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By Jeannette Bodnar
Friday Night was the last main stage event of the year.
The line-up included Lucie Wilk, Dennis Cooley, Lauren Carter, Daniel Canty, and Andrew Pyper. I never know what to expect at main stage events. Despite the descriptions, the influence of audience, artist, and subject keep you from knowing where the night will lead. Friday night was no exception. The previous venues of the week had proved a combination of performance art, education, and therapy. The title, Revelations, gave me the impression that Friday night would also prove to be a combination of the three.
The evening began with a reading by Lucie Wilk. Her book, The Strength of Bone, is set in Malawi and focuses on a doctor and the revelations he comes to through his experiences and interactions. The first excerpt Wilk read could be described as revelations through the lens of a microscope. Wilk, a doctor herself, demonstrates the importance of connecting with what you write. I have read books where the protagonists are doctors, and although they are well researched books, the way Wilks is able to convey the cellular world in such beautiful detail shows her passion for inner workings of the human body, giving the reader the gift of believable insight into the mind of protagonist Dr. Henry Bryce.
The next to read was Dennis Cooley. Cooley’s collection of poems entitled The Stones was a nice contrast to the sombre mood set by Wilk. Dennis seems like the kind of guy you could meet in a pub and he’d tell you a simple story about anything – a stone for example – and you’d turn it over in your mind for the next three days trying to grasp the greater significance of it all. I think the greatest poets do that, they’re able to make a boulder size impression with only a pebble. Cooley’s wit makes his poetry accessible and fun. I imagine I will read this collection in a single afternoon, not having the self-control to examine the finer elements of its structure until my second time through.
LaurenCarter was the last to take the stage before intermission. Her debut book, Swarm, is set in the near future and examines the process of revelation through Sandy, a protagonist who must examine her past to come to terms with her present desires. Both the premise and setting of this book are intriguing. Although set in the future, the story is not consumed by the complexities and details of futuristic life the way other sci-fi narratives might. Instead, the futuristic setting seems to bring forth the obstacles needed for the protagonist to explore her inner conflict. Carter’s reading was eloquent and left the audience spellbound.
The first author to return to the stage after the break was Daniel Canty. Wigrum, a collection that Diehl described as “a compendium of voices delicately written, delicately observed”, is a compilation that Canty explains can be read in any order. Diehl proposed the question to the audience: “Can you reconstruct a life from objects left behind?” I’m still not sure, but my brief glimpse into Canty’s charming vignettes gave me the sense of that which we leave behind has the power to connect us to others. Canty’s capacity to seamlessly weave humour and compassion in his writing demonstrates his knack for showing the darkness and light of life in a distinct format.
The final author to grace the stage was Andrew Pyper. Pyper generously set up his reading by explaining that he is constantly drawn to the ghost story collections so typically found in airports and supermarkets. After reading countless collections of these stories Pyper explained that: “what emerged was how often people disregard what emotional things are happening in their lives (when the paranormal happens).” He drew what he regarded as, “a connection between the emotional experience and the supernatural.” Pyper’s reading of The Demonologist had the audience on the edge of their seats, and made for an eerie ending to the evening.
It’s my understanding that the closest thing to undergoing a personal revelation is to experience one through characters written by a great writer. Friday’s main stage event reinforced my belief that authors are magicians with the capacity to transform a reader in way that only time would otherwise have the power to do. I once read that having a baby is like falling in love and experiencing a revolution. Friday night’s authors proved that reading a good book can be the same.