Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Much eulogizing in the papers today about the loss of Greg Gatenby, the major force behind the Harbourfront International Festival of Authors. No, he's not dead, just going to Germany.

Gatenby seems to have resigned over creative and budget differences with the board. Reaction is mixed, however, over the loss of the visionary who turned the festival into one of the biggest, most reknown literary festivals going.

Some regarded him as a bit of a tyrant - one of his more outrageous policies was insisting authors not read at any other festivals for four months before they came to his. Now I know you can't do Leno the night before Letterman and vice versa and that this is not a unique policy, but four months! I feel fairly certain Christopher Hitchens did not agree to any such policy when he came here last October.

The most bizarre story comes from The National Post's Shinan Govani who just might have entirely run out of people in Toronto who will talk to him. Otherwise, why would he have an "unnamed source" come up with a line like this:

"It's the Moses Znaimer-ization of it all," the source said. "The egomaniacal, eccentric characters are out. The bureaucrats are in."

Surely, the unnamed authority means the opposite?

And if that weren't bad enough, he has to turn to Sky Gilbert as an authoritative voice on the festival.

Sky Gilbert, a Toronto author, said Gatenby's departure could have the positive effect of providing more room for less traditional voices. "When it comes to actually responding to the small press energy in Canada, I think the small press community didn't feel very well represented," he said.

Let's see if I have this straight. By inviting less internationally acclaimed bestselling authors and representing unknown small-press Canadian hopefuls, we will create a much more vibrant literary scene. It's obvious, really. The world will surely flock to our festival to hear readings by a bunch of people they have never heard of. That's why bad $2 (suggested donation) poetry night at the local on College Street gets so much press and worldwide acclaim.

Hopefully the new director of the festival, Geoffrey E. Taylor, will take note of Mr. Gilbert's suggestion.

P.S. I have been posting irregularily and it may unfortunately continue that way for a short while -- hopefully just long enough to get my seemingly unending computer problems fixed.