Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Walrus Talks: more tickets made available!

Great news! The SOLD OUT Walrus Talks event has released ten more tickets to Blue Met, but you have to move quickly! The Walrus Talks this year features Alix Ohlin, Al Rae, Lisa Moore, George Elliot Clarke, Zoe Whittall, Josip Novakovich and Shelah ROgers. The them is State of Mind and the event as at McCord Museum on Sherbrooke Street at 2pm on Saturday, May 3. Get your tickets now and secure your spot! Click here to be directed to the buy now page at La Vitrine.

Newfoundland writer, Lisa Moore, at The Walrus Talks!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Richard Ford, Kevin Barry, Josip Novakovich: Blue Met 2014

Dutch edition of Canada
When Richard Ford confirmed his presence at the Blue Met 2014 back in the fall, I was considering some way  to work in setting to one of his events because it seems to be such a key part of his writing. And not just the setting in one particular novel but the fact that his novels have such a variety of settings (Saskatchewan and MontanaNew JerseyMexico, etc.).

Then when we nailed down the participation of Irish writer Kevin Barry I knew I had the way in because Barry's work, too, is wedded to place in very unique ways. Unlike Ford, Barry sets most of his books in Ireland though it might be contemporary Ireland or a vague near-future Ireland. Barry is an interesting writing and is one of those rare fiction authors who can make you laugh out loud, not only at one his neurotic protagonists think and feel but at the hum-drum but also bizarre situations these protagonists find themselves in. His short story collection, Dark Lies the Island, was so well done that after I finished it (in almost one sitting), I flipped back and re-read it (most of it, anyway), something I almost never do.
Irish writer Kevin Barry

Josip Novakovich is a writer whose career is just plain interesting: I saw him  years ago at Blue Met (before I ever had any idea I would work here!) when he launched his book April Fool's Day and I had not heard of him before then (this was probably 2005 or 2006). I got his book and read it over the next few weeks and was mesmerized by it. Then he did a small collection with Snare a few years back called Three Deaths which, again, really impressed me (that small publishing house managed to publish some really great stuff in its short run). For Novakovich himself, place is key to his writing as he's noted in interviews as well as in his most recent book, Shopping for a Better Country.

Ford, Barry and Novakovich will be at Hotel 10 in Salle Godin on Sunday, May 4 at 11:00am to talk about how place informs their writing. Hosted by Slate Magazine's Stephen Metcalf, the event is sure to be one that will be a highlight of our Festival this year. The event tickets are $15 and can be bought here. This one will definitely sell out so don't wait too long!

Structuring Landscape: Ford, Barry, Novakovich      (photo credit here)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blue Met 2014: check out these off-beat events!

Check out some of these off-beat events at Blue Met 2014:

Wu Ming-yi's amazing novel
Translating Catastrophe: Environmental Writing and The Man with the Compound Eyes: one of the most interesting and innovative books I read this year in preparing for the Festival was Taiwanese writer, Wu Ming-yi's book The Man with the Compound Eyes. The book is fascinating, set in contemporary Taiwan but with echoes to folklore and more traditional storytelling. Wu is very interested in showing us the state of the environment in East Asia and Taiwan but he does it with such elegance and innovation. I read this book on a plane and I was riveted for hours to my seat. Wu will be here with his translator (and an excellent translator: I read lots of translated fiction and am often surprised at bad translations, but Darryl Sterk has a bright future ahead of him) and Yan Liang from Radio-Canada International. This event is on Saturday, May 3 at 5:30 pm at Hotel 10. Tickets are $7 and can be purchased here.

Zombies and Vampires: this will be fun. Two writers and academics will discuss the prevalence of zombies and vampires in popular culture. Why are we so fascinated with the dead/undead in movies, tv and comic books? What do these tropes say about the fears of our culture? And are they ironic portrayals meant to assuage our fears or is something else going on? This is a coffee event so the $7 ticket includes free coffee. Special bonus: Michael Enright of CBC will be at the event to add his opinion on the topic (following on a popular edition of his show recently about zombies). Tickets to this coffee event can be purchased here and the event is schedules for Saturday, May 3 at 11:30am.

