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This article was published 24/8/2018 (878 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

THERE were 132 green plastic chairs set up at McNally Robinson Booksellers in front of the platform where award-winning author Miriam Toews was set to appear at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

By 6 p.m., all were occupied by an avid fan, a bulky purse, or an extra sweater.

At the Winnipeg launch of Toews’ latest novel, Women Talking, the only thing that seemed to go faster than the books were the seats.

In a galley a few steps away from the main seating area, Toews super-fan Nan Campbell sat in one of the store’s wicker easy chairs, facing away from the action.

She arrived at the Grant Park Shopping Centre business at 5:40 p.m., but even then, a chair was a hot commodity. "I’ve had people offer me money for my seat," she said.

It wasn’t clear if they were kidding.

"I don’t really need to see her," said Campbell, who was leafing through a fresh copy of the Steinbach-born author’s newest novel. "I just want to be able to hear her beautiful voice."

As Toews’ arrival drew near, the store continued to fill. Despite staff asking audience members to stay off the store’s staircase to get a better vantage point, several guests continued to climb up to the second-floor balcony, thinking they’d been the first to attempt the sly manoeuvre.

"We actually didn’t even see the sign," said one woman, clutching a novel under her arm.

To accommodate the large crowd, the audio from Toews’ reading, and the 54-year-old author’s conversation with singer-songwriter Christine Fellows, was broadcast over the store’s sound system.

A group of women in their late 60s sat in an aisle near the bargain book section, much to the dismay of a white-bearded man who’d thought he’d finally spotted a place to plunk down.

"Every chair is gone," he said, incredulously. "I guess I’m standing tonight."

But it was all right. When the Governor General’s Award-winning author finally took the stage, she was standing, too. Chairs were hard to come by.


Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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