Sunday, May 08, 2011

Out-of-Town Authors: Annabel Lyon

GOLDEN opportunity
Fans can ask author their favourite Aristotelian questions

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
by: Ariel Gordon

Annabel Lyon is the New Westminster, B.C.-based author of four books.

Her third book, a novel that plumbs the relationship between the philosopher Aristotle and his pupil Alexander the Great, won the 2009 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize - which is pretty good, but The Golden Mean (Random House) was also nominated for every other award for fiction a Canadian writer can be nominated for: The Giller.

The Governor General's Award for Fiction.

The Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Annabel Lyon will be in Winnipeg on Monday, giving a combination reading/lecture at 7 p.m. in the University of Winnipeg's Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall.

1) As a writer (i.e. someone whose artistic practice is predicated on time spent alone) how do you approach performance? What do you get out of it?

For me, the best part of any reading is afterwards, when I get to meet people who've read my book and want to chat. I love hearing from readers. The best thing I hear from people who've read The Golden Mean is, "Now I want to read some Aristotle; where should I start?"

2) What do you want people to know about The Golden Mean?

I want people to know that even though it's about Aristotle, it's not dry or difficult: The ideas are very approachable (one of the things I love about the ancients) and I tried hard to give Aristotle a body as well as a mind. He eats, has sex, blows his nose, bleeds, laughs and so on. I tried to explore that part of him that's just a regular guy.

3) Will this be your first time in Winnipeg? What have you heard?

This is indeed my first time in Winnipeg. I've heard it has a great arts scene.

4) What are you reading right now? What are you writing right now?

I'm on the Scotiabank Giller Prize jury this year so I'm reading far more than I can possibly list.

I'm working on a sequel to The Golden Mean that will feature Aristotle's 16-year-old daughter, Pythias.

5) What were the biggest struggles for you of writing Aristotle's time and place?

I guess the biggest struggle was the endless research. You want your character to drink a glass of water; but what does that look like in ancient Macedon? Not a glass; is it a wooden cup, or pottery? Does the water come from a well? Would they keep jugs around the house? Would a slave fetch it, or would the character get it himself? It would have been easy to get bogged down in tiny details like that. I spent a lot of time trying to hang onto the bigger picture, to the contemporary resonance and relevance of the characters; what made them like us, rather than what made them different.

Ariel Gordon is a Winnipeg writer.

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