Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Fame and Happiness Are Not Synonyms

Amy Jones and Terry Fallis are two of the OIWF’s “repeat offenders.” Both authors love to challenge their audiences, as well as make them laugh. Jones’ last appearance at the OIWF was in 2009 with a book of short stories; Fallis took the stage in 2017 with his seventh novel. Both writers are funny and witty, both live in Toronto, and their October 25th joint book talk was their third such event in the last two months. On Friday evening, along with their new novels, Amy Jones and Terry Fallis brought a dose of humour, a bucket of laughter, and a plate of food for thought for a packed audience as they introduced their characters’ struggles, tribulations, and triumphs in the face of fame.  


Amy Jones’s novel Every Little Piece of Me is a book about growing up in the spotlight and coming to fame reluctantly. The character of Mags Kovach is a musician, the lead singer of a struggling rock band in Halifax. Her friend Ava Hart is an unenthusiastic cast member of a reality TV show portraying her New York City’s family’s efforts to run a Nova Scotia inn. Ava has been on the show since she was a teenager, forced to navigate growing up, coming into her own identity, and being famous all at the same time. Ultimately, fame has become an insidious desire within her. Every Little Piece of Me chronicles a friendship in which the two characters may not always make the best decisions, but they always support and encourage each other, especially as no one else understands their predicament or the heavy toll of fame. 


The protagonist of Fallis’ eighth novel Albatross, Adam Coryell is an ordinary high school student with a girlfriend and an extraordinary passion for fountain pens and writing. Suddenly, as a result of his gym teacher’s interest in an obscure theory by an eccentric Scandinavian scientist, Adam finds out that he has a body perfectly suited for golf, a sport he neither knows how to play nor cares about. “Lucky” for him, he needn’t practice or even think about the sport lest it impede his innate abilities and weaken his skills. Throughout the novel, the readers follow Adam’s unexpected and shockingly rapid rise to fame as a golfer making millions of dollars within months virtually through no fault or effort of his own. Fallis yet again demonstrates his wry and gentle way of describing reality and using humour as a tool for social comment, an entry point to examining another serious issue – the dichotomy between success and happiness, fame and fulfillment, gift and burden.   


Jones and Fallis once again showed us why they are two of Canada’s best-selling authors. Interwoven in their respectively unique and humorous books are serious and even heartbreaking insights into the meaning of our work, agency over our lives and decisions, consequences of success, and origins of happiness.