READ ALL OVER – RICHARD WOLFE

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Read All Over celebrates the bookworm in all of us, showcasing readers in Vancouver and the books they love most.
Richard Wolfe became artistic director of Pi Theatre in February 2008 after twelve years as co-founder, director and co-artistic producer of Theatre Conspiracy—a company that received 24 Jessie Richardson nominations for outstanding artistic achievement under his tenure. As an educator, Richard has taught or directed at Studio 58, the Neptune Theatre School in Halifax, Saint Mary’s University, the University of the Fraser Valley and at the University of British Columbia, where he earned his MFA.He recently brought this vast experience to the 1-Act Festival (June 18-22 at the Cultch) from SHIFT Theatre, where he served as a juror in their first year using a juror selection process. He notes: “Attending the 2014 edition of the Shift One-Act Festival is a great way to experience some of the finest young talent currently contributing to Vancouver’s outstanding contemporary theatre scene.”

What’s on your nightstand right now?

Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives.  Roberto Bolaño was a Chilean novelist, short-story writer, poet and essayist who died in 2003 at the age of 50. He is considered one of the finest authors of his generation. He was recommended to me by the film reviewer and playwright José Teodoro. The Savage Detectives spins out a series of trips and adventures, narrated by 52 characters, that takes them from Mexico City to Israel, Paris, Barcelona, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vienna and finally to Liberia during its civil war in the mid-nineties. It gives the reader a real insight into the state of mind of a generation of Latin American writers who I mostly knew nothing about. In my opinion, it’s easy to forget that there’s a huge world of super-cool literature out there beyond what’s being written in English.

Is this the genre you usually prefer?

When I’m not reading plays of various kinds (a whole other esoteric world of reading), I like to read prose fiction. Because I don’t read a lot of it, whenever I do I find the experience a bit like a taking a vacation.

What’s next on your list? How do you normally choose your titles?

It’s a satire called The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by the Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson. I tend to choose items to read through recommendations of friends and colleagues, from various reviews and by browsing at Pulp Fiction on Main Street.

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What is your favourite story set in Vancouver?

Fred Herzog: Photographs by Douglas Coupland, Sarah Milroy, Jeff Wall, Claudia Gochmann. The setting is the story.

What magazines/journals are essential to you?

The New Yorker consistently publishes excellent essays, short stories and reviews. I love Vancouver websites like Vancouver is Awesome. [Editor’s note: *Blush*] They’re becoming an essential part of the cultural fabric of this place because they care about creating conversations between the people who live here in a way that print magazines and newspapers might have done a couple of decades ago.

Do you read these mostly online or print, and why?

I like to read magazines and novels in print. Everything else I seem to read online. The tactile experience of flipping through pages can’t be duplicated digitally and I find it much easier on the eyes, which makes the time spent processing words more enjoyable (like many people I already spend at least half my day staring into a screen).

Where is your favourite place to crack open a book in the city?

My couch.

What is your reading style (in five words or less)?

Lingering.

Which books/authors have influenced you the most?

Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, originally published in 1955. It contains one of my favourite passages in a book: “There was no morphine in the first-aid kit, no protection for Snowden against the pain but the numbing shock of the gaping wound itself. The twelve syrettes of morphine had been stolen from their case and replaced by a cleanly lettered note that said: ‘What’s good for M & M Enterprises is good for the country. Milo Minderbinder.’ Yossarian swore at Milo and held two aspirins out to ashen lips unable to receive them.”

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What were your favourite books or stories growing up?

As a young child I was obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. My favourites growing up were various novels by Kurt Vonnegut, and the complete works of Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes).

Was there any individual in particular that shaped your development as a reader? How?

As is probably pretty typical, my mother read to me a lot when I was a child.

The one book you always recommend is…?

I’d been recommending A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan for a while. For music lovers I’d defiantly recommend How Music Works by David Byrne.

What is the most cherished item in your library?

A first American edition of The Playboy of the Western World by J.M.Synge. It was published in Boston in 1911.

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Richard’s library

What’s the last book you purchased?

I bought a pamphlet last Saturday at Pulp Fiction called Politics and the English Language by George Orwell.

Are you a hoarder or a give-away-er with books? What’s the last book you lent out?

I have a professional theatre library that I keep for work, but other things tend to circulate. The last book I lent was Theatre is More Beautiful Than War by Marvin Carlson.

Your life story is published tomorrow; the title is…?

Art Imitating Life Imitating Art.

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Richard Wolf at home with Elektra