Friday, March 17, 2006

City of words

The 8th edition of the Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival takes place April 5–9, 2006. The programme is now available.

The website is hellish to navigate and information on the authors, their works, what they might be discussing or reading from is scant. (Case in point: the title of Susan Glickman's first novel, The Violin Lover, has a certain appeal to me, but that's simply not enough to entice me to attend its launch or a reading of it when I weigh the cost of admission and my precious time against the unknown. Is it a romance? historical? experimental? what? If you don't tell me at least some basic stuff like that, I'm not paying to find out.)

Here are some of the events that hold interest for me.

Readings, of course:
I'm planning on seeing David Bezmozgis, maybe Yann Martel, a couple others. There's a temptation to attend Leah McLaren's reading, only to heckle her, but I'm not sure I want to pay money for that privilege.

Remembering Irving Layton:
A panel discussion, including a former prof of mine.

The Good Old Bad Days:
A conversation about Montreal in the 40s, including William Weintraub, author of City Unique, which is a fascinating read.

This year's Blue Metropolis Literary Grand Prix honours Michel Tremblay.


Anonymous said...

I saw David Bezmozgis speak at the International Festival of Authors in Toronto, and it was such a joy. He's a very sincere, eloquent fellow with very cool glasses. You will not be disappointed with David. Did you enjoy 'Natasha'? I thought it was so beautiful. Oh to be able to write like that.

I would gladyly pay your way to see Leah, and also provide rotten vegatable that you can toss at the wench.

Susan Glickman said...

I'd love you to come to my launch. It's free! And there will be refreshments too. What have you got to lose?

Here's a synopsis of my novel, for anyone who is interested (there's also a very nice review in The National Post today but alas, it gives the whole story away....)

Synopsis of The Violin Lover

This short novel is set in London, England, between the wars, with flashbacks to Leeds, memories of Russia, and a couple of scenes in Austria. It covers the period from November of 1934 to April of 1936. During that time, we follow the lives of three people: Ned Abraham, the "Violin Lover" of the title, a confirmed bachelor who is a family physician and amateur musician; Clara Weiss, a sheltered young widow with three children; and Jacob Weiss, her oldest son, who is an eleven-year-old piano prodigy.

Clara and Jacob meet Ned at a concert, after which Jacob's piano teacher invites Ned to work on a Mozart sonata with the fatherless boy. What results can fairly be described as a "love triangle", as the adults become rivals for the boy's affection -- and also become lovers themselves. Their affair takes both of them by surprise. Clara, who was married young to a very modest man, has never experienced this kind of desire before; Ned is embarrassed to find himself drawn to such a conventional woman, who represents the past from which he always sought to escape.

Most of the characters we meet, including the extended families of Ned and Clara, and Ned's mistress Magda, an opera singer, are Jewish, and feel somewhat insecure about their status in England (which, in the 1930s, was a fairly homogeneous society). To them, the presence of local fascists like Oswald Mosley's "Blackshirts" and the inexorable rise of Hitler in Germany, are experienced as an immediate personal threat. Within the context of their geographical displacement, music provides a force for unity: a language that transcends borders and is immune to politics. It is the "Light" to History's "Dark": an equal and opposite power that frees people from the limits of their private lives. A major theme of the book is this search for personal freedom. Ned, Clara and Jacob, each in their own way, try to make decisions for themselves about the course their lives will take; trying to be independent, the characters have to confront how circumscribed they are by family patterns, politics, religious affiliation and so on. Paradoxically, in rejecting these constraints, they also lose the possibility of happiness.