Step by step, all cultural organizations work toward being the best.
Toronto’s International Festival of Authors at Harbourfront Centre celebrates its 30th anniversary with nearly 150 writers in attendance. It’s now the largest North American book event as this festival becomes a critical destination for literature lovers. Being the best means collaborating with the most important book events worldwide.
“We try and do it better each year,” says festival director Geoffrey Taylor. “This year has a focus on writers from Scotland, 2009 being the 250th anniversary of Robbie Burns’ birth. We’ve partnered with the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is currently the biggest book event in the world.”
This year’s list of scribes includes many writers of Scottish descent, like former Talking Heads singer David Byrne and Canadian storyteller Alistair MacLeod. And while the event is proudly global, it’s also entrenching itself within our own national literary establishment.
“We’re partnering with the Giller Prize, the Writers Trust, and the Governor General’s Awards,” says Taylor proudly. “Those top three literary prizes in Canada, and the shortlisted books on each list will be presented at the festival.”
It’s an event driven by stratospheric ambitions, but organizers also take care to support local talent, too. “Well it’s a great opportunity to have people find out about your book and your work,” says Torontonian Hal Niedzviecki, author of The Peep Diaries. “In my case we’re doing a whole event themed around the idea of peep culture — the spying, the watching, the gossip gone global. So in terms of getting people excited about my book and ideas, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
IFOA is where the literati and the curious can hear great writers read and debate the future of books and culture. After 29 years, Taylor’s festival is more relevant now than ever.
This year’s IFOA features the finest established Canuck novelists
(Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro) with Scottish favorites (Ian Rankin,
Alan Bissett) and authoring musicians (Anne Murray, Paul Quarrington).
The range of skills in attendance boggles, including experimental
stylists like Nicholson Baker, culture analysts like Mark Kingwell,
politicos like Michael Ignatieff, and canonic Dickensians like John
Any event where a Grand Old Author like Irving is rubbing
shoulders with hip young talent like Miriam Toews is where the most
authentic writerly dialogues can be found.
The panel discussions should
prove to be as lively as the readings will be absorbing.