New novels launched with suitable enthusiasm

October 20, 2012

Bill Gaston and Marjorie Celona

A Reading Hosted by Penguin Canada and Munro’s Books

Wednesday, October 17/12, Bard and Banker

Attended by Garth Martens

Novelists Marjorie Celona and Bill Gaston were in high cheer at the launch for their respective books, Celona’s debut novel Y and Gaston’s latest achievement The World. Relegated to the heat-lamped Hobbit hole upstairs, one hundred bodies crammed intimately together on benches, wicker chairs and between shelves of books, with pints in steady supply and higher demand. If a packed house is a recipe for an anxious sweat, the claustrophobic constraint of the venue added an uncommon ebullience to the usual wafty social cocktail that precedes such events, with every effervescent embrace an affirmation of tribal reliance.

The readings were brilliant as expected, beginning first with Celona, an emerging astonishment who flew in from Banff that morning, followed by local treasure Bill “The White Bear” Gaston, typically self-effacing in unshaven assemblé. Whether from the unrelenting heat lamp or the friction of flawlessly tempered prose, even the bodies lollygagging on the patio were unbuttoning their varied cardigans, dismantling their paisley silks, each set of thick-rimmed glasses sliding from the bridge of the nose, the product-rifled coifs losing their curated weave. Verily, the autocracies of style disunited in sweat.

Following the readings, of course the rabble queued, blank pages folded open, eager for a bit of chat or the commodified stamp of an author autograph, no one saying what everyone was thinking: if you back the right horse you can supplement your retirement fund on Ebay, or at least pay the rent this winter. The hooch was bankrolled by Penguin Canada, so I ordered another pint, its sedimental froth
churning like butter on the tongue. A good piss up, as my uncle might say. And two books that deserve it.

As the night staggered to an end, Gaston offered me a plate of fries, half-eaten. “Don’t take it if it’s gross,” he said, pointing to his mouth. “You can have half of the burger too, if you want it.” I took the fries. As Bill shambled to the bathroom, I picked at the plate with a gamesome friend, wondering when Bill’s partner Dede Crane might turn, mid-conversation, to find an alien person eating from her
husband’s plate. When we exceeded the budget for the liquor, the assemblage began to rotate and disperse. The moon looked like getting out of there. I kicked it to the street with a pair of books, a full belly, and a great night put to rest.

Garth Martens has an MFA in Poetry from the University of Victoria. He is a former member of the poetry editorial board at The Malahat Review. His first book of poems, Motive of Machines, will appear in spring of 2014 with House of Anansi Press.

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