Two crime writing events of note! Italian crime-writer Carlo Lucarelli writes fascinating historical crime thrillers set in Italy just after WWII. His De Luca trilogy has been highly successful and personally since crime novels often work as kinds of travelogues (as in books which introduce a country or city to a reader), I love the fact that his works are often set in the past, as if the past itself were a kind of country he is opening up to us. In the past our Italian crime events have always sold out so I'm expecting nothing less here. The other crime event is with Austrian writer, Wolf Haas, whose series has also been highly successful. Set in contemporary Austria, his novels featuring Simon Brenner are fast-paced and funny. The Crimes of Carlo Lucarelli is scheduled for Saturday, May 3 at 2:30pm at Hotel 10 and is hosted by Marianna Simeone. The Resurrection of the Bone Man is also hosted by Marianna but is scheduled for Thursday, May 1 at 5:30pm. Italian writer Carlo Lucarelli's event tickets ($10) can be bought here. And Austrian writer Wolf Haas' event tickets ($7)  can be purchased here.

One other note: all our meal events are sold out! That means no more seats left for Breakfast with Marguerite Duras (in French) nor for An Ironic Shakespeare Breakfast.

Taiwanese writer Wu Ming-yi

Monday, April 21, 2014

Marquez, Matthiessen, Macleod. And The Walrus Talks at Blue Met 2014

It's been a sad couple of literary weeks with the passing of Marquez and Alistair MacLeod. In all honesty, I wasn't terribly familiar with MacLeod's work though I've read much of Marquez's work. Neither had written anything new in years so I suppose their passings represented slow declines.

But the death of Peter Matthiessen was one that bummed me out. I only discovered him in earnest a few months ago, actually, when I read Nine-headed Dragon River. I was so fascinated with that book that I went out and found Snow Leopard. Both of these books made a deep impression on me both for the writing but also for the voice of Matthiessen, how his protagonists (though one was a journal, so it was really him) were "men of their time" at the same time looking at issues of universal significance. So they were both of their times but also in other ways timeless. I heard that he had a new work coming out and it seemed his new book came out at the same time they were announcing his death. I was in Vermont over the weekend and did see it in several shop windows, though I didn't get a copy for some reason (I am in book overload mode and can't bear to buy any more books until after the Festival is over, I supposed). But it's at the top of my summer reading list. Though he was in his late 80s, I love that Matthiessen was still working and did much of his best work well past his 50s and 60s.

At any rate, back to Festival promotion...

With one week left before the Festival starts, we have about 10 days before The Walrus Talks event. Last
year this event sold out before the Festival began and this year the tickets are going fast. But there are still 20-25 left. It's a great concept: novelists, poets, thinkers, journalists and (this year) even a comedian all come together and talk on a topic. This year the topic is States of Mind and the event features Alix Ohlin (Giller short-listed for her novel Inside), Lisa Moore, Madeleine Thien (Dogs at the Perimeter, one of my favorite novels of recent years), Al Rae, Shelagh Rogers, George Elliot Clarke, Zoe Whittall, and Josip Novakovich (short-listed Booker International nominee). This will be a fascinating afternoon with ideas we can take away and ponder. Several times over the last year, various people have said something about last year's Walrus Talk, something someone said, an idea brought up (the theme was Building Bridges which is an issue constantly on Montrealers' minds).  The Walrus Talks event is on Saturday, May 3 at 2pm at McCord Museum. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

CBC and Blue Met

This year, as every year, CBC plays a major part in our Festival. Some of Canada's best-loved broadcasters and literary/cultural journalists come and record their shows live at the Festival. Here are some CBC events to consider adding to your list of Blue Met activities:

