Saturday, June 10, 2017

Heliconian Series 2016 / 2017

Every time I go to a Heliconian lecture I learn something new.

The organizers line up great lecturers, authors and books, and I'm already looking forward to seeing what's in store next year.

Tues, Sep 13Sandra MartinSandra MartinA Good Death
Tues, Oct 25Peter BehrensPeter BehrensCarry Me
Tues, Nov 22Kim ThuyKim ThuyMan
Tues, Jan 10Ian BrownIan BrownSixty
Tues, Feb 7Terry FallisTerry FallisPoles Apart
Tues, Mar 7Nazneen SheikhNazneen SheikhThe Place of Shining Light
Tues, Apr 18Cecilia EkbackCecilia EkbackWolf Winter
Tues, May 9Suanne KelmanAnthony MarraThe Tsar of Love and Techno
Tues, Jun 6Ann Y K ChoiAnn Y K ChoiKay’s Lucky Coin Variety
Sandra Martin spoke about the struggle of many who are diagnosed with incurable and painful diseases. Individuals and families suffer under the burden of costs and intolerable pain. Canada has made some changes in Right to Die legislation many see as progress, some see as timid, and others see as chilling. If you suffer with an incurable disease, the debate becomes less theoretical. Even after legislative changes, many people leave the country for assisted deaths and others plead unsuccessfully for an end to their suffering.

Peter Behrens spoke about concentration camps in England during the second world war, something I'd never heard of before. And at the end of the war, many Germans were deported, even though they didn't speak or write any German whatsoever. The author drew on his own family history to create the work of fiction, Carry Me

Man was such a lyrical book, thin, but very 'heavy' in its themes. What a surprise to see Kim Thuy present. She was hilarious in recounting events in the story and could have done stand-up with her bitter-sweet humour. Such a contrast. The same stories but with such different flavours.

Sheikh was interesting to hear, because she spoke of optioning the book and poking international producers with suggestions for directors and actors. From Afghanistan to Pakistan, the novel braids the story of three men in the pursuit of a stolen Buddhist statue. The author was quite a character herself, with a flair for the dramatic and an air of privilege. I'm more inclined to read her memoir than the novel.

Wolf Winter was a fabulous story. The blunt ending frustrated me and delighted at the same time. I was so looking forward to seeing Cecilia Ekback, but she opted out of the arrangement, and organizers looked for a substitute. We were lucky to have Margaret Cannon, the mystery writing critic at the Globe and Mail step in. Although she liked the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, she didn't appreciate its sequel and refuses to read any book with 'the girl' as part of its title. Margaret reads at least five books a week in order to produce her monthly reviews, and is well qualified to set the novel in context. Her verdict is that Ekback's debut novel reveals an astonishing talent.

Suanne Kelman was the guest lecturer for  the Tsar of Love and Techno, and played the music tracks referenced in the book. This was a first for me at the Heliconian. I really appreciated the effort and thought of the many books I read that reference music - how fun it would be to find or make a playlist to add another dimension to the experience.

Ann Y K Choi was charming. I really liked the book Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety.  Choi revealed her struggles with depression, and how therapists encouraged her to write as a way to heal herself. She grew up hating being Korean but is now learning to reclaim her heritage. At the Korean Authors' Association, she needed a translator because her Korean was so poor, so now she is trying to learn to speak the language she spurned in her childhood. She recently found herself in a Korean language class surrounded by young white kids who wanted to learn Korean because it was 'cool,'  and couldn't believe how times had changed. Her editor, Phyllis Bruce, had come to offer support and sat in the audience. Bruce is a recipient of the Order of Canada and has edited many outstanding novels - she even had her own imprint at Simon and Schuster and was a publisher at Harper Collins. Which makes me want to explore the Bruce's titles all the more....

This year, I was especially looking forward to hearing Ian Brown and Terry Fallis. In fact, they were the reason I chose the Tuesday night series. Unfortunately, those were the two nights I had to miss. For Poles Apart, Rob and I were in Hawaii, and at Sixty, I had a work engagement. Rob ended up going to see Ian Brown as Kaarina's date, and took my copy of the book for Ian to sign. Rob also ended up being my date on two other occasions... I got a kick out of seeing him in this hall of older women and seeing them sneak a sideways glance.

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