Living in downtown Toronto provides no scarcity of opportunities to both observe and participate in performances of middle-classness, or what I’ve come to tongue-in-cheekedly refer to as “class acts.” So when TEC senior editor Beth proposed that this year TEC once again support The Word On The Street by “friending” an author who would be speaking at the festival, and circulated to our team of editors a list of fantastic-sounding books for the team’s perusal, Shawn Micallef’s The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure immediately stood out to me.
On the back cover of his book, the author promises to explore what the popularity of “the ritual we call brunch…say[s] about shifting attitudes toward social status and leisure,” and how these kinds of highly visible time- and money-consuming activities “have blinded us to ever-more-precarious employment conditions.”
As Micallef noted during the WOTS talk, although he has been ranting about brunch in particular for a while, it really serves as an accessible entry point to discuss various forms of middle-class “conspicuous consumption”—we could just as easily talk about Ultimate Frisbee, he quipped.
Climatically speaking, the morning of WOTS got off to a shaky start. Prepared for both the sunshine and the rainstorms
that intermittently appeared, my husband—who, like me, is a Toronto transplant originally from northern Ontario, and whose interest was also piqued by The Trouble with Brunch
—and I headed off. As we walked along College toward Queen’s Park, enjoying the (however momentary) bright and beautiful Sunday morning, I pointed to a street scene of just the kind of fun-that’s-not-actually-fun Micallef derides: a hungry-looking crowd, standing and waiting impatiently, had filled an eatery’s patio and spilled out into a line down the sidewalk.
The Panel and the Author
We arrived at the WOTS site and found our way to the Nothing But The Truth tent, early enough to hear Dan Riskin (cohost of Discovery’s Animal Planet) tell us, with infectious enthusiasm (pun intended), about some of the many awesome ways “Mother Nature is Trying to Kill You.”
Next up was Micallef, who was on a panel of three authors and their books that had been grouped together, for the purpose of the talk, under the broad umbrella of “Local Pop Non-Fiction” (the books of the other two authors were both about film). But what the three books had in common was more form than substance: all are part of different non-fiction series embracing a novella length of about 30,000 words (The Trouble with Brunch is part of Coach House press’s Exploded Views series).
As Micallef pointed out during the panelists’ discussion of the benefits and restrictions of this format, one advantage of the shorter length is that it permits the author to approach a subject in a “light and breezy” way, without the heavier density of research a full-length book warrants.
Perks of “friending” a WOTS author include first dibs on meeting the author after the talk and receiving a signed copy of his or her book. Micallef was friendly and gracious, chatting with us for a few minutes and signing my copy with these indisputable words of wisdom before heading over to the authors’ signing tent: “Eat normal meals at normal times!”
Then the hubs and I wandered around the festival for a while more, but by that time, the humble breakfast of bagels and coffee we’d scarfed at home that morning was wearing off, so we headed back home for a late lunch (because seriously, I have work deadlines to meet and a down payment to save for).
For more about The Trouble with Brunch,
visit Coach House Books at www.chbooks.com