Ottawa's Festival of Ideas Since 1997

Fiction Cabaret

This Cabaret was intellectual and fruitful in nature. It was different from the cabaret you had in mind – you know, the one where actors prance and other characters sport super glue haircuts. There was no stage or heavy lighting, just the corner of a pub with a microphone stand. Ray Robertson said he’s been here about nine times, but he may have been over exaggerating. He is a fiction writer, after all.


It was hot and muggy in the Manx basement, but it rained a chill outside. CBC Journalists and professors from local universities collected themselves on stools to hear what Ray Robertson and Harry Karlinsky had to read. Two polar opposite authors brought forth an abundance of kind ears, ones which encouraged laughter and scientific intrigue, all within the hour.


Harry Karlinsky politicized the discussion surrounding literary awards in a world where some vote themselves in or are pushed to the top by inner circles. “What about Sigmund Freud?” he questioned, and expanded on his disappointment with the history of the Nobel Prize. Curated words and a research-based novel awakens the senses of the mature intellects; luckily there were many of them. I learned that Freud philosophized by saying that it is “from air to air that one discovers truth”; a path of righteousness that few dare to travel. If Freud were still around, I’d give him props.


Ray Robertson read with the aura of a Beat era poet and questioned the difference between published and self-published. This let out a few warm giggles because the festival’s attendees understand this dilemma quite well. He made us consider the advantages and disadvantages of being born rich, which immediately made me think, rich or self-rich? Someone who is having an inner battle with these questions, would surely argue “Google me! I’ve got my own website and I’m only one click away” (WINK) – which is something Ray read during his performance.


Just before Ray sat down to devour some edible delicacies, which out of chivalry prevented me from asking him a few questions, he left a lasting impression by sharing that, “sometimes, broken hearts sound like an attractive option.”


I’ll ask you about that on the tenth time you’re around, Mr. Robertson, as I'm sure you'll be coming back.