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2007 10 02
Wonderful Things about Word on the Street

Word on the Street, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Queen's Park Circle. The setting is bucolic, a curved encampment of tents, a fretwork of leaves. You can reach the Park any way you like, even in a stroller. On Sunday I biked down the long seam of Avenue Road, spilling light all the way, the unreal city rising to meet me: the Tower, the Chrystal, the legislature a shadow obscured by trees. I forded the broad stream of pink-clad runners at Bloor, and passed into Queen's Park like a scout. All day I rounded the circle from one direction and then the other, withdrawing regularly to rest and sort the day's accumulation of books. I talked to squirrels. I rested under a variety of trees. I liked WOTS at its former Queen Street location, but the move to Queen's Park has been brilliant. The WOTS is now more accessible in just about every way.

2. It never rains. Well, almost never. This year's sun surely made up for last year's downpour. And even last year it only rained in the afternoon.

3. Author Appearances and Book signings. Sitting at the science fiction writers' tent beside the vigorously self-advertising (and award-winning) Robert J. Sawyer was the quiet and contemplative (and critically lauded) Terence M. Green, whose Witness to Life is the only novel I know of set in the Toronto Junction. Terence was gracious enough to sign a copy of Blue Limbo, a futuristic scifi thriller set in Toronto. I also had the great pleasure of meeting poet, editor and small press guru Stuart Ross, novelist and playwright Darren O'Donnell, and novelist and storyteller Alvin Abram.

4. Free stuff. Free admission to a book festival a very wonderful thing, but you can't top free loot. The best freebies this year were fabric bags advertising publishers and arts media organizations. The best two: Book Television's stylish black bag that folds into a square and snaps shut, and Booklounge.ca's zippered bag in a smart robin's egg blue. Enviro-bag: it's the new black.

5. Diverse street food. I like street meat, but have to agree with Multistory Complex that Toronto's street food vending restrictions are asinine. The diversity of food available at WOTS (not to mention the eager lineups at every grill) underscored the need for more portable shawarma, pad thai, grilled corn-on-the-cob, and kebobs on our city's streets.

6. The unexpected. At the City of Toronto tent, where I read from "Toronto's Tower of Babel" (thank you Alana), I ran into George Vanderburgh, publisher of Raymond Souster's poetry (including Uptown Downtown, shortlisted for the 2007 Toronto Book Award). Unfortunately I missed the trio of readings from Uptown Downtown, but George was gracious enough to steer me to the VIP lounge where we shared literary gossip and finished off the sushi.

7. Books. So many books. Christopher Dewdney's Natural History of Southwestern Ontario on CD (which is going to go straight into my iPod as soon as I can rip it). Four $2 books from Insomniac Press, including Phlip Arima's simultaneously perplexing and amusing Broken Accidents (2003), rob mclennan's edited anthology, side/lines: A New Canadian Poetics, and Gwendolyn MacEwen's King of Egypt, King of Dreams (1971) and Julian the Magician (1963). Margaret Atwood's The Door, from Ben McNally Books. Farzana Doctor's Stealing Nasreen and Bonnie Burston's The House on Lippincott, both from Inanna. A pile of other books yet to be read and sorted. And a big dose of anticipation for next year's WOTS. It won't rain. It (almost) never does.

[In conjunction with the Imagining Toronto project, Amy Lavender Harris writes regularly about Toronto literature and the imaginative qualities of cities.]
[email this story] Posted by Amy Lavender Harris on 10/02 at 09:11 AM

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