The Snipe’s Guide to the 2011 Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival
– by Shawn Conner
As usual, this year’s Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival’s lineup is as politically correct, if not all-encompassing, as its name.
Heavy on children’s books authors, venerable Canadian wordsmiths, family saga novelists, crime writers and, to the festival’s credit, poets, the festival is still lacking in some regards.
In short supply: cartoonists/graphic novelists, fiction writers in genres other than crime, and “edge-y” (for lack of a better term) contemporary American authors (Nicholson Baker, Jonathan Lethem, George Saunders are three that spring to mind).
But, after trolling through the author bios on the VIWF’s website, we found some people we think are worth checking out. Their names might not be as well known as headliners Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Ondaatje, and David Sedaris, or the usual Titans of Canlit like Rudy Wiebe, Guy Vanderhaeghe, and David Adams Richards, but their books look exceptional. Or at least, their author photos do.
For more info, visit the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival website.
Kate Beaton – A Canadian webcomic artist, Beaton has great fun with historical figures and fictional characters. Montreal’s Drawn & Quarterly is publishing her first collection, Hark! A Vagrant, this fall.
David Bezmozgis – Short-story author and filmmaker Bezmozgis’s debut novel The Free World is garnering raves for its portrayal of the immigrant experience in the characters of the Krasnansky family. Writing in the Globe and Mail, Leah Hager Cohen noted: “What makes this novel great is ultimately not really story or voice, but Bezmozgis’s tender, trenchant mastery of the idiom of the absurd.”
Misha Glenny – A regular contributor to the Guardian, the Observer, The New York Times and The New York Review of Books, Glenny uncovers more horrible things about the Internet that you’ll wish you didn’t know in his latest, DarkMarket: CyberThieves, CyberCops and You.
Watch – Misha Glenny’s TED Talk on global crime networks:
Lev Grossman – Grossman picked up the gauntlet thrown down by J.K. Rowling with his first novel The Magician, which the New York Times helpfully labeled “a Harry Potter for adults.” The author’s latest, The Magician King, is a sequel.
Denise Mina – The End of the Wasp Season is the latest from this Scottish crime writer, often praised for avoiding the cliches of the genre. It’s her ninth book; Mina has also written a story arc for the Hellblazer comic book series.
Thomas Pletzinger – A ménage-a-trois is at the heart of this German writer’s controversial debut novel, Bestattung eines Hundes (Funeral for a Dog), which has been translated to great acclaim. In the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Leland de la Durantaye writes that the novel has earned its success because it is “brilliantly constructed and finely written.”
Watch – Thomas Pletzinger talk about Funeral for a Dog:
Steven Price An award-winning poet, Price brings his finely honed wordcraft to a first novel, Into That Darkness, that depicts the aftermath of a massive earthquake on the West Coast. Robert J. Wiersema, writing in the National Post, called it “that rarest of books, a literary novel with the narrative momentum of genre or commercial writing.”
Andrew Westoll – Rise of the Planet of the Apes has nothing on The Chimps of Fauna Sanctuary. Andrew Westoll looks at the lives of chimps rescued from an experimental facility. Linda Spalding in the Globe and Mail calls it “an opera of dramatic events, heart-rending tragedies and uplifting triumphs.”
Moira Young – Former drama student, tap dancer and opera singer Young’s post-apocalyptic debut novel Blood Red Road is being compared to The Hunger Games, and has already been optioned by Ridley Scott. Kelly McManus, in the Globe and Mail, calls it a must-read and praises the author: “Young’s choices are refreshing. Blood Red Road moves at an incredible pace, peopled by characters that spring up fully formed and swinging.”
Linda Grant – The U.K. writer’s latest is We Had It So Good, which follows a group of Baby Boomers through the decades. Viv Groskop, in the Guardian: “Like the best novels, it makes you examine your own moral compass alongside that of its characters.”
Watch – Linda Grant introduce We Had It So Good: