Vancouver International Writers Festival

Waterfront Theatre, Granville Island, Vancouver BC

Saturday, 21 October 2000

The blurb reads, "Laughter will fill the aisles and spill out onto the road after these four Festival authors finish this Saturday night." Well, not quite.

Cordelia Strube, actor, playwright, and author was the first speaker. She told the full house that she writes with subtle humour about beautiful losers. She read from, "Teaching Pigs to Sing", her third novel that received a Governor General's Award nomination in 1996. The dark humour and animated reading revealed the tale of a teenage son, a murder, a court case, and the "thugs in blue". The story opened well, "It started with me thinking there was a man in the house." The story's conclusion was obscure. The book needed to be read.

Nicolas Jose worked as cultural attaché for the Australian Embassy in Beijing, China from 1987 to 1990. Before reading from his latest novel, "The Red Thread" he revealed that the passage was unlikely to make people laugh. Taking the word "humour" as a verb, he hoped his listeners, however, would be gratified. They were. In a rich voice, the author read a passage set in present day Shanghai. The three protagonists in the story are convinced they are reliving a passionate love story recounted in a centuries old literary classic. They spend a night in a hotel together-two lovers, and a concubine.

"Sex in the City" is one of the most popular series on television. Candace Bushnell is the author of the best selling book from which the series evolved. Claiming the main character to be her alter ego, Ms Bushnell looked every inch the savvy woman from Manhattan from her sparkling designer boots, her mauve harem pants, to her red satin shirt. The excerpt from her new novel, "Four Blondes", was delivered with humour appropriate to the "B model, thinking man's sex symbol" the shallow Janie Wilcox and her summer stint with the equally obnoxious, Harold Vane in The Hamptons.

The real belly laughs resulted from the seriously funny reading given by Leon Rooke. This Governor General's Award winner in 1981 for his novel, "Shakespeare's Dog", read this evening from his latest book, "The Fall of Gravity". The tale is of an obsessed husband trailing with his daughter after his runaway wife. The circumstances in which the main characters find themselves stem from their eccentricities, similar (one might imagine) to those of the author himself.

After the readings and question period, the patrons swarmed out of the theatre into the lobby for their books to be autographed. From the jovial pushing and shoving to get to their favourite authors, it was clear that the audience was not yet ready to relinquish their warm laughter or spill out into the cold, crisp night.--June Heywood