For the fourth consecutive year, readings were given by those shortlisted for this year's Governor General's Literary Award (English -language Fiction category). Finalists were Rivka Galchen, Rawi Hage, Nino Ricci, David Adams Richards, and Fred Stenson. Don Domanski, winner of the 2007 Governor General's award for poetry, began the series of readings.
Rivka Galchen’s first novel Atmospheric Disturbances had an interesting premise, a man who thinks his wife has been replaced by a woman who looks like her. The man postulates what will happen if he goes home, if they will still try "appearing normal," and postulating that in seeing this false image of his wife, "it will be like losing her again."
Rawi Hage read from his novel Cockroach, hovering (whether intentionally, or not) over the microphone like a cockroach ready to descend on the podium. He read "I don’t trust my feelings any more," and about what happened "when I told that to a therapist." He said other phrases such as "the question of existence plagued me" to his laconic therapist. A very engaging and interesting-sounding novel.
Nino Ricci (who won the prize) borrowed the title to his Origin of Species. The novel is set in 1980’s Montreal, and Ricci explained that the theory of the narrative was based on evolutionary theory. In the novel (and most probably in real life), he went to "Darwin’s gloomy study," thinking of the mysterious illness that plagued Darwin. Ricci was able to successfully layer a complex series of flashbacks, and it was interesting discerning the various transitions that seem to come so easily to him.
Among the highlights of the festival, for me, was seeing David Adams Richards, my former writing mentor from the Humber School for Writers. He is from New Brunswick, and he has won the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s award twice, for both fiction and non-fiction. He read from his new novel The Lost Highway, entrancing the audience with his engaging prose and his forceful style and with such memorable phrases as "he was a coward when sober, a bully when drunk."
Fred Stenson read from a historical novel about the 1899-1902 Boer War and a hanging that occurred prior to the war and how the people of the town, after the hanging was over, were "excited, in a dangerous way."
As would be the case with so many events planned over so many days, events were happening simultaneously and it was difficult to choose between them at times. At times I wanted to be three places at once. Events ran overtime, and I was either late for events or leaving events early as a result. There were also many days when I was unable to attend. Overall, I found it to be very well-organized, well run, and inspirational.