Thursday, January 10, 2008
Reading in Ottawa
I spent last weekend in Ottawa where I had the great pleasure of reading at the Dusty Owl Reading Series. I was aware that Ottawa has a very lively literary community, and it was a treat to get to experience a bit of it firsthand. I reunited with old friends, hung out in person with some online acquaintances, and met a bunch of cool new people as well. All in all, a very happy visit.
However, trying to leave Ottawa on Monday in the midst of a fog of proverbial pea-soup thickness was not so much fun. I spent many hours in the airport getting bumped from one cancelled flight to another before Air Canada finally conceded that no flights were going anywhere that day. I then made a mad dash to the railway station where I had the good fortune of getting one of the few seats left on the last train home.
I dearly wished that I had brought my copy of War and Peace along. A 1200+ page hardcover didn’t initially strike me as a suitable airplane book, but if I’d realized my one-hour flight would extend into a twelve-hour journey, I might have given it a go. Of course, I wasn’t bookless. I’d finished the mystery novel I’d brought with me from Toronto (one of P.D. James's Adam Dalgliesh novels, picked up on the strength of recommendations from Danielle and Dorothy W., in case you were wondering), but I’d stumbled upon a well-stocked indie bookstore during my Sunday wanderings about Ottawa and replenished my supply with these purchases: The Year of Henry James: The Story of a Novel by David Lodge, Memoirs of a Novelist by Virginia Woolf, and Paris Café: The Sélect Crowd by Noël Riley Fitch (with marvellous drawings by Rick Tulka). It was Lodge’s book, which I’d been intending to pick up since reading an excerpt from it in the Guardian ages ago, that kept me well-occupied throughout all of the day’s delays—such a fascinating glimpse into the process of writing and publishing a novel.
The next time I go to Ottawa (and I hope there will be a next time soon!), I think I’ll just make it a train journey from the get-go, and, as ever, I will make sure to carry plenty of books with me.
(The above photo from my Dusty Owl reading was taken by Charles Earl. Check out his fabulous photo blog here.)