Michael James Burgess, left, first encountered 84 Charing Cross Road in a London dental office where he happened across a Readers’ Digest excerpt.
“When my appointment was finished I went back into the waiting room and finished the story,” he recalls. “Not long afterwards I was walking up Charing Cross Road and this dusty old bookshop, which had been closed, was suddenly alive with books again and the author was going to be there for a book signing. So I went in and got my copy signed.”
More than four decades later and a world away Burgess directs the theatrical version of the story, opening tonight at Fairview Library Theatre.
“It’s an intelligent play, it doesn’t talk down to people,” remarks Burgess. “The books that the characters mention will send you rushing to Google to look them up. It’s interesting, it’s challenging, it’s sentimental without being soft. And I just think it’s a very pleasant couple of hours in the theatre.”
INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair co-founders Rita Davies and John Calabro could hardly have found a better operational partner than Steven Levy, left. Nobody knows the consumer and trade show business better than Levy, the man who gave Canada the One of a Kind craft show and the Interior Design Show, to name just two.
And Levy has big ambitions for this week’s inaugural book event, November 13 – 16, dubbed INSPIRE!.
“Our long range objective is to be to books what TIFF is to film,” he says. “We want to bring more eyes to books, more sales to authors and publishers, whether they be established publishers or self-publishers.”
INSPIRE! launches Thursday with a big opening night party followed by three days of wall-to-wall programming featuring a dizzying slate of celebrity authors including Margaret Atwood, Maureen Jennings, Will Ferguson, Anne Rice, Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Richardson, to name just a few. There are readings, workshops and seminars, a kids’ stage, a culinary zone, a First Nations literary circle and loads more. INSPIRE! will be the largest gathering of authors and book lovers in Canada with more than 400 authors and over 200 exhibitors.
The European Union Film Festival unfurls the flag at the Royal Cinema (608 College St.) November 15 – 30 featuring the best in contemporary European cinema. For the 10th anniversary edition, the Euro fest features 28 movies from EU countries and all screenings are FREE! The 2014 lineup includes several Canadian premieres with appearances by directors and cast members. Seating is first come, first served so don’t be late. And while general admission is free, advance admission can be secured for $10.
An opening night reception is slated for the Mod Club (722 College Street) on Saturday, November 15 at 6 pm; tix are $25 and include guaranteed seating at the screening of Italy’s Allacciate Le Cinture (Fasten Your Seatbelts) at the Royal at 9 pm.
Making movies is an insanely complicated craft, from scripting to lighting to shooting to editing. Financing comes with a whole other set of challenges. So it makes sense that young filmmakers rarely dive into the deep end with a feature, more typical is the route taken by 22-year-old Betty Xie, left, whose short, The Home Promised, debuts at the Reel Asian Film Festival (November 6 – 16) on Monday night (November 10).
Reel Asian has been instrumental to Xie’s fledgling career. Her first short, the 10-minute Girlfriends, was made as part of Reel Asian’s Unsung Voices, an annual summer production workshop. The Home Promised, is an 18-minute documentary about residents facing eviction from an old Taipei neighbourhood slated for demolition; Xie made the movie after winning a Reel Asian pitch competition at last year’s festival.
“I think any festival should do a nurturing job and Reel Asian certainly does that for Asian filmmakers in Toronto,” states Xie. “Of course it showcases very important Pan Asian films, but I think the local connections are the most important for emerging filmmakers like me.”
In addition to being screened at Reel Asian, Xie is working part-time for the festival this year as a Guest Services and Development Assistant. She started out volunteering on the Marketing and Programming Committee. It’s a typical trajectory for a young film school grad trying to get a leg up in the Canadian movie business.
Geoffrey Taylor will carve out time to vote in Monday’s municipal election but it won’t be easy. The Director of Toronto’s International Festival of Authors will be in the thick of IFOA’s 35th anniversary season and he’ll be busy putting out fires and welcoming world famous authors.
“Ninety five per cent of the festival will go exactly as planned,” assures Taylor, left. “The other five per cent takes up 80 per cent of our time. Whatever you can imagine going wrong — books not being printed in time, authors missing flights — that’s what goes on.”
IFOA is one of the world’s most highly-regarded reading festivals, although Taylor concedes that it’s difficult to compare them. The Jaipur Literary Festival draws the biggest audiences, while the Edinburgh International Book Festival tallies the most authors. Still, Toronto punches above its weight: beginning tomorrow and for the ensuing 11 days, 150 of the world’s best writers will participate in readings, interviews, round table discussions and public book signings. This year’s big names include James Ellroy, Karl Ove Knausgaard, Ann-Marie MacDonald, Eimear McBride, David Nicholls, Marilynne Robinson, Miriam Toews, Colm Tóibín, Rudy Wiebe and many more.