Martha Baillie at the Gladstone: TINARS

Last night I went over to the newly swank revamped Gladstone to check out This is Not a Reading Series featuring Martha Baillie - author of The Shape I Gave You.

I'd not attended any of these Pages events before, but a classy joint + Canadian author + friends = a good time, right?

When I arrived, there was a good crowd (Baillie has a lot of friends), milling around to the jazz stylings of Lightstone, Katz and Quarrington, including some vaguely familiar faces. Baillie's book is published by Knopf (a Random House imprint) so it wasn't too surprising to see an RH honcho roaming around, along with some other local authors.

I also ran into an acquaintance of mine who happens to be the drummer for local band Readable Ink, family friend of the author. Small world, eh?


(I was happy to see that in spite of their Drake-makeover, the bartenders were still tattooed Queen Westers)

Before the not reading but interview with Marc Glassman, the audience was also treated to a wavering soprano rendition of 'The Rebel' (among other things) by Theo Heras.

As the interview began, I actually started thinking that a podcast of this sort of event would be really cool - for the people who can't make it down to still get the author's take on her book and whatever other stories she might have in mind.

That was until Marc Glassman started asking questions. He is a terrible interviewer. Although Baillie still came across as lovely and erudite and aware, Glassman would not shut the hell up.

He interrupts Baillie who attempts to answer a question that actually contains about seven questions by saying something obsequious like 'oh, that question's too hard' and thereby completely eliminates any natural discussion that can and should arise in an interview.

Baillie did have the opportunity early on to talk about the art by Colm McCool and Vid Ingelevics being exhibited in the room in conjunction with the event, and which make appearances in her book (one of whose primary characters is a sculptor and another who is a photographer). Of particular interest, she mentioned, was that the art, in a way, plays a trick on you - and the limitations of perception is also key in her book.

Despite Glassman's asinine questions and failure to actually listen to his interviewee (he is far to enamoured of his own voice and how cool he sounds talking to authors to be effective) Baillie works in some thoughtful and amusing words about her work, and the nature of the themes she addresses therein.

Her elegant responses and willingness to discuss weighty thematic issues with humour yet also intelligence and seriousness are delightfully present in her book. I'm only about half-way through, but I'll post a review here when I finish. So far, I am duly impressed with the richness of Baillie's language and ideas, and the intricacies of her characters and their relationships.

I decided to salvage my evening when Glassman guided Baillie so far from interesting conversation that they ended up sounding like first year university students discussing philosophy. "To what extent are you Marc Glassman because I think you're Marc Glassman, and is that the same Marc Glassman that you perceive yourself to be" etc. etc.

Would I attend another such event? Depends on the author - Glassman's obnoxious style of interviewing is enough to dissuade me from most if not all future events. The books can stand alone, and should I be interested in knowing more of the author I might be better off checking out something like Books and Brunch care of Nicholas Hoare, where the authors get to speak as they choose - also not a reading series, also devoid of vapid questions by egotistical questioners. Or reading some of her other work.

The Shape I Gave You is out in hardcover from Knopf - promising so far, I'll let you know if it holds up.

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