Reading event: Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein

War Memorial Hall, University of Guelph, September 9 2017:

Wow. It’s been a year since I’ve been to a reading. War Memorial Hall is where the keynote speakers for the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival appear a day before the festival proper kicks off, and it’s where I saw Alexandre Trudeau last year. This year Naomi Klein was up.

The event was sold out and there were actually people lined up hoping to get tickets outside. I thought this was kind of weird. It was sort of like scalping, but it was being arranged by the festival coordinators, and the people who wanted tickets were, as I say, lined up waiting to get second-hand tickets. Tickets were $10 each and I didn’t ask how much they were selling for on this grey market. Surely there was some premium, as those who had them and who had already come out for the event should have been expected to get something for their troubles. But how much of a premium? If you’d bought a ticket and shown up at the Hall, what would somebody have to offer you to give your ticket up? I heard somebody suggest $5, but that hardly seems fair. On the other hand, would you really want to pay $20 for a ticket?

The guests appeared on time but Klein didn’t actually start reading until twenty minutes in. There were three introductions, including a sing-a-long with a representative of Indigenous people. This was a bit different, and also weird because nobody in the audience (I’m sure) had a clue what the words they were singing meant.

Klein read her most recent column, about the forest fires in British Columbia, instead of something from the book she was signing (No Is Not Enough). I wouldn’t say she is a great reader, and I thought the sound needed to be bumped up a bit on the speakers. The interview/discussion after, however, with Tanya Talaga, went very well. Klein is really good at communicating her ideas in a conversational, informal way, and Talaga’s questions took us through the arguments made in No Is Not Enough.

It also helps that it was a friendly audience. The only point where I had some reservations was when Klein talked about taking her child to see the part of the Great Barrier Reef that is still alive. Isn’t such tourism (eco- or otherwise) a big part of the problem? I think we should all be traveling a lot less. I’m all for setting up more sanctuaries where visitors aren’t even allowed and that can only be viewed by webcams.

The audience questions got cut off at the end. They really should have got started sooner. One seemingly eccentric scientist got up to say that she thought the U.S. military might be behind the hurricanes currently pounding Texas and Florida. The crowd groaned, and Klein politely said that she disagreed with such a theory, but I got a kick out of it anyway. It takes all types.

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