“Actual human beings are always more complex than one can possibly imagine in fiction.”

 - May Sarton

I’ve been attending Word on the Street (WOTS) for over a decade, pawing the books, listening to readings, wondering if I would ever have a turn at giving a reading. Well, this year I did it. I read from Harbour View. What a thrill!

For the last week or two I’ve fretted while deciding what to read and how much of it. I tried this chapter and that, practised reading aloud while watching the clock, aiming for ten minutes. Should I go with something splashy? Quiet? Lots of dialogue? Introspective? Finally I chose Chapter 1. Why not start at the beginning, I thought. Besides, it dives straight into a few important themes and it introduces some key characters who shape the whole novella. Besides which, there is something irresistible about Buddy.

The morning started with music, as I and three Symphony colleagues played string quartet arrangements for the opening 45 minutes of WOTS. What a treat, after more than a year of my not playing any chamber music at all. The chairs in our booth quickly filled with an attentive crowd, some smiling in pleasant surprise to come across a string quartet performance (a first in Halifax’s WOTS history), others lost in thought, and one person sat swaying, with her eyes closed. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves, including my colleagues. I had a ball.

It makes such a difference to a musician to know that someone listening is deeply involved in the performance. In that regard, musical performance is a two-way street in which the listener works almost as hard as the musician. As I played, I wondered if there might exist a similar partnership between authors and readers. It seemed unlikely, where reading is such a private matter.

A few hours later I found myself on the same stage, standing in front with a microphone pointing at me. Again the chairs filled, and suddenly it was time to read. After a bit of fiddling around with the microphone all was well, so I started at the beginning, and soon found myself engrossed in Buddy’s chapter. From time to time I sneaked a glance at the people listening. To my surprise and growing delight, I found similar reactions to those who’d sat there earlier, listening to the music. Some people were smiling, and some had a look of deep concentration.

They were listening.

One person near the front sat with her eyes closed, not swaying, but as deeply involved in what she was hearing as the woman earlier in the day was, listening to the quartet music.

It was a rare moment for a writer, observing people’s reactions to the words she wrote. I’ll cherish the experience.


Harbour View launch announcement:

- The Halifax launch will be on Monday, October 5, 7:30, Seasons Bistro/Atlantica Hotel Halifax

- The Toronto launch will be on Tuesday, October 20, 7:30, The Annex Live, Brunswick Ave

Categories: General.