My First Guest Blogger: Maddy Curry of Quattro Books
The first author to read was Rosemary Aubert, who was launching her poetry collection, Rough Wilderness. Allan Briesmaster, her editor, introduced her and spoke on her vast writing experience, ranging from fiction (acclaimed mystery series and other) to poetry. It was quite the introduction; as Rosemary herself quipped, “If you stay in this game long enough, you become your own hard act to follow.”
Rosemary’s collection, Rough Wilderness is, as the subtitle indicates, “the imaginary love poems of the Abbess Heloise”. Rosemary spoke briefly on the historical basis of the book, the infamous story of the medieval monk Abelard and his scandalous (and consequently tragic) love affair with the nun Heloise. In doing so, Rosemary revealed the extensive research she had done in order to imagine and complete this book. I liked that she spoke about the writing process – so often I think we forget that writing sometimes requires that research, to flesh a story out. Rosemary even read some of the letters archived between the two lovers, to drive home her point that “the main thing I learned about Abelard was that he just wasn’t that into her.”
The poems themselves, I think, especially when read as well as Rosemary read them, reflect her research – not in a way that they seemed over thought and belaboured, but in the way that they sought to articulate the voice of Heloise – her desire and her torment. Rosemary succeeded in creating a character whose circumstance may have been unique to her time and place in history, but whose essence and emotions span beyond location, reaching out to us on a rainy Toronto evening in 2011 – in capturing Heloise, indeed, celebrating her, Rosemary certainly captured her audience.
The next to read was Koom Kankesan, from his novella, The Panic Button. One of the things that I love about Quattro Books is the diversity of what we publish – from medieval monastic life to contemporary Tamil immigrant life in Toronto, in just two readers!
Koom’s book definitely takes a different direction and tone, but is just as satisfying to the reader. He was introduced by Luciano Iacobelli, his editor – a humorous yet poignant introduction which had the audience laughing and tuned in. Luciano mentioned the blurb on the book from Alan Moore of graphic novel fame (think The Watchmen, V for Vendetta...) – the importance of this particular writer advocating this book might not have been caught by everyone (perhaps there weren’t many graphic novelist fans in the audience) but for many in my group of friends, it was a “take notice” moment.
Koom’s prefacing to his reading was also full of humour; it’s another thing to appreciate about our launches, that they aren’t stodgy affairs. I like to see the authors up there having fun, especially since reading in public can be a real nerve wracking affair. I mean, we’re celebrating because it IS such a momentous achievement, after all.
What I noted from Koom’s reading was that he picked a very good place to read from, which is a difficult task to do with fiction – how do you draw the reader into the story, how do you give enough context to situate the reader without giving away too much? I am lucky enough to get sneak previews of our books, so when our authors read I am familiar with the story and the passages they pick; I always have to remind myself that for others, it’s completely new territory. But who can say who enjoys it more? For me I am reminded of the story and shown new insights at the same time, while the new listener is free to listen uninhibited by expectations or previous encounters.
Koom’s passages suited both listeners, as the passages he picked were enticing and pulled the audience in; they were full of tension and yet humorous. He read from the middle of the book and from the beginning, two parts unique in their tone and mood – in doing so, he was able to show the range of his talent and his particular style. The crowd was entranced in one moment and laughing in the next: a great mixture of gravitas and wit. This is exactly what I enjoy about this book, this balance; how a sentence will make you chuckle but still get you thinking, will still have its impact. A quick (perhaps not that illustrative but nevertheless) example: “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, right?”
Following Koom’s reading, there was an intermission. I’m afraid I can’t give insights into the conversations and happenings in the room at this time, as there was a flurry of activity at the book table. I was glad to be so busy, to see the audience participating even more in the celebration of each author’s work, that they were hungry for more. And why shouldn’t they be? Literature is delicious.
Heidi Greco came next to the stage and read from her novella, Shrinking Violets. She was introduced by Luciano, who commented that this book is “going to leave an impact”. I think Heidi was able to convey that in her reading itself even when reading from the beginning – this just goes to show how effective and immediate of a beginning it is. She said that she read from the first chapter to situate the audience, stating that the book was “built like a snowball, rolling down a slope – you gotta start from the top.” This statement is certainly true of the book as a whole, yet I think you can see the first rolls of that snowball within the first chapter already, making you want to follow it, see the adventures it has and the end result.
Heidi’s reading even included song, as she sang the Leonard Cohen lyric that was in the passage. I think that this was a great move – as Luciano mentioned to me, it really showed the musicality of her writing. It’s also an example of how an author can really make the reading something dynamic, how she can take the text and sing (literally, in this case) into it, making it a celebration of written word and sound. True storytelling.
Giovanna Riccio, a poet and co-runner of the “Not So Nice Italian Girls and Friends Reading Series” was the final reader, reading from her poetry collection, Strong Bread. She was introduced by Beatriz Hausner, who gave (as always) a thoughtful and eloquent introduction. Beatriz spoke on how Giovanna’s writing really showed a strong sensibility of “language as life”, a beautiful description that I think Giovanna’s consequent reading really proved. She had the audience spellbound, which is as much from her oratory skill as a seasoned reader as it is from the strong content of her work. Again, she seemed to have fun up there (at least to the observer!). She also spoke on how happy she was to have the book out, as it had taken her some time to gather it together. I like these insights writers give to the writing process; it can enhance the listener’s appreciation. It pleases the ears and inspires the noggin’!
Giovanna really showed the versatility of her craft, reading all sorts of different styles. I particularly enjoyed what she mentioned that Allan called her “impressionistic pieces”; I found that these small poems were just that: evocative and full of movement, even though short.
The rest of the evening was a whirlwind of book selling, again an indication that the audience’s appetite had been piqued. What better feast than a new book, after such a celebration as that night?
Quattro been praised for having such a varied and eclectic publishing list. This continues with our new imprint, Fourfront Editions: on Thursday, May 26th, Fourfront will launch their first book, “Behind the Whip: Dominatrix”, an art book by photographer Maria Coletis which explores the dungeons and lives of doms worldwide. 6-10 p.m., De Luca Gallery Suite 203 (1153 Queen St. West).
Maddy Curry is originally from Nova Scotia, and currently relocated from Ottawa, ON upon the completion of her degree in Latin and English Studies at the University of Ottawa. She now works at Quattro Books as their Assistant Publisher. She is an aspiring writer and enjoys literature of all sorts, and is especially interested in merging music, art and the written word.