Monday 29 September 2014

O God, O Montreal!

Not Montreal but Vancouver, actually. 

I had an email a few days from a good friend, a retired English publisher who lives in that Canadian city, in which he said, with customary drollness:

       Today I discovered that a "Literary Festival" in Vancouver will feature 177 local writers.

It does seem an awful lot of writers, doesn't it? 

This event is officially known as Vancouver Writers Festival (without an apostrophe) so I suppose one wouldn't expect a surfeit of choreographers or architects. A large number of them come, quite understandably from British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, but I was interested to see which writers will be representing Britain. There are seven of them, it turns out, and here they are, alphabetically: 

Esther Freud
Nick Grey
Rebecca Mead
Eimear McBride
Kate Pullinger
Sarah Waters
Robert Paul Weston

Confusingly they're all described as being from the United Kingdom, while Louise Welsh, listed separately, is said to hail from Scotland and is the only writer thus identified. The sole Irish writer is Colm Tóibín.

Eimear McBride is the main attraction, and I see she's sharing a platform with Norway's Karl Ove Knausgaard, which I suppose is a close as we'll get in our century to an encounter between Joyce and Ibsen. That sounds like a hot ticket. (Do, by the way, read James Wood's startling New Yorker review of McBride's debut A Girl is a Half-formed Thing.)

My Canadian friend added, by way of a sucker punch:

        I also discovered that Auden's and Lowell's "Collected" are in Compact Shelving. This where 
        Bulwer Lytton, Churton Collins and all the other authors that get no calls are housed, in storage.

So there you have it. Hundreds of writers swarm over Vancouver, a city where there's apparently no demand from readers for Auden and Lowell. There's a useful definition of post-modernism for you. But I was cheered to discover that there is at least a town called Auden near Ontario. This is in a region called (I'm not making this up) the Unorganized Thunder Bay District.  See here. It's not much of a town, and the railroad station appears to consist of nothing more than a signpost with the word AUDEN. It makes Black Rock look like Grand Central.

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