Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bright Lights, Big Reading


The next leg of the triumphant Biblioasis fall tour begins with a whimper emitted by a writer forced to rise before the sun to make his train. There is a certain amount of groggy stumbling about, and the packing of last minute supplies: two bottles of whisky, a large bottle of Tylenol, a number four Phillips screwdriver, a small flashlight, and a large Band-Aid. Not all of these things will prove necessary, but it is best to be prepared. You never know.
The countryside is sodden. Somewhere beyond Kingston, a driver decides to race a westbound train, and loses. All trains sit stopped until the investigation is complete, although there seems to be little left of the car to investigate. The train arrives in Montreal an hour late.
The hotel is perhaps insalubrious. The room features a non-functional Jacuzzi and, surprisingly, mirrors on the ceiling. All attempts to relax are futile; staring up at your reflection in the mirror induces immediate and uncontrolled giggle fits. You examine this throwback to a forgotten era of tastelessness while sipping The Famous Grouse from a plastic cup. Whether the mirror or the whisky is more alarming is an open question. It is just possible that this is rock bottom.`
You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the evening, but here you are, and you can`t say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar. Drawn & Quarterly is packed, and discreet inquiries confirm that the crowd is here for the reading, not merely for the chance to get in out of the rain. People shake your hand and congratulate you. You thank them. Gnawing at the back of your mind is the question of what you`re going to read.
Harold Hoefle reads first, having lost the coin toss. Alexander MacLeod introduces you with the weight and gravitas proper to a Giller finalist: "This book is about war. It's about pornography. And it doesn't suck!"
You read. People question, You answer. There is a certain amount of signing things, chiefly books.
It is now necessary to brace yourself against the considerable strain of the reading experience. You stumble out into the street and into the nearest bar. You haven't eaten since lunch, and lunch itself is debatable, provided as it was by Via Rail. The word at the bar is to avoid the quiche. Also, the hot wings, french fries, onion rings and nachos. Rumour has it that the pizza is safe. It is difficult to identify the toppings in the poor light. You engage in a preventive disingection of the alimentary canal using alcohol, a highly effective disinfectant.
Someone begins dancing on a table. You could swear it. The rest is a blur. You recall laughing at your reflection on the ceiling just before losing consciousness.
The next leg of the triumphant Biblioasis fall tour begins with a whimper emitted by a writer forced to rise before the sun to make his train....

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