Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Two Days Down

It's into the wee hours in London, Ontario - pushing 4 am - and it is probably time to call it a night. But I wanted to write a quick post about the two events we've had here this week, before they get lost in the shuffle of what follows. This has been one of the best kickoffs to a Fall season we've ever had, and I mean that in a way that does not include the Giller nomination.

Alexander MacLeod's Light Lifting has been, for me, a long time coming. I remember back when Biblioasis as a press was still barely more than a glimmer, getting a drive from Alex in his beat up Toyota Tercel - a Tercel which makes a cameo in one of the stories -- from the Book Festival I was then organizing. He told me about his plans for this collection, and even though I was not yet even entirely sure I wanted to be a publisher, or the kind of publisher who did trade collections, I knew I wanted to publish this book. And I remember the despair I felt knowing that it would almost certainly never happen. I'd already read what would turn out to be the title story to the collection in Exile magazine, and knew that this book would be something special. Even when, several years later, we'd decided to work together, it took several more years to get to the point we reached this weekend: the evening in a Guelph Hotel I was able to put the book into his hand. One hurdle managed.

And, at that same hotel 30 hours later, we learned that we'd cracked the Giller's thirteen.

The next thing was the reading itself. Alex may be a hell of a writer. But could he read the stuff? Turns out he can. His first reading, not much more than 12 hours after he held his book for the first time, was a bit of a revelation. He had the crowd's entire attention, and the applause which greeted his closing was as spontaneous and genuine as any I heard all day. I have it on video, and will be posting it next week. It'll be worth a listen.

Today, we launched A. J. Somerset's Combat Camera. Though Andrew has had his book in hand a fair bit longer than Alex -- a week or so -- this was also the first time he'd read from his work. But when he read, following another excellent reading by Alex, he proved himself to be equally poised, equally skilled, and seemingly equally comfortable. So much so that a newspaper man in the audience who goes to readings almost weekly commented that he was amazed that two rookie authors were so damned good. An hour and a half of stories and questions and discussion passed as quickly and entertainingly as any I've been part of as a publisher. Then we topped off an excellent evening and one of the more frantic and exhilarating I've had as a publisher with a few beers and exceptional company, including Jean McKay, David Hickey and Melissa Krone from TNQ.

Two hours from now Andrew will be on a plane to Winnipeg to read at Thin Air, twice in one day. And in six to seven hours I'll be driving Alex down the road to Toronto for his This is Not A Reading Series event at the Gladstone. i wish I could be at both, though I take solace from the fact that they'll be sharing a stage in Windsor in a couple of days.

So, please: if you find yourself in the same city with one of these gents over the next month or so, please take a chance and go to see them. You won't be disappointed.

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