Monday, September 28, 2015

Words (and giant pipes) on the street

I went to Word on the Street Toronto yesterday and what a beautiful clusterfuck it was. Picture dozens of tents and publishers and authors and speakers and tote bags and poutine trucks all snuggled up together at the city’s Harbourfront. Then picture thousands of people buying books, talking books, excited about books. It was loud and crammed and WONDERFUL.

Two highlights included discovering a startlingly good book of poetry by Eva H.D. and catching a glimpse of the Jehovah's Witness tent, which made Armageddon look positively charming! Other A+ moments included hanging out with my pals Amanda and Erin, chatting with Denis from Mansfield Press and the writer Julie Booker, and spending time in the sunshine with my best friend/husband, Anthony.

Another jewel in the crown was the "Sculpting New Reads" event. Billed as “an exciting new visual arts program that brings together Canadian artists and authors to explore how books can inspire new ways of thinking, creating, and innovating,” I expected a little weirdness -- and it did not disappoint. Here's the show and tell.

Exhibit A: The giant pipe
Artist Steve Newberry unveiled his sculpture, a giant pipe inspired by the brilliant Patrick deWitt’s new novel Undermajordomo Minor

Steve Newberry (left), Patrick deWitt (centre), giant pipe (right).

Exhibit B: The reaction to the giant pipe
The artist did a nice job, so I'm ashamed to admit that I was dying inside of uncomfortable laughter, which was extra awkward given the small crowd. Patrick deWitt, on the other hand, was unfazed and -- I'm pretty sure -- genuinely delighted. Probably because he's not an immature asshole like me. Or because he lives in Portland and is used to this sort of thing

Exhibit C: The inside of the giant pipe
Spoiler alert! The pipe had disembodied fingers in it!

Just another day on Toronto’s literary scene, people.


  1. It takes all sorts of courage to stand up in front of people and talk about your "art." I did not envy either one of these guys. Especially because I'm a total jerk too and was snickering at the weirdness of it all right along with you. However (and not knocking the Steve or Patrick here because I don't think they had much control over this) didn't this new feature feel a little under-organized? Like maybe the conversation between the two creators needed a jump-start from a host or something? It might have been the start of a really interesting discussion between the two. In my experience, writers aren't known for their off-the-cuff speeches, but are usually game to talk lots and lots if asked the right questions. A missed opportunity, in my humble opinion. Again, not the fault of the artist/writer, probably something the WOTS peeps should have considered.

    1. I couldn't agree more, Erin. The artist spent hours on this piece -- it deserved a higher level discussion. I think the whole thing took on a silly tone because there was no one there guiding us through it. (And because I was freaking starving.)

  2. So is that pipe made out of like really expensive wood?

  3. I thought so too, but no, just foam. The artist did a great job -- it looked real even close up.