2009 Vancouver International Writers & Readers Festival

I first began thinking about a special tribute for Alice Munro a year ago when news of the publication of her new book, Too Much Happiness, was announced. Over the course of the next few months, the search began for a group of international writers who were drawn to, and affected by, Alice’s work. There are thousands of us in Canada who would offer our tributes, but I wanted to feature the respect and admiration she has outside our borders. The writers we have selected—Richard Ford (US), Joan London (AU), Amit Chaudhuri (UK/India), Elizabeth Strout (US) and Alistair MacLeod (CA)—represent the diversity of admirers Alice has around the world. Mr. Chaudhuri was on the jury that chose her as the winner of the prestigious Man Booker International Prize this past spring. It will be an honour to have Alice in the audience to hear the testimonials. Eleanor Wachtel of CBC’s Writers and Company will host the tribute and we are pleased that those who can’t attend this very special event may be able to hear it on CBC.

This Festival marks the return of John Irving. He was last here for a special event in 2004 when he spoke to a rapt audience at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church. An evening with John Irving is all John. Passionate, articulate and witty, he tells the story behind his novels with candor and insight. Kathy Reichs is also returning to the Festival after a long absence and we look forward to finding out what new adventures she has imagined for her tenacious main character, Dr. Temperance Brennan. We are delighted to welcome for the first time to the Festival Audrey Niffenegger, Lorrie Moore and France’s best-selling author Marc Levy.

It has been a decade since Bonnie Burnard won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her powerful novel A Good House. Back with a new novel, she is joined by other national luminaries like Alistair MacLeod, Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey, Leon Rooke, Joseph Boyden and Douglas Coupland. Mr. Coupland will turn his evercurious eye to the work of the world renown graphic artist and cartoonist Seth in what promises to be an illuminating discussion. We have an impressive list of Quebeçois writers as well: Marie-Claire Blais, Monique Proulx and Dany Laferrière. They will be joined by Marc Levy and Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt from France for a special French-language event that will be broadcast by Radio-Canada across the country.

Through a strong partnership with Vancouver Island University that we have enjoyed for many years, we are privileged to have the Poet Laureate of England, Carol Ann Duffy, here to participate in our annual Poetry Bash. She will be joined by Xi Chuan from China, Heather McHugh from the U.S. and three of Canada’s finest poets, Robert Bringhurst, Gregory Scofield and Elizabeth Bachinsky.

Our line-up of authors from British Columbia is a testament to the freshness and vitality of the writing scene in the province. Michael Turner, Annabel Lyon, Ashok Mathur, Anne Degrace, William Deverell, Karen McLaughlin, Gayle Friesen, Kate Braid, Michael Kenyon, Cathleen With and Cynthia Flood all have new work. And we introduce with pride new fiction from June Hutton and Rhea Tregebov. Lorna Crozier and Brian Brett return to the Festival with new non-fiction.

We hope you will take the opportunity to meet some of the finest international writers who are with us this year, Tash Aw from the UK, Debra Adelaide and Alexis Wright from Australia, Edmondo Paz-Soldán from Bolivia and Andrea De Carlo from Italy.

Our Bill Duthie Memorial Lecturer this year is Peter Mansbridge, known to so many Canadians as the anchor of CBC Televison’s The National. His new book, Mansbridge One on One, is an extraordinary selection of interviews from his Newsworld program of the same name, including conversations with politicians, journalists, arts and sports figures and newsmakers behind the biggest issues of the past decade. Our Spreading the Word events are not just of interest to students. Make sure to check out Friday daytime events for a chance to see some of your favourite authors. And we are proud once again to be presenting authors for young people in French as part of our La Joie de Lire program.

Let me end this greeting by reminding you that the Festival encourages people to become members. Join us in helping to enliven the literary life of Vancouver and in return we will offer you an array of benefits including reduced ticket prices.

Hal Wake, Artistic Director