Word on the Street: Rye instructor on short-format non-fiction

Ryerson instructor Adam Nyman in a still from a Ryersonian video. Nayman is a speaker at this year's Word on the Street festival. (Ryersonian)

Ryerson instructor Adam Nyman in a still from a Ryersonian video. Nayman is a speaker at this year’s Word on the Street festival. (Ryersonian)

A Ryerson instructor will be speaking at the “Nothing but The Truth” tent at this year’s Word on the Street festival.

The 25th annual festival aims to showcase the best in literary non-fiction, and the tent features local authors speaking about topics such as fathering an adopted child, the popularity of brunch and Arctic exploration.

Adam Nayman, a sessional film instructor at Ryerson and a contributing editor for Cinema Scope, is the author of It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls. He was invited to speak on a panel about why short-format and topical content is the new direction for non-fiction.

“When I found out in June that they had invited me, I was really, really excited because I just adore the event,” Nayman said.

“As far as short-format goes, I think certainly in publishing on pop culture subjects, or just cultural subjects, people like short books for a few reasons: they’re cheap and people’s attention spans have been shortened by the Internet.”

While he thinks concision is good, Nayman says that it can be taken too far. “There is a fine line between being concise and being glib,” he said.

He warns that just because you are able to take a cultural phenomenon like a book, movie, or political issue and distil it down, that doesn’t mean you will be doing the subject justice.

When Nayman was 14-years-old, he sneaked into a screening of Showgirls; at the time, it was a NC-17 restricted film, which meant that he wasn’t even allowed to go with his parents.

He said he wrote a novel about the film because it has always been negatively received by critics.

“There was a real pack mentality, or hive-mind mentality around the film. When people just decide that a movie is terrible, it becomes just like open season,” Nayman said.

He also stressed how it’s important and valuable to talk about reception, how opinion gets shaped and how blame gets heaped onto scapegoat films.

Authors David Fleischer, Tom Ue, Shawn Micallef will be joining Nayman for the panel, which runs from noon to 12:45 p.m.

Other featured authors that will be speaking at the tent include Daily Planet’s Dan Riskin, senior editor and co-owner of Spacing, Shawn Micallef, and Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk, who were named Ad Age’s ‘100 Most Influential Women in Advertising.’

The Word on the Street festival invites people to learn more about new Canadian books and magazines. It features some of the biggest names in Canadian literature and aims to highlight local talent, with tents from Amazon.ca, Penguin Random House, Toronto Book Awards and more.

The festival is this Sunday and is free. A full schedule with performance times and areas is available online.

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