson will deliver the Writer’s Trust of Canada’s 25th Annual Margaret Laurence Lecture, “A Writer’s Life.”*
If you can’t make any of these upcoming events, don’t despair. Several other literary happenings will take place this June, including Luminato at the library, which this year will feature Geraldine Brooks and Jeanette Winterson. Of course, there should also be a great deal going on at Harbourfront and numerous other locales during this early summer season. We’ll do our best to keep you abreast of future events, but for now: Say it once, say it loud, I go to readings and I’m proud!
* Please note, events are usually free but you may need to confirm “free tickets” for specific events. Check the TPL website for event particulars.