Mark Lavorato and Serafim & Claire
Paul Kennedy and Historical Montreal: this year in Montreal, three local writers have all published books set in a Montreal of the past. Mark Lavorato (Serafim & Claire), Elaine Kalman Naves (Portrait of a Scandal), and Susan Doherty (Hannaford) will be on-stage to talk to Paul Kennedy about the history of our city and what it's like to research and write a book set in the past. Lavarato's book is a novel and explores a Montreal of the 1920s through the dual lenses of class and love. Naves' book considers a shocking 19th century trial which had the city mesmerized. And Doherty's novel considers a young boy who finds refuge in his music. This event is on Saturday, May 3 at 1:00pm at Hotel 10. It will be recorded and then used as part of Kennedy's immensely popular Ideas series. $10. Get your tickets here.

Paul Kennedy is back again with one of Africa's writing stars, Ondjaki. Granta
Angola's Ondjaki, one of Africa's Top Five Writers
called Ondjaki one of Africa's Top Five writers and his books have been widely translated into many languages. Ondjaki is here to promote his new novel, Granma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret which is a comic romp set in Luanda, Angola's capital city (translated by Stephen Henighan and published by Biblioasis, one of Canada's funkiest and most innovative publishing houses). Kennedy speaks to Ondjaki at Hotel 10 on Saturday, May 3 at 8:00 pm. Get your tickets here.

Jeanette Kelly talks to three women writer who all have books that explore how women survive trauma. From Ann Charney's war refugee and migrant in Life Class to Elise Moser's young protagonist who's witnessed a horrific murder in Lily & Taylor to US writer Koethi Zan whose book, The Never List, was a publishing sensation and best-seller in Europe. Kelly talks to the three writers in an event called Women Writing Trauma, Writing Survival at Hotel 10 on Saturday, May 3 at 5:00 pm. Tickets are here.

American Koethi Zan

Of course, our two big CBC events at the Grande Bibliotheque continue to sell very well: Eleanor Wachtel and Luis Alberto Urrea (winner of the 2014 Metropolis Azul prize) on Saturday, May 3 at 6pm. Tickets here. And Michael Enright at the Grand Bibliotheque with 2014 Literary Prize winner Richard Ford (4pm). Tickets available here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blue Met 2014: Not to miss events!

Here are a few not to be missed events as part of Blue Met 2014: sales are moving briskly along one week after our official press conference.Yes, some events are already sold out! But before we announce those, here are a few events that are selling well and will certainly sell out in the next week or so.

Luis Alberto Urrea: the winner of our 2014 Metropolis Azul prize will appear on-stage at the Grand Bibliotheque, 475 De Maisonneuve East on Saturday, May 2 at 6:00 pm. CBC's Writers & Company's Eleanor Wachtel, discussing Urrea's award-winning novel, Queen of America, and his non-fiction which explores the fraught & highly complex relationship between Mexico and the United States.

Urrea's book, Queen of America, is fascinating. Set in Mexico and US of the late 19th century, Urrea tells the tale of a young woman with one foot in the mystical world ("the most dangerous woman in Mexico," she is reputed to be) who sets out on a dangerous journey (avoiding would-be captors and murderers) to define who she is.

A highly lyrical writer, Urrea is an original voice though one can certainly hear vestiges of classic Latin writers in his approach, straddling as he does the world of the rational with the world of the mystical. This event will definitely sell out so don't hesitate! Tickets are $15 (and there are still a few days left to take advantage of the reduced rate promotion!)

Get your tickets to see Luis Alberto Urrea and Eleanor Wachtel here.

Carolina De Robertis will talk to Shelley Pomerance on Friday, May 2 at 7:00 pm at Hotel 10, 10 Sherbrooke Street West. De Robertis is a writer who has written two amazing novels blending history and women's lives in very moving ways. A big fan of her first book, The Invisible Mountain, I am personally very excited that she will be here meeting our Festivaliers. Each year we're thrilled to bring some big stars to our public, but in some ways I get even more excited about writers who I want our audience to love, writers they may not yet know.

