A reading, and a non-reading: Kristen den Hartog, and Dorothy Palmer

I attended two readings by Canadian authors last month. Or rather, I tried to; more about that later.

Kristen den Hartog read from her new novel And Me Among Them (Freehand Press, April 2011) last week at Bryan Prince Bookseller. It was the first time I’ve attended an event without having read the book in question, and I felt worm-like, knowing it was disrespectful to both writer and the writing. (In my defense, I’d requested Hartog’s book from the library much earlier, but it hadn’t made it to the shelves by the event. But still.) Also, I get much more out of a reading when I already know the plot–I can concentrate on the particular meanings the author assigns to her words without having to follow the storyline in tandem.

Despite my ignorance of the text, I enjoyed the evening very much. Hartog was gentle and approachable and easy to talk to, and radiated niceness;  you’d pray to spot her sort while searching for kindness from strangers. I chatted with her about her blog “Blog of Green Gables” which chronicles her reading adventures with her daughter. It’s a lovely, moving journal, accompanied by the child’s  illustrations, and each time I read it, it has me wishing I could magically produce a ten-year-old daughter to add to my family. (My mini-Athena would spring fully-formed out of my head, with a library card in one hand and a thermos of Earl Grey in the other. But I digress.)

(Author image from her website)

And Me Among Them is a novel about a young girl affected by gigantism.  From the author’s website:

“Born to a postman and an English war bride, a young girl named Ruth begins to grow at an alarming rate. The doctor claims nothing is wrong, but she soars upwards, and is the size of an adult by kindergarten. Though ostracized and teased by the other children, she longs to be among them.

Ruth’s giant perspective gives her a bird’s eye view that conveys her profound capacity for empathy. She can see over place and time – back to the days before she was born, through to the lives of other giants, and even into the intimate thoughts of her mother and father.”

Yes, you should read it; I picked my copy from the library yesterday.

Bryan Prince Booksellers, where the reading took place, is a wondrous place. It’s beautiful and dignified and serene. Kerry Cranston (who co-owns the store with her sister Tracy Higgins) and her staff are passionate and extremely knowledgeable about books. The event was accompanied by wine, cheese, and Ontario strawberries–and it was all free. I want to bake this store cookies and, while the oven heats up,  pave their sidewalk with gold. If you are looking to buy books in Canada, please go here: http://www.princebooks.net/ And send them Facebook love here, do.

The other reading was a talk by Dorothy Palmer about her novel When Fenelon Falls (Coach House Books, Oct 2010), at the local library. I liked the book very much, and had all sorts of questions planned for the author–who did not show. There was no word from her or the publishing house (who had plugged the event on their website, Facebook and on twitter) to the organizers or the audience. After waiting for a half-hour, and checking every form of social media for information, I surrendered to my mom-fate: I went back home, washed off my mascara and changed into sweats, and put my son to bed.

I love authors and books and small presses, and I understand that unexpected delays and cancellations are the stuff of life, but surely, an update was (and is) in order. So, to whoever was in charge of this event: WTF, eh?

Update: I have since received an apology and an explanation of the communication error from the (blameless) author. All WTF statements are hereby recanted, and I reaffirm my love for authors and small presses.