Monday, November 29, 2010

Imagining Montreal

Really enjoyable event last night at the Bain Saint-Michel. Looked like a full house (about 100?). Kudos to Marianne Ackerman and the folks at Infinitheatre (Guy Sprung) for the effort. Excerpts from about two dozen works were read by about a dozen or so performers sitting on stage as if gathered pell-mell at a café or a bar. Weaving the texts together from disparate works of fiction could be sticky business but I think Marianne did an admirable job of bringing out certain themes (Montreal's weather, seasons and languages, being three of the most obvious) and even a subtle narrative arc that culminated in the 1995 referendum, which appears to be the defining event for anglo Montreal writers producing work in the early 21st century. There were stronger and weaker readers, some choosing to play it straight with the texts while others were more animated. Fortunately, the excerpt from The Rent Collector was read by Anna Furstenberg who was one of the more skilled readers. I was left with the impression that the excerpts chosen leaned to the side of a romantic view of the city and its people (young people, artists/writers, the Plateau/Mile-End), as opposed to the caustic or humorous. The excerpt read from TRC came near the end, got a laugh, which pleased me, and also was a denouement of sorts, since it talked about surviving the referendum and the mysterious glue that keeps this disjointed city together. At the end Guy Sprung said that there will be other evenings like this and I hope so. Visuals might be a nice addition to future events.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

What Kind of People Can you Love

My daughter Sidney asks the immortal question in rhyme, what if Ernie and Bert are gay?

By Sidney Black-Rotchin

"What kind of people can you love?"
Grover has asked.
The answer is "Any kind"
(if true intentions are masked).

"What kind of people CAN'T you love?"
I always thought.
The answer is "Any kind"
(it's what we've been taught).

People like to point fingers,
and Sesame Street will pay.
For making us believe
that Bert and Ernie are gay.

To me it doesn't matter
if Ernie's just Bert's buddy.
Questioning their preferences
seems really sort of nutty.

After all, they're only puppets,
two dolls that may like boys.
But maybe there's something more to this
than playing with children's toys.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Majors publishers are out of touch

The message: a healthy literature needs small risk-taking presses... read.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Yann Martel speaks

November being Jewish Book Month in Montreal I usually wake from my yearlong slumber to participate in a literary event or two. If you happen to be near these parts this week join me at the Jewish Public Library on Thursday, November 18th at 7:30 to hear Yann Martel speak on his new novel. More here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ode to the city we love

PRESS RELEASE November 15, 2010
21st Century Montreal in Fiction
A collaboration between Infinitheatre and the on-line arts magazine Rover, 21st Century Montreal in Fiction brings together some of Montreal’s best actors for a dramatic reading of excerpts from new Montreal fiction. A one-night-only event to be held Sunday, November 28 at the Bain St. Michel, 5300 St. Dominique Street. 5-7 pm.

City of ice and tropical summers, cafés, alleys, parties. The dance of languages. Decadence, rebirth, romance. These are some of the themes that emerge from some two dozen novels and story collections with Montreal as their setting, published since 2000.

Ranging from Heather O’Neill’s poignant debut novel Lullabies for Little Criminals to just-published novels by Gail Scott and David Homel, these slices of new fiction have been woven together to tell their own story: a city beset by extreme weather, traumatized by but ultimately triumphing over politics. In the new millennium, Montreal has reinvented itself - with help from the city’s writers.

“When we started out to look at new novels set here, I imagined finding five or six,” says project director Marianne Ackerman. “Instead we quickly passed the two dozen mark, and I fully expect to unearth more titles. Clearly, Montreal is enjoying some kind of literary renaissance. It’s an inspiring city, a destination for talents from all over.”

I can hear the sound of keyboards clicking in different rooms all over the city, the echo of my friends typing steadily in sparsely decorated apartments, overflowing bookshelves and furniture hauled in off the street. ... I love these people and think of them often, up late, writing away, all over town. – from Walkups, by Lance Blomgren

Authors include: Claire Holden Rothman, Nairne Holtz, Edward O. Phillips, Matthew Fox, Marianne Ackerman, J.R. Carpenter, Elise Moser, Ami Sands Brodoff, Ann Charney, Zoe Whittall, Peter Dubé, Rawi Hage, Claude Lalumière, Heather O’Neill, Louis Rastelli, Gina Roitman, Linda Leith, Gail Scott, Neil Smith, Lance Blomgren, Glen Rotchin, Ibi Kaslik, David Homel. Texts assembled by Marianne Ackerman & Megan Stewart.

Don’t miss this unique gathering of strong voices bringing great writing to life. 5 – 7 pm on Sunday, November 28. Admission is pay-what-you-can. Refreshments will be served. Watch for further details on the Rover,

For more information about 21st Century Montreal in Fiction, contact Marianne Ackerman at 514-278-5038 or Megan Stewart at 514-802-5320.