It’s rare that I look out on yet another perfect, sunny day in Brazil and wish that I was in my other hometown, Toronto.
I sometimes get nostalgic for something specific: a friend, or a favorite restaurant. And occasionally I yearn for an entire neighbourhood (it’s almost always Chinatown). But very rarely do I miss the city as a whole enough to wish I was there.
But every September it happens at least once, because September is when the sparkly pixie dust of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) drifts in on a cool autumn breeze and coats every intersection, every streetlight, and every skungy eatery in a magical candy coating.
For years, a close connection to certain TIFF staff allowed me to avoid the ticket lotteries and other rigamarole and see every damned film I wanted, which was glorious. I watched Toshiaki Toyoda’s awesome Blue Spring unfold long before it became a cult classic. I watched Claire Denis’ disturbing Trouble Every Day, followed by an even more disturbing Q&A in which Vincent Gallo propositioned the female audience members en masse. I watched the beautiful, brutal City of God before I had any personal connection to Brazil, reveled in the Korean monster movie The Host, and lost myself in Seung-wook Moon’s low -budget dystopian fantasy Nabi (The Butterfly), which I’ve never been able to find again.
I’d have loved to be at this year’s festival,but this time it’s not just for the usual reasons. This year Alan Turing–the ground-breaking British mathematician, computer pioneer, and war hero, who was prosecuted for and convicted of homosexuality and died, a probable suicide, at the age of forty-one–won top honors. The Turing biopic, The Imitation Game (trailer below), starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, took home the coveted Grolsch People’s Choice Award, setting some serious Oscar buzz in motion.
I’ve been flying Turing’s flag for more than a decade now, beginning at a time in the late 1990s when he was still obscure, long before the UK government apologized for its treatment of him, before he was officially pardoned for his conviction, before his hundredth anniversary became the occasion for international celebrations in 2012, and before The Pet Shop Boys memorialized him.
I gave an artificial intelligence his face in my novel Luck and Death at the Edge of the World, blogged about him here on The Turing Centenary, and his various fictional incarnations (mine is hardly the only one) will be the subject of my upcoming non-fiction book, Conjuring Turing: The Fictional Afterlife of Alan Turing.
The TIFF win underscores the fact that although the Turing centenary is now long past, Alan Turing’s star is still rising. And as it climbs, others are occasionally dragged into the limelight along with him.
Which brings me to some other news.
Some time ago I was asked by the editors of an upcoming book to write a brief article about Christopher Morcom, Alan Turing’s close friend, mathematical muse, and secret teenage crush.
The book is called The Who, the What, and the When: 65 Artists Illustrate the Secret Sidekicks of History, and the title more or less speaks for itself. A selection of unsung heroes who inspired, supported, or carried water for more famous counterparts are finally getting their due.
From Nabokov’s wife to Warhol’s mother, and from Al Capone’s mentor to Lenin’s brother, this book takes stock of the indispensable but often overlooked contributions of relatives, friends, secretaries, lovers, and business partners to the careers of the great and glorious.
After a long period of incubation, which was inevitable in a project with this many authors, its publication is now almost upon us. On October 14, 2014 it will become available, with a launch (head’s up New Yorkers!) on October 24 at The Powerhouse Arena in Brooklyn.
It’s a great looking volume, as you can see from the photos below.
The book follows the success of The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science and features a foreword by Kurt Andersen, host of the awesome Studio 360, which I never miss (in podcast form).
Many thanks to the Who, What, and When team at Also Online–Julia Rothman, Jenny Volvovski, and Matt Lamothe–for inviting me to be part of the project. To everyone else: the holiday season isn’t that far away, and this book would make an awesome gift for anyone who enjoys knowing the story behind the story.
And now, to close, a last bit of TIFF. Here’s an extensive TIFF interview with Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley about The Imitation Game (in which Knightly’s first words to the interviewer are a good-humored fuck you).