April 18, 2013

Festival turns over a new leaf


---- — MONTREAL — Write on!

Blue Metropolis, Montreal’s premiere multilingual literary festival, once again brings writer and reader together for its milestone 15th edition beginning Monday. More than 100 workshops, author meet-and-greets, lectures, talks, master classes and book launchings will be featured.

Greg McCormick, Blue Met’s programming director, says he’s quite pleased to hit that important 15-year mark and plans to celebrate in a big way.

“We have a pretty big program this year,” he said. “We try to shoot for events that are diverse so that we can appeal to all kinds of audiences, no matter what your interest.”

McCormick said this year’s festival topics will highlight traditional literary stars; include a series that explores ecology, sustainability and literature; and even give a nod to baseball and beer.


At the top of this year’s Blue Met list are a number of notable literary awards. The Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix has been awarded to Irish writer Colm Toibin, whose acclaimed works include “The Story of the Night,” “The Master” and “The Testaments of Mary.” Colm will be awarded $10,000 at a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 25, at the Grande Bibliotheque (Montreal’s main library) at 475 De Maisonneuve Blvd. E.

Toibin joins an illustrious group of past Blue Met grand-prize laureates who include Norman Mailer; Michel Tremblay; Margaret Atwood; and last year’s winner, Joyce Carol Oats.

Toibin was chosen from an independent jury that works together with the Blue Met Foundation. The confirmation was as simple as McCormick sending Toibin an email. Toibin graciously accepted. 

“He emailed me back quite quickly and said he was very happy to be coming back to Montreal,” McCormick said. “He hasn’t been here in a number of years.”

This year also marks the seventh year of awarding the Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher Blue Metropolis Arab Prize, which, this year, is awarded to American/Libyan author Hisham Matar. 

“His first novel, ‘In the Country of Men,’ got a lot of attention, and his last book, ‘Anatomy of a Disappearance,’ also has some good buzz,” McCormick said.

Matar will accept his prize in a ceremony at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, at Hotel 10.


A few fest events are all about good taste.

Local writer Peter Dube interviews gay literary icon Edmund White at the Brooke restaurant Saturday, April 27. The event includes brunch for $45.

“It’s your chance to have breakfast with Edmond White,” McCormick said. “And that should be a lot of fun.”

More foodie and literary fun can be had at the event “Breakfast Salon: Sylvia Plath and the Bell Jar.”

“Each person at breakfast gets a turn reading a page from Plath,” McCormick said. “It’s then up for discussion.”

The event is hosted at Restaurant Brooke by food blogger Kratynski Isabella on Sunday, April 28. The fee is $25.

New York Times best-selling cookbook author Molly O’Neill hosts “Master Class: Cookbook Writing,” a one-day workshop that will help you publish your own cookbook. It’s also held April 28. The cost is $30.


The official closing event is a tribute to Canadian Centre of Architecture founder Phyllis Lambert, whose new book, which was released earlier this week by Yale University Press, is “Building Seagram.” The work details the building of New York City’s iconic Seagram Building. Lambert, as director of planning, was instrumental in bringing Ludwig Mies van der Rohe on board as architect for the project as well as employing abstract artist Mark Rothko to create the lobby installation.

“That building is a revolution in urban architecture in many ways,” McCormick said. “It’s part of her legacy.”

Lambert will be at the lecture on April 28. The cost is $10.

Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at

IF YOU GO WHAT: Blue Metropolis WHEN: The festival runs from Monday, April 22, through Sunday, April 28. WHERE: Most events are held at Hotel 10 in the Latin Quarter at 10 Sherbrooke St. at the corner of St. Laurent Blvd. (Metro stations St. Laurent or Sherbrooke). ADMISSION: Most literary events range from $10 to $15. A VIP Pass (excluding some writing workshops and special events) costs $45. Purchase tickets at La Vitirne at (866) 924-5538, or in person at the La Vitrine box office at 2 St. Catherine St. E. (near Place des Arts). Tickets may also be purchased at the hotel. CONTACT: For more information, call (514) 932-1112. Visit the complete schedule at