Toronto International Festival of Authors

September 22, 2023

Harbourfront was buzzing on the night of the fall solstice, Sept. 21. Harbourfront, a cultural non-profit, occupies a campus on the shore of Lake Ontario, in the heart of Toronto. I rode down on my bike for the Toronto International Festival of Authors. Runners, skaters, cyclists and scooter enthusiasts thronged the Martin Goodman Trail, the bike path along the shore of Lake Ontario; one has to stay alert to avoid getting mowed down by some athlete on a souped up road bike.

I am at work on a book about the history of maple syrup in Canada, and I felt like I needed to get into the author zone.

But there was so much else going on. In one tent gathered music industry types for an event called Global Toronto, dining on Japanese inari pockets stuffed with wakame, shitake and wasabi peas, along with pakoras and lamb kafta. At another watering hole by the skating rink (currently under reconstruction) people from across North America who run bike rental, or bike share operations gathered for canapes and beverages.

At the first event of the festival, Laura Trethewey, spoke about Oceans and the Depths We Dive. I mostly sat there wondering about the math; Trethewey spoke of her voyage aboard an ocean-mapping ship off the coast of California, and of her travel to Jamaica to attend a meeting of a group whose job is to determine whether or not it’s okay to mine the floor of the ocean (Trethewey believes we are rushing into ocean-mining much too fast and need to know more about what will be the result). I was just wondering: how do you finance these kinds of trips on a Canadian author’s advance? But it was fun to disappear into her world for awhile.

At the next event, Love, Lust & Chaos, two Montreal writers, Eva Crocker and Clara Dupuis-Morency, read from their books. The moderator was the deputy editor of Inuit Art Quarterly. Eva Crocker said she would start with something spicy, and read some lesbian erotica: a tryst that begins on the roof of an apartment building in Montreal. The grey-haired photographer of a certain vintage, capturing the event, kind of pushed his camera aside to just listen as Crocker read of the protagonist’s efforts to wrestle off her date’s jeans. My friend and I decided it was not quite our scene; he’d bought a bottle of pinot grigio from Niagara and we walked down to the boardwalk to sit on a low stone wall and watch the sun set over Lake Ontario. Porter planes took off and landed. The Kajama, a three-masted schooner on whose deck thronged tourists, sailed silently by, its sails furled. At the bandshell behind us Lara Klaus, a singer and drummer from Brazil, performed with her band, to throngs of cheering fans. I guess the whole scene felt a bit Euro, like I’d left the pedestrian industrial treadmill of Toronto for awhile.

We went back to the auditorium to hear Marina Endicott, of Saskatchewan, and Anna Porter of Toronto read from their books; Anna’s Gull Island is a horror story set in the Georgian Bay and Endicott’s The Outsider a work of fiction based on the years she spend with her husband when he worked as an RCMP officer in Mayerthorpe, Alberta. My friend and I were certainly two of the youngest people in the crowd. Both authors proved spare, and contented, and funny and colourful. Nice to connect to a bit of culture in this dirty old town.