Trillium Book Award Author Readings June 16

Open Book on the Road: Kingston WritersFest (Part Two of Four)

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Kingston WritersFest is proving to be one of the top literary festivals in Canada. This year, the festival ran from September 22-25, and attendance topped 4,000, with an audience that included local, national and international guest. Open Book editors Grace O'Connell and Clelia Scala travelled to the Limestone City to take in the weekend's festivities. We saw many wonderful readings and had dozens of marvelous conversations. We'd like to share with you a few of the festival highlights.

Friday, September 23: Book Lovers Lunch with Ben McNally

Toronto bookseller Ben McNally treated the well-fed crowd to a rapid-fire overview of the season's best books in his 25 Books in 25 Minutes presentation. Amazing not only for the quality of the books but the breadth of McNally's reading, the list covered the best of the season's fiction and non-fiction. Special praise was reserved for Michael Ondaatje's new novel The Cat's Table. Since McNally is dedicated to bringing new work to readers, he mentioned he wouldn't normally include a book already so widely publicized, but that he felt he had to highlight Ondaatje's "best book since The English Patient."

Other notables included The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht and what is arguably the season's breakout book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

The following Q&A touched on several subjects, including the always-lively paper vs. electronic debate. While McNally focused on the importance of reading, regardless of the platform, he also noted, "the book remains the most sustainable technology."

A sunny afternoon on the sixth floor (despite a forecast of rain), the crowd had a great view of beautiful Wolfe Island and the LaSalle Causeway — but no one had eyes for anything but McNally's enticing list. — Grace O'Connell

Friday, September 23: Shame, Truth, and Reconciliation: Roméo Dallaire & Antjie Krog

The crowd was large for "Shame, Truth, and Reconciliation", a conversation with Roméo Dellaire and Antjie Krog, which was moderated by Noah Richler. Bracing for what promised and proved to be an important but emotionally difficult conversation, some members of the audience passed boxes of Kleenex through the rows as they waited for the event to start.

A poet, translator and journalist, Krog spoke, among other things, of harrowing accounts she had heard while reporting on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and she read from her book, Country of My Skull. At one point, Dellaire said that writing and researching his two books, Shake Hands with the Devil and They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children, was like "going to hell and trying to describe it to others."

During the question period, an audience member asked what he personally could do to help prevent genocide. Dellare responded with three points: (1) Join or create a NGO. (2) Every young person should have underneath his or her bed a pair of boots with the soil of a developing country on them. (3) "We're nowhere near prevention," Dellare said, "we're not even competent at conflict resolution." — Clelia Scala

Top photo: Kingston WritersFest's Merilyn Simonds (Artistic Director) & Danika Lochhead (Media Relations). Photo by Open Book.
Middle photo: Ben McNally & Jan Walters. Photo by Open Book.
Bottom photo: Roméo Dallaire & Antjie Krog. Photo by Bernard Clark, courtesy of Kingston WritersFest.

Read Part One of our coverage of Kingston WritersFest. Check back tomorrow for Part Three.

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