Just as rock groupies would do anything for a backstage pass, readers crave the chance to get up close with their idols — to meet their favourite writers and hear first-hand the thought processes behind great works.
Which is why the Ottawa Writers Festival’s intimate “Lunch with Vincent Lam” event is such a brilliant idea. Here’s the Writersfest pitch: “Tickets for this exclusive event — a fundraiser for our free Children’s literacy programs — include a delicious meal, a copy of The Headmaster’s Wager, and a candid conversation on his life, his work, and the inspiration for his acclaimed new novel.”
Lunch, let it be known, is at the vaunted Fraser Cafe’s new Table 40 space, so the eating will not be secondary to the conversation.
The deets: Lunch with Vincent Lam takes place on Saturday, April 28, at Fraser Cafe’s Table 40 (11 Springfield Road.) Tickets cost $75 for the general public; $65 for festival members.
In Lam’s words: “Ever since I was a teenager and wanted to write, I envisioned a book about the experience of the Chinese expatriate community in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This is part of my family’s background. When I first began to write, about ten years ago, that was the novel I began to work on. However, very quickly I realized that I wasn’t ready to address this book and I shifted my attention to medical short shorties — these became Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures.”
“After the publication of my first short story collection, I turned back in earnest to the book that I had left ‘suspended.’ I’m glad I waited to write it, because telling this tale became both a great struggle and a great joy — and it required the right time in my life to find its way onto the page.”
And a mini-review: The Headmaster’s Wager is the hotly anticipated second novel from Vincent Lam, who burst onto the scene in 2006 with his Giller Prize-winning Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures. Here, Lam crafts the harrowing story of one man — Chinese expat Percival Chen, headmaster of a respected English school in Saigon — who is forced to confront his own prejudices as he’s buffeted by the turmoil of Vietnam’s ever-shifting political landscape in the three decades preceding the 1975 fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese forces. This is a beautifully rendered character study of one man but also tells the much larger story of what day-to-day life was like for the ethnic Chinese living in South Vietnam at the time.
For Lam fans who can’t make the lunch, the author makes a second appearance at the Fest on April 27 in a panel discussion with Peter Hobbs and Ami McKay.