Photo: Courtesy of maxine bailey
How George R.R. Martin Turned Maxine Bailey into a Fan of Fantasy Writing
The executive director of the Canadian Film Centre tells us about the best book she's read this year and how much she loves Zora Neale Hurston / BY Shinan Govani / May 26th, 2022
She believes in the power of stories. Maxine bailey, who joined the Canadian Film Centre as its executive director a year ago, has long pushed for a plurality of voices, and her own reading interests reflect that.
The former vice-president of advancement for the Toronto International Film Festival, Bailey founded the Share Her Journey project, aimed at achieving gender parity behind and in front of the camera; before that, she toiled in the trenches as a theatre producer. What has remained constant throughout her career, however, is her appreciation of books. Bailey, who served as a jurist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2018, loves nothing more than being taken into different worlds via the page.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld, which is a collection of short stories with flawed characters saying odd and not-so-nice things to each other – which I know some of us fantasize about saying IRL. Well, at least, I do.
What book can’t you wait to dive into?
Next up is Siren Queen by Nghi Vo, about a young Chinese American female actor trying to make it in 1930s Hollywood. I’m expecting another perspective in line with Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
What’s your favourite book of all time?
Their Eyes Are Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. This is my annual re-read. It gives me comfort. It gives me hope for love. It makes me question love. It gives me a sense of community – the highs and the lows. It’s contradictory, just like the author.
What book completely changed your perspective?
Strangely, A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. It is definitely not my usual type of book, however I saw the author speak at an event and I was compelled to purchase the first three books immediately and inhaled them over a two-week vacation. It totally opened my eyes to the world of fantasy. The moral of the story is not to be a snob and step outside of your traditional genres. Also Black Empire and Black No More by George S. Schuyler, a satirist who wrote under a pseudonym for The Pittsburgh Courier in the 1920s. His books are a collection of his columns and will blow your mind as political doomsday sci-fi pulp.
If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?
I can’t pick just one. Gwendolyn Brooks, because I adored her collection, Blacks. Zora Neale Hurston for her prickly contrariness and her radical approach to living, writing and observing.