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On Scared Texts: The New Yorker at Luminato


Three fiction writers—a Jew, a Catholic and another Catholic—walk into the CBC building in Toronto for the city’s annual multidisciplinary cultural fest known as Luminato. It was no joke. Though there were a good many chuckles had by writers and audience members alike throughout the event entitled “Sacred Texts” (one of four events at Luminato produced by the New Yorker), it was a far more thoughtful, not to say religious, but honest, soulful, affair—the kind that illuminates for us why we read in the first place.

The authors had been chosen for their use of religious writings within their fiction and as such, had been asked to read from a sacred text precious to them. They shared the stage—bare other than the chocolate leather chairs they sat on and a small Persian rug laid out before them—with Deborah Treisman, the Fiction Editor at the New Yorker, ie. the woman who selects the short stories that enter that illustrious magazine. One of the three authors you have probably heard of; the other two, while not as well known (yet?) as their Irish stage mate, were both anointed under the New Yorker’s 20 Under 40 list. She was selected the first time the magazine made the list in 1999 (as were relative unknowns David Foster Wallace and Jhumpa Lahiri), he in the list that came out this year (Jonathan Safran Foer was on that one).

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