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News Brief featuring R.O. Blechman

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Updated October 26, 2009

International Festival of Authors: Broken Social Scene, the Future of Cycling, Michael Ignatieff, the New Yorker and a Peep Show

by Maria Cortelluci

Writers from around the world have swung into town for the return of The International Festival of Authors, which once again brings an impressive array of all things literary to Toronto. This year's festival -- which started yesterday and runs until November 3rd -- jumps on the rebrand-wagon with a new sobriquet in celebration of its 30th anniversary: "IFOA XXX."

...Um, I'd be careful when you google that. Pretty sure it's NSFW.

Opening IFOA XXX at the Fleck Dance Theatre last night was the much lauded Canadian short story writer Alice Munro in conversation with the renowned publisher Diana Athill. And, no doubt, that was a wonderful way to inaugurate the festival (especially if you're an English teacher!). But if you missed this event, not to worry -- there's plenty of others to excite your inner reader.

It seems as if IFOA XXX wants to spice up it's image this year. In addition to the usual round of events -- including readings by Scotiabank Giller Prize, Governor General's Literary Award and Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize finalists -- this year's fest is introducing licensed happenings that start at 10 p.m. WOOOT, alcohol!

This Friday evening, for example, I'm checking out Toronto writer Hal Niedzviecki explore the pervasiveness of "peep culture" in an interactive social media extravaganza called the Peep Show. I'll probably stick around afterward, when Toronto's own dirty disco rockers Foxfire hit the Brigantine Room's stage.

The next night, I'm planning to catch pop culture columnist Stuart Berman talk about his novel, This Book is Broken: A Broken Social Scene Story, with actual members of the city's darling indie collective. The Toronto Star's music critic, Ben Rayner, will act as moderator and Jason Collett is also going to perform.

Cycling enthusiasts will find Cities, Bicycles and the Future of Getting Around worth checking out on Saturday October 24, at 1 p.m in the Fleck Dance Theatre. Now's your chance to ask former Talking Heads frontman-turned-author David Byrne, NDP leader Jack Layton, urban theorist Ken Greenberg and local bicycle advocate Yvonne Bambrick for advice regarding Toronto's bike lanes...or lack thereof.

I'm looking forward to talking more politics with Liberal party leader and smarty pants author Michael Ignatieff as he reads from his new non-fiction offering, True Patriot Love, on Sunday, October 25 (also in the Fleck Dance Theatre). Following the reading, the editor of The Walrus , John Mcfarlane will interview him, hopefully with questions more substantial then "how do you pronounce your last name?"

While I feel it necessary to let you know that "I-knew-graphic-novels-were-cool-before-they-became-blockbuster-movie-fodder," it's important to note that so did IOAF. The fest has been using graphic novelists in its program since 2004. Check out this interview of famous New Yorker cover creator R.O. Blechman & Palookaville comic book series cartoonist Seth (yes, in the vein of Cher, Madonna and God, that's one name only) by Seth Rogers on Saturday, October 31 at 12 p.m. in the Brigantine Room. Bonus: it's hosted by Peter Birkemoe, co-owner of my favourite "alternative" comic book store in the Annex, The Beguiling.

There's so much more to discuss, including a mini Ontario touring programme, a piping good tribute to Scottish authors, and a young authors fest. But you can find out for yourself by checking out the schedule. (Don't forget to pay mind to the random visual art exhibits set up in the York Quay Centre depicting less racy IFOA's of the past.)
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