The Word Vancouver festival is set for its 2016 edition with a massively inclusive lineup of authors, appearing at venues around town from September 21 to 25.
We asked a group of these much-admired writers to tell us about their finest reading experiences. Which books put a stamp on their imaginations early on? Which ones revealed to them the full powers of the written word?
Here’s what Vancouver writer, lecturer, and Georgia Straight contributor Brett Josef Grubisic told us. Grubisic is author of the novels The Age of Cities, This Location of Unknown Possibilities, and the newly released From Up River and For One Night Only. He’ll read from his work at 1:40 p.m. on September 25, on the fest’s Lions stage at the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library.
As a kid I read voraciously—Tolkien, comics, the Dune novels, Helter Skelter, my dad’s private stash for the actual articles. Cereal boxes. Really, anything. All the while I never gave a thought to writing. Immersive reading was the thing. In my surly teen years that love affair with words cooled. “Why bother?” my stunted frontal cortex decided. Complaining gave me so much more satisfaction.
One day, though, my younger sister begged me for help with an English-class essay. Something about the symbolism of red in an assigned novel. I said, “Sure” and promptly, er, devoured Margaret Atwood’s The Edible Woman. Aside from the comedy, the cleverness, the satiric jabs, and the social commentary, the novel entertained, educated, and provoked me while also showing me a few techniques that I’m probably still utilizing.
In my top five of Atwood’s books, I’ve read and taught it a dozen times since. And each time it impresses me. And, in truth, each time I probably notice one of its words or ideas and repurpose it (thank you, Ms. Atwood) for writing of my own. We see further by standing on the shoulders of giants, right?