The Invisible Mountain tells the story of three generations of women, again straddling the mystical, and in the process, tells the history of the tiny and beautiful country of Uruguay. It's through Uruguay, in fact, that I discovered De Robertis: a visit there a number of years ago put that land on my radar and I have been very interested in it ever since.

Her latest book, Perla, gives us a glimpse into a young woman's possible breakdown and/or interaction with a ghost from Argentina's Dirty War. I can't give away too much, but the book shows us what happens when a country (when a family, when a person) goes over "to the dark side" and how those scars linger for years and years to come. Tickets are $10 (another few days take advantage of the reduced rate promotion!)

Get your tickets to see Carolina de Robertis and Shelley Pomerance here.

Both of the above events are part of our series on Latin America at the 2014 Festival. Check out the entire programme for more details (Latin America programming is on page 23 of the attached PDF).

Finally, History and Family Lore are on the docket when Urrea, local writing sensation, David Homel, and African novelist and poet Ondjaki get together to consider the stories we're told growing up. Urrea's Queen of America is loosely based on his own family's histories and the life story of his great-aunt, Teresita (read about her real life story here). Homel chronicles Chicago bootleggers of the 1920s in his new novel, The Fledglings (stories which were based on his grandmother's tales growing up). And Ondjaki's novel, too, Grandma Nineteen and the Soviet's Secret, is based on stories from and about his grandmother in Angola's capital, Luanda. This event is on Saturday, May 3 at 3:30pm at Las Americas, 2075 St-Laurent (just one block away from our venue hotel, Hotel 10). Tickets are $10 and the promotional rate (which offers a discount from this price) expires early next week!

Hosted by Anne Lagace Dowson, you can get your tickets to see Urrea, Homel and Ondjaki here.

Finally, I have to announce that the Slate Culture Gabfest event is sold out! But you still have a chance to be part of the Slate experience as there are still a handful of tickets left for the Slate We Love Montreal Happy Hour at Bily Kun, 354 du Mont-Royal Est on Saturday, May 3 at 5:00 pm. They're going to go fast, though! Tickets are $20 and include a free drink.

Get your tickets to Slate's We Love Montreal Happy Hour here.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Web Series: High Maintenance

This web series, High Maintenance, has been getting a bit of buzz around the Internet and I've been really enjoying it. I've tried and tried to get into some web series but none has really done much for me. This one has really been the first one I have liked a lot.

The Outs started out well but the acting was iffy at best and the script was just plain bad in long sections.
Ben Sinclair as the dealer

Little Horribles had really funny moments but a little bit goes a very very long way.

But High Maintenance is different: it doesn't follow any set running gag and it's creative in its structure. The basic premise centers around a marijuana dealer in Brooklyn. Each episode features a totally different cast of characters and the only thing each episode really has in common is that at some point, the weed dealer will show up. Sometimes he plays a major role in the episode, sometimes he's just on screen for a few minutes. And there is a lot of overlap: certain characters show up again in later episodes and there are some running motifs that continue to show up (magic, secrets, petty crime). Many episodes are funny, some are haunting, often moving. Some characters are sweet, some damaged, some really horrible people. And Brooklyn is both lauded and laughed at throughout (as Slate noted aptly: it has aspects of Portlandia to it but also Lena Dunham's Girls. Personally, I find the web series better than both.)

Dan Steves in High Maintenance
And a bonus: a few episodes ago featured Dan Stevens aka the late Matthew Crawley from Downton Abbey. And what a great episode it was! The thing I love about the writing generally of this show is they have this ability to make you think the episode is going on one direction when suddenly you realize you've been had and things have taken a dramatic turn in an unexpected way.

Another series that looks promising is Ghost Girls though I've only seen one episode so far.

I find that at this time of year, I have little patience for movies or TV series. So 6-10 minute episodes of web series work really well.

