The Curtain Call

For WordFest’s final day, for its’ final event actually, it was back to the Kinnear building yesterday afternoon, for “Curtain Call,” an event featuring David Bezmozgis, Helen Humphreys, Stuart MacBride, Thomas Pletzinger, and Madeleine Thien.  For the second time on Sunday, we were in a room with a spectacular view.  But I suppose there aren’t many places on the side of a mountain in Banff, that don’t have a spectacular one.

My seat for the event was next to the window, and naturally, my head would turn to the West, as I stared down the valley, almost hypnotized by the scenery.  It was actually perfect for listening to a reading, because when watching the scenery instead of the author, I found myself fully immersed in the passage they read.  It was like listening to a book on CD, while sitting in a dark room.  Talking later in the day to someone about this, they mentioned how they were listening to Guy Vanderhaeghe the night before, with their eyes closed, as a way of creating that same effect.  I’ll have to try that sometime.  Or just ensure there is a hypnotic view available to send me into a trance.  But I’ll have to be sure I don’t cross the line and fall asleep.  And it’s a very fine line at that.

I was particularly interested to hear Thomas Pletzinger speak at this event.  His novel, Funeral for a Dog, was my most recent WordFest read, and since it is still quite fresh in my mind, I was curious to see how knowing the book would change my appreciation of a reading.  It does make for a little bit of a different experience.  When an author is reading a book I’ve read, I am already familiar with the characters and the story and so forth.  Unlike most of the readings I’ve heard this week, I wasn’t being parachuted into the middle of a story.  I also knew what was going to happen, so most of my concentration was focused on how the author read the passage, listening to their emotion and inflections.

I also had the opportunity to talk to Herr Pletzinger later last night, at the wrap-up party.  When I read his book, as is the case with any translated work, I wonder how much of the author’s work is actually in the translation.  At the end of the day, I’m not exactly reading what they wrote.  I was curious as to what role the author played in the translation and it turns out, at least in Thomas Pletzinger’s case, to be quite a substantial one.  Thomas said when he last checked his inbox for emails from the translator, regarding the book, there were 714 messages, each with “around 50 or so questions,” each pertaining to his thoughts on a specific word or sentence.  So, I guess that could be filed under, ‘quite involved!’

Following ‘Curtain Call,’ there was a bit of an empty feeling, which I always find with multi-day events, because you know that everything is almost over for another year.  I always find that happens each year at the Stampede when the crowd is a little more subdued on the final Sunday, as everybody realizes everything’s almost over.  It was still a great event of course, hearing from five great authors, with the majestic Rockies in the background.  Quite a nice afternoon really.

Technically, I suppose it wasn’t really the final event, as there was a wrap up party at The Banff Centre’s maclab bistro last night.  It was an opportunity for staff, volunteers, and artists to get together, have a drink and nibble on some food.  And may I point out that there was pizza.  Lots of pizza.  I did get a little anxious on my first trip through the buffet line, where there were only a couple of pieces left.  I was left with a dilemma; do I pile all four pieces onto my plate, and deal with the shame of my gluttony?  Or do I only take two pieces, and risk the chance of there not being any more pizza delivered, and thus passing up on potential pie?  I decided to only take two pieces, thinking that there was a good chance there would be more pizza, and if not I could indulge my senses with cheese and nachos.  The move paid off, as there was plenty of pizza to go around at the end of the night, even enough for a certain crime writer to take some back to her room to enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures; eating pizza on a hotel room bed.

The wrap up party was more than just pizza bliss though; it was also a great chance to talk to the people I’d been working with all week, including other WordFest staff, volunteers, and the authors and artists.  It also ensured I’d only be awake for two or three minutes after my head hit the pillow.

Don’t forget to follow the Official WordFest hashtag on twitter, #wordfest2011

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