Q: How many authors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Half of them don’t need lightbulbs … they are reading off iPads.

IFOA Season. I’m off in a bit, possibly even wearing a tie (decision yet to be made), for four meetings and functions today – and I don’t even have any public performances this year. The International Festival of Authors is in full swing, and 100+ writers have gathered in Toronto … to watch San Francisco vs St Louis Game 7 tonight, No. To warch Obama vs Romney tonight. No. To check out the hotel bar and …

But yes, there are a lot of writers here. IFOA was begun a long time ago by a man named Greg Gatenby and has flourished. A somewhat controversial figure towards the end of his tenure, Gatenby is to be credited for creating and maintaining a literary event here in Toronto that is one of the most important in the world. He initiated a concept of treating his guest writers exceptionally well (there are stories) and IFOA glows brightly on the yearly map of such festivals. The culture media here (what’s left of that) and the publishing world (Canada’s is centred in Toronto, of course) go just a tiny bit crazy.

It is fun, and lively, and the gods know that the book world needs all the attention and support it can get. If I sometimes shake my head, with two scotches  in me, about the blurring of what makes good writing with what makes good stand-up comedy from an author or mellifluous performance, that’s nothing new in our society. We do steadily blur any line between the work and the maker. I worry at times about the gifted writer who doesn’t much like microphones, Q&A’s, cocktail parties, the people who became writers because they weren’t very much into social interaction let alone public performance.

Still, every age shapes the skill-sets that signify for it, and right now Twitter, Facebook, Journals such as this one, and being charming on stage are major elements of the literary process. And I do know that Dickens and Shaw and Dylan Thomas, among others, were stellar because of their performing, too.

Means lamenting this, trying to turn our focus back purely to the writing is pointless. King Canute is often cited as the poster-boy for arrogant monarchs … he’s said to have ordered the tide to stop coming in and (surprise!) appears to have failed. The true story seems to be otherwise. Canute was surrounded by sycophantic flatterers at his court, telling him that his might and prowess were so very great even the sea would obey him. Canute called their bluff, deeply aware of his limitations, and took them to the seashore to show the tide wouldn’t listen.

I find that story way more interesting. If Canute had only gone on the talk show circuit, or had enough Twitter followers, and told it that way a few times, we might regard him as a hero of sorts.

Off to hang with some of the 100+. Cheering for the Giants tonight. Expect the debate to be fractious and without any knockout punches. Also, glumly, predicting that election is so close there almost have to be legal challenges on election night.



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