Last night I visited Ben McNally Books in downtown Toronto and I have to say, it is the most beautiful bookstore I have even been in. It's like an elegant boutique for the best of the best reading materials.
I was there for the launch of Wayson Choy's Not Yet*, and while I waited I looked at a lot of other books too, including Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. That's a book that always makes me cry and also makes me want to kick The Boy who is so neglectful of the tree who loves him, even though I do get that The Boy is me and the tree is not. This is something that's being brought home to me a lot this week - practical examples of the importance of characters. They don't have to be likable, but they have to be there, and people have to be able to relate to them in some way. Boring when you say it and so big when you try reading out loud a story without any characters at all and then look at the blank faces of the people who may or not be listening to you by the time you're three minutes in.
The signing was packed by the way, and Wayson had bowls of origami butterflies at his table... how many authors give their readers little presents when they get a book signed? And the book itself - it's wonderful. You totally need a copy for yourself, and one for somebody else you love.
* I always link book titles to a big online retailer so that people visiting from other countries know what book I'm talking about, not necessarily buy them there. Support your local bookstores people, big or small, online or down the street!