by Jennifer Clark
This was my first Mainstage event at this year’s Thin Air festival, and I came in thinking a short interview would follow each writer’s reading. There were six writers on board, and before arriving I wondered about the logistics: how could they possibly fit that many discussions in a two hour event? After realizing that there were no interviews—in reality, each writer is given about 12 minutes to speak—I can only assume that Thin Air readings I’ve attended in past years were so revealing that I thought there was a discussion to draw that information out. It’s the great passages they showcase, and the glimpses of their lives that they share, that likely left that impression with me.
This evening didn’t disappoint, either. The theme was “Women on the Front Lines,” and Caroline Adderson, Monia Mazigh, Joan Thomas, Alison Pick, Audrey Thomas and Miriam Toews all read from their new books.
Ellen in Pieces is Caroline Adderson’s latest novel. In the darkly funny scene Adderson read, Ellen is in the midst of her second break-up with her ex-husband when she resists an impulse to sleep with one of her clients. Why does she stop herself? Let’s just say the reason will give you the creepy crawlies.
Monia Mazigh read from her novel, Mirrors and Mirages, which explores the perspectives of Canadian Muslim women. We met three in her reading: Sally, who becomes radicalized at a young age despite her moderate upbringing; Samia, a wealthy woman who immigrated from Kuwait with her husband and daughters; and Louise, who converts to Islam much to the dismay of her mother.
The Opening Sky is Joan Thomas’s third novel and what she calls her “Winnipeg novel” (references in her reading included Charleswood, Fort Richmond and our Fringe Festival). Sylvie, a university student, goes for her first ultrasound after finding out that she and her environmental activist boyfriend are pregnant—despite his membership in the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.
|Charlene Diehl, Miriam Toews (it appears we can read her thoughts!) and Audrey Thomas|
Alison Pick came with her memoir, Between Gods. In her funny and poignant reading she described her first, tentative foray into psychotherapy.
Audrey Thomas read from her book Local Customs, which is based on the true story of Letitia Landon, a successful British writer from the 1830s who marries relatively late in life, travels to West Africa with her new husband and dies shortly after.
Miriam Toews closed the event with an excerpt from All My Puny Sorrows, a sad and funny novel about family, love and loss. This was the only book featured this evening that I’d had a chance to read and I was looking forward to hearing Toews read from it. She read from the second chapter, in which Yoli has to cope when her older sister Elfrieda leaves to study piano in Norway. I attended this event with members from my book club, which discussed Miriam Toew's book, A Complicated Kindness, earlier this month. We all enjoyed the opportunity to hear all these writers read from their work.