Real Life: A Night of Literary Non-Fiction (IFOA)

By Crystal Wood

Things got real at the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors on Friday night, as they presented Real Life: A Night of Literary Non-Fiction.

One of the authors, Ian Brown, noted that book readings are quite rare for non-fiction authors because they’re simply reporting facts instead of presenting individual ideas.  It’s true that the night felt more like a university lecture than an artistic performance, but it was one that I enjoyed nonetheless.  For a reader of non-fiction, a chance to meet and hear from writers who have devoted years to one particular subject can be a very rewarding experience.

The first person to read was technically not a writer of non-fiction, but of “not fiction.”  Poet Meaghan Strimas read from her poetry collection, A Good Time Had By All.  Her poems offer witty commentary on her small-town upbringing, touching on topics like shotgun weddings and working at the local IGA.

Then, journalist Ian Brown took to the stage to read from his autobiographical work, The Boy in the Moon.  The book is about the life of Brown’s son Walker, who has cardio-facio-cutaneous syndrome, an extremely rare disability.  Brown’s writing is wonderful, and I would certainly recommend the book although I suspect I would be reduced to a puddle of tears during some of the heavier parts.

After a brief intermission, Charles Foran read from his autobiography of Mordecai Richler entitled Mordecai: the Life.  Though the book has been out for only a week, it’s been on my to-read list for months.  Foran read the audience a series of letters and speeches by Richler himself, which were great examples of the personality behind this Canadian writing icon.  I can’t wait to read more.

The evening ended with Charlotte Gray’s book, Gold Diggers, a story of the 1898 Yukon Gold Rush.  Gray’s reading from the book was brief, as she chose instead to tell us in her own words about the six diverse characters she researched for the book.  If you are interested in Canadian history, this book sounds like a well-researched look at a significant moment in our past.

As Sam mentioned in an earlier post, book readings can be considered theatre in their own right.  You get to hear people speak about a wide range of topics, and certain authors can evoke as much emotion in their readings as any theatre actor.  Although IFOA is winding down for another year, there are often engaging readings throughout the city with events like This Is Not A Reading Series and the Appel Salon.  Check them out!


– IFOA continues at Harbourfront until October 31st with readings and round table discussions and in various locations around Ontario until November 5.
– Tickets are $18.00 and can be purchased online, by phone – 416-973-4000 – or at the box office (Harbourfront Centre Box Office, York Quay Centre, 235 Queens Quay West. The Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday, 1pm to 6pm 8pm on evenings with events.)
– See the IFOA schedule for venues and times

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