literary event

The Event: Guy Gavriel Kay at Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon

Guy Gavriel Kay. All photos in this blog © Alexander Hoffman.
Guy Gavriel Kay. All photos in this post © Alexander Hoffman.

A day that takes a quarter-turn to the fantastic…that’s how I would describe April 4th.

It took me a week to write about this event because I needed enough distance from it to say something more interesting than “Eeeeee!” We all have those particular authors, don’t we? The ones we’ve just discovered, or the ones we’ve loved all our lives, whose writing moves us, whose imminent new books make us tingle with glee and anticipation. I’ve had the privilege of meeting several authors from my own superstar pantheon, but I’d yet to have a chance to meet Guy Gavriel Kay, whom I have read and loved for more than fifteen years. With the release of his new book River of Stars, the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon series rectified that for me by presenting a wonderful evening with Mr. Kay and Chatelaine books editor Laurie Grassi.

With the exception (the exceptional exception, one might argue) of the high fantasy of the Fionavar Tapestry, Guy writes books that are deeply steeped in history and geography, writing in settings that are based on, but are not, in our world–settings similar to Moorish Spain, medieval Italy, and Viking invasions of Saxony. In his 2010 novel Under Heaven, we encounter the land of Kitai, based on China during the Tang Dynasty. In his new novel River of Stars, we are returned to Kitai some 400 years later. In conversation with Laurie Grassi, Guy discussed River, history and his not-quite-historical settings, what moves him to write, and–what else?–baseball.

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literary event

The Event: Rick Mercer and Aislin at Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon

Rick Mercer and Terry Mosher at the Appel Salon.
All photographs taken by Alexander Hoffman.

“I want to be you when I grow up.”
– Rick Mercer to Terry Mosher, Oct. 18, 2012

This will surprise no one in Canada, but it has to be said: Rick Mercer is a funny, funny man. He, along with Terry Mosher (aka Aislin), appeared at Toronto Reference Library as part of the Star Talks program at the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon. And he had the sold-out crowd paralyzed with belly laughs all evening.

Mr. Mercer took to the stage after an introduction by writer, critic, and purveyor of arts and pop culture Geoff Pevere, who also acted as moderator for the discussion in the evening’s second half. Exuding energy and charm, Rick seemed genuinely pleased to be with us as he settled comfortably behind the podium. Looking around, he said, “Wow. A library with a bar!” He hung out at the library a lot when he was a kid, he said, so much so that his dad warned him he’d start suffering from Old Book Lung, but the libraries of his youth never had a bar in them.

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literary event

The Event: Emma Donoghue at Toronto Reference Library’s Appel Salon

Emma Donoghue © Nina Subin, 2010. Image from

Book season has officially kicked off in Toronto. With Tuesday night’s fabulous Bookstravaganza, the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, Word on the Street, and the International Festival of Authors, we also have the always incredible (and incredibly free) Bram & Bluma Appel Salon programs at the Toronto Reference Library.

Several hundred fans came out on September 19th for an evening with Emma Donoghue, who is known as much for her vivid, meticulous historical fiction (Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter) as she is her 2010 blockbuster success Room , a contemporary novel told from the point of view of a precocious five year old whose whole, mostly happy, world, Room, is actually the prison he and his mother are kept in by her kidnapper and serial rapist. With her new historical fiction short story collection, Astray, arriving on shelves at the end of October, I was eager to hear what an author of such diverse genres and forms had to say.

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