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the word on the street

james hörner

nothing pulls readers out of their text induced hibernation better than an all-day festival of books and authors. especially when it is a sunny vancouver afternoon, with no chance of precipitation. this year's Word on the Street festival appeared to be quite the success.

with tents from a variety of b.c. publishers and publishing organizations, there was plenty to draw the faithful book supporters, as well as loads of prizes and draws to attract those unsure about the status of b.c. books.

as part of the "poetry in transit" feature, poet Wayde Compton did a reading from his outstanding work 49th Parallel Psalm. as we crammed ourselves into a translink bus and screwed our heads on backwards, we were treated with a smooth rendition of his work. i love the book and hadn't yet had a chance to hear it in his own words. it was definitely worth the stuffy quarters to catch the short reading. the only casualties were the parents not expecting their kids to hear 'fuck' and 'goddamn'. but, hey, it's poetry - breaking the kids in with culture has to be better than them hearing it in the playground. as usual, context is everything.

a little later was the children's tent and b.c. premier Ujjal Dosanjh was busy butchering Robert Munsch's classic The Paper Bag Princess. ouch. i think the kids were less than impressed and wondered who the hell this guy was. after all, Ujjal didn't even turn the book very often to show us the friggin pictures. what a rip-off!

besides the events there were boxes and tables of cheap books from many of b.c's best publishers. this was a good chance for them to air out some of their backlist and expose the public to some of the often overlooked poetry, plays, and fiction. as well, there were plenty of titles from their latest pressings for people to pick up at a cut price. while the focus at Word On the Street is to get people reading, part of the aim is to get them reading canadian authors and supporting canadian publishers.

noticeably absent again were any of the national publishers such as M&S. i think this is fine, though, as it gives people a chance to gawk at more than just the latest Atwood title. there was a distinctly provincial flavour to the event, and this is as it should be at all the various locations across canada.

after a day of sucking in the sun and listening to books be read as they were intended, i lugged home a packsack full of goodies to keep my eyes busy until next year.


james hörner edits canadian content.

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