Facebook memories are good for one thing: reminding me that at this time last year, I’d already published a comprehensive post about Edmonton’s fall line up of literary festivals and events. This year, I’m attending just one event. (Insert excuses such as work, kids, and rockstar husband* here.) But it’s going to be a gooder.
Edmonton’s LitFest is celebrating its tenth anniversary, and so is the Canadian Literature Centre. As if that wasn’t enough to justify a party, the CLC also just released a book of essays, Ten Canadian Writers in Context, edited by friend-of-Reading in Bed Jason Purcell. This party just got upgraded to a soirée: the LitFest Ten-Ten Soirée and CLC Celebration to be exact.
This won’t be an ordinary reading. From the event page:
Featuring contributors from Ten Canadian Writers in Context (Alice Major, Caterina Edwards, and Marina Endicott), with Charlotte Gray and Ross King. Guest artists of multidisciplinary backgrounds will be in tow to respond to each writer’s work.
I have no idea what this means, but there’s going to be wine, so I’m going to go with it.
As for the book, each of the ten sections includes a short critical essay followed by an excerpt of the author’s work. While the essays are pretty academic in tone (this is a university press, after all) they’re accessible and each that I’ve read so far made me want to read more of the author’s work. Did you know Lawrence Hill writes short stories? And that they’re excellent?
The essays have me thinking about context and how it relates to reading (and understanding, and reviewing) books. In a post I refer back to all the time, Robert Minto paraphrases Edward Mendelsohn on what a good review should do:
Contextualizing an object, specifying what makes it unique, relating it to the individual—that’s a pretty good summary of everything criticism can and should do, I think.
The rest of his post is about the last bit, the personalizing of a reading experience, but context is so important! An otherwise great book review suffers when there’s no context, or the context is just “HOTTEST BOOK OF THE SUMMER” or whatever. Ten Canadian Writers in Context is teaching me how to relate books to other books as well as: other places, other historical moments, other types of people, other art forms… it seems simple, and it kind of is, but it’s hard to do well. I’m inspired!
You can win a copy of the book here on Jason’s YouTube channel:
Now, off to read Quiet by Susan Cain (finally,) which hopefully contains tips on how to survive a soirée as a lone super-introvert.