Adrienne Clarkson in Conversation with Colm Toibin

Thank you for tuning in to the first episode of our new series The Superfan Showcase - a co creation and partnership between Wordfest and the amazing team at PEN Canada. The Superfan Showcase will enable all of us to eavesdrop on the most inspiring Canadians as they engage in in-depth and wide ranging conversation with their favorite authors, and The Right Honorable Adrienne Clarkson in conversation with acclaimed author Colm Tóibín certainly set the bar. Re-watch their soul-nurturing discussion about Ireland, music and literature, and a deep dive into some of their favourite writers, among them Thomas Mann, the subject of Tóibín’s new novel The Magician here. Or subscribe to Imagine On Air On Demand to access our growing library of past shows.

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Madame Clarkson confessed to Tóibín he’s a writer whose every book she tries to read, as well as his many articles in The London Review of Books. She finds his work “very soothing, like music…because it has a kind of feeling of the way words would be when we first crawled out of the muck or dropped the fins for little toes.”

EXTRA_AClarkson&ColmToibin_Writer as a Failed talker


We could listen to Tóibín discuss — and recite — Yeats for hours. As a youth, Tóibín himself wanted to be a poet, “the way others want to be a doctor or a journalist”. With a nod to some hard work during the pandemic, he finally finished his first collection of poems Vinegar Hill, which will be published on April 12th by Penguin Random House.

On Nora Webster: Adrienne Clarkson with Colm Tóibín


Asked by Madame Clarkson what makes him step confidently into the persona of women, Tóibín answered that both Brooklyn and Nora Webster were written after periods of loss, to describe something only he was witness to. “Nothing dramatic, just grief becoming sadness. Something very dark becoming gray…It wasn’t appropriation…I was rescuing something I was very close to.”  

Soothing as Music: Adrienne Clarkson with Colm Tóibín


Madame Clarkson remembers first reading Hemingway – A Farewell to Arms — on a train ride between Toronto and Ottawa when she was eighteen; for Tóibín it was A Moveable Feast, borrowed from his sisters. He recalls later reading The Sun Also Rises, age 17, on the beach during breaks at a bar where he worked. “I found it smart, glamourous and so far away from the world I myself was inhabiting.” Though currently unfashionable, they both watched Hemingway (the recent PBS documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick) and still think he’s the greatest.

Adrienne Clarkson in Conversation with Colm Toibin


Listen to Tóibín’s fascinating take on how Hemingway’s writing style owes much to Cézanne, whose work he was first introduced to by Gertrude Stein. This painting, The Large Bathers, among the first paintings Stein and her brother Leo acquired, is now in the collection of Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation.

Hemingway Learning From Cezanne: Adrienne Clarkson with Colm Tóibín

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