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Stephen King at the Author’s Festival

Thrilling event last night – the opening night of the International Festival of Authors, a fundraiser for PEN Canada, featuring Stephen King and his younger son, fellow novelist Owen King. I’d already bought my ticket when dear friend Eleanor Wachtel called to say she had too much work, could I use her tickets? Could I?! I gave my ticket to my meditation leader Judy, and my tenant Carol and I took Eleanor’s tickets, which included the reception beforehand. Where I got to watch Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Clarkson, Stuart McLean and other illustrious members of Canadian royalty schmooze, and Stephen King and Canadian writer Linwood Barclay fling themselves into an embrace like long lost friends.

What an audience – not the usual IFOA crowd, that’s for sure – hundreds lined up far in advance, to get good seats to see their idol. People adore this man, who was wearing rumpled jeans and shirt, looking as far from a millionaire author as could be. Except that the organizer of the event, the amazing Janet Somerville, told me she had met “the King family private plane.” The perks to a success as big as his.

They’re all novelists, those Kings – father, mother, sons Owen and his brother who writes as Joe Hill, and a daughter in law too. The King daughter perhaps does something else – editing? Archeology? When asked their favourite memory of family life, father and son both talked about the ritual of reading books aloud “like a Victorian family” – specifically “Kidnapped.” Stephen spoke with great pride of the work of his wife and sons, and it’s a tribute to him that both young men have stepped bravely into his arena. As Owen read from his novel, Dad nodded his head and chuckled, as if he hadn’t heard this bit before – though when I got home after the very pleasurable night, I heard Jian interviewing Stephen and Owen. Who said many of the same things to him that they did to the on-stage interviewer at IFOA.

So there’s a family show biz gene as well as the writing gene. Stephen, talking about watching his sons turn into writers, said, “That stuff I thought was just Hallmark Card bullshit actually happens!”

If I’d asked him a question, it would have been about the horror he releases from his psyche and sends spewing out into the world. Apparently in his new book, Danny Torrence, the child from “The Shining,” is now an adult with psychic powers who needs to defend the world from monsters who stay alive by torturing children to death, or something. I don’t even want to see the words “torturing children to death” written down, let alone read a book about it. Where does that hideous image come from? Why would a writer want to explore it? It’s as if King feels compelled to dig up the most appalling facets of human life. Why? Surely not just to make a lot of money, though that’s the result.

Afterwards, as we left, there were hundreds lined up to have their books signed; I’ve never seen such a crowd. The man knows what works. His book “On Writing” is a classic. Though I do not read his horror books, I have great respect for his discipline and skill. But I do wonder about the source, and the effect, of his nightmares.

Today, another treat – hosting a tea for Jasmine and Niru, two of the Bengali women I met at the second-hand store Doubletake. Both with Master’s degrees in Bangladesh, they worked at the store for six years, have been let go and are searching for a new direction; I think I am their first and only Canadian friend. My tenant Christopher who’s been volunteering in Regent Park came to tea too, and we managed to make an appointment for the very shy Jasmine to take an English language assessment test at the Y, which will lead to English classes. We’re meeting again in a month, to see where they are now. They are both interesting and beautiful, wearing head shawls. I told them about my great-grandmother Anna Gordin, who came from Russia to the U.S. in 1894 with her 9 children. She spent her life in the kitchen speaking her native tongue and never learned English. That should not happen to Jasmine and Niru.

Just before they came, I was rushing about the house after a very energetic 17 month old, the best baby ever. OMIGOD I love him. I wrote a song and sang it to him. It goes like this:
I love Eli
Oh yes I do
I love Eli
And Eli is you.

He didn’t listen. He was too busy throwing all the books on the coffee table onto the floor.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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