Wordfest 2014: Naomi Klein at Knox United Church

There’s a line around the block outside the Knox United Church to see somebody talk about how the world is coming to an end unless we repent of our sinful ways and enter a glorious new world of love and brotherhood. The preacher is Naomi Klein, a small and unassuming woman with an uncanny knack for finding the hottest-button topic of any age and writing the books that future history professors will assign to students looking to understand the anti-globalization movement of the ’90s (No Logo) and the recent financial crash (The Shock Doctrine). That is, if there are colleges in the future, and if there are humans. It’s looking increasingly unlikely that we’ll survive this century, and although we’re always one mutated virus away from the next pandemic, one inattentive astronomer away from an asteroid cracking Earth open, our extinction will likely come about as a result of climate change.

Klein addressed a congregation that is mostly old enough to have been old when No Logo was released – there are no aged Battle of Seattle veterans here. Despite moderator and oil-sands activist Andrew Nikiforuk’s promise that she’d be “rabble rousing,” there’s not much fire here, and very little brimstone unless you count the sulfur dioxide that geo-engineers would like to use to cool the Earth (Klein is emphatically against this proposal, and paints a picture of a geo-engineering conference she attended as a fraternity of tech dudebros congratulating each other).


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Station Eleven Cover

Wordfest 2014: Future Imperfect at Theatre Junction GRAND

There’s a lot going on at Wordfest this year – literary deathmatches and clothing swaps and drawing classes – but the meat of any literary festival is always going to be one or more writers reading from and talking about their work.

One of the earliest readings in the lineup features two Canadian writers – now transplanted to Brooklyn, because everybody in literature is in Brooklyn – with two roughly similar novels out now. In Adam Sternbergh‘s Shovel Ready, a dirty bomb in Times Square causes the collapse of the city’s tourist economy, then everything else. Across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, a garbage man whose wife died in the attack embraces nihilism, then a career as a hitman in the newly dystopian Big Apple. British Columbian-born Emily St. John Mandel‘s Station Eleven proceeds from the onstage death of a Shakespearean actor to a pandemic that wipes out 99 per cent of the human population and follows the members of the remaining one per cent who form a travelling theatre company.

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Wordfest: All things literature

A literary culture is one of those really basic elements that make a city livable rather than simply habitable. Good coffee, a thriving gay scene, dog walking parks and the ability for a man to get a close shave with a straight razor from somebody who only speaks Italian are also important, but we’re here to talk about books.

Wordfest has been bringing literature and the people who write it to Calgary, Banff and the Bow Valley for the past 19 years, curating a series of talks and workshops by international writers at venues across the area. Think of it as a quieter Sled Island, and, like a music festival, it’s a mix of essential headline acts and smaller artists who you and a handful of other people will discover buried deep in the event’s program who nonetheless will be life-changingly brilliant.


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