If you haven't seen it yet, check it out. There are like 14 episodes available now and they are all under 12 minutes (most under 10). And better still: you don't have to watch them in any order. Just pick and choose by name (each episode is titled with a person's name).

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Slate Magazine in Montreal!!

Slate Magazine's super popular Slate Culture Gabfest is one of our Festival highlights this year.

Stephen, Dana and Julia will all be here to discuss some of the most interesting cultural events of the past week and with some connection to Montreal and Canada.

Hear the hosts talk about the upcoming show and rave about Montreal (Julia hangs out with far more interesting people than I do) on their latest podcast episode.

Whether you're a podcast aficionado and have many queued up on your iPhone or whether you're new to podcasts, check the episode above out (also available on iTunes): they talk about the film Noah and some recent television news.

Slate will be doing two events at the Festival:

On Saturday, May 3, the hosts of the podcast welcome you to Bily Kun in the Plateau for a 5 a 7 in one of the coolest bars in Montreal. For a mere $20 (drink included), you can have a private chat with the hosts, meet other Slate fans, and be a part of this rare opportunity at the podcast's first international event. You can buy tickets here.

On Sunday, May 4 at 2pm at Hotel 10, they record the podcast live at the Festival. This one's gonna sell out so move fast! Tickets are $15 and can be purchased here.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Richard Ford wins Blue Met's 2014 Grand Prize

We are very happy to announce that American writer Richard Ford has been awarded the 2014 Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prize. The prize, awarded since 2000, is given each year to a writer of international caliber. Past winners include Paul Auster, Marie-Clair Blais, A.S. Byatt, Margaret Atwood, Carlos Fuentes and others.

Ford is most recently known for his 2011 novel, Canada, which is set on the high plains of Saskatchewan
and tells the story of a young man whose life is overturned when his parents are arrested for bank robbery. It's a moving novel that shows how resilience is built into our characters, the will to survive and roll with the punches when life takes an unexpected turn.

Ford's earlier works include Independence Day, The Ultimate Good Luck (one of my personal favorites) and short story collections Rock Springs.

Richard Ford will be a part of three major events at the Festival:

On Friday, May 2, he will be interviewed on-stage at Chapters/Indigo at Montreal Trust by Fiona Downey. This event starts at 6pm and is free!

On Saturday, May 3, he will be on-stage with CBC's Michael Enright at the Bibliotheque Nationale on Maisonneuve downtown (at Berri-UQAM station). This event starts at 4pm and will include the awarding of the prize and an interview to be broadcast on CBC. Last year this event sold out before the Festival even started so get your tickets early to guarantee a spot. Tickets can be purchased at La Vitrine.

IMPAC/Dublin winner Kevin Barry
Finally, on Sunday, May 4 at 11:00am, Ford will appear with Irish writer Kevin Barry and Montreal writer Josip Novakovich at an event hosted by Slate Magazine's Stephen Metcalf: Structuring Landscape. With writers like Ford, Barry and Novakovich who all set their books in specific places that figure large in their work, the conversation should be interesting: from the plains of the prairies to pre-break up Yugoslavia to Ireland of the future. Tickets are available at La Vitrine.This event will be held at Hotel 10 in downtown Montreal.

Finally, Ford will be one of our featured readers at a very special event, A Tribute to Alice Munro. Ford, along with several others, will read an excerpt of a story by Munro as we celebrate this Canadian icon of the short-story. This is our official closing event on Sunday, May 4 at 4pm. This event will be held at Hotel 10 in downtown Montreal. Tickets will go fast for this one and can be purchased at La Vitrine.

Most Festival events (many are free) range from $7 to $15; or you can get an all-Festival pass for $65! These passes go very fast though (last year they sold out two weeks before the Festival!) so move quickly.

For the entire Festival program, go to the Blue Metropolis website and click on Festival!

A Tribute to Alice Munro, Sunday May 4 at 4pm