by: Kerry Riley
It seems a very Canadian thing that this intrepid lover of Can Lit should find herself, one recent, sweltering but sunny blue July day, caught up in the raucous groove and riotous colour of a Caribbean festival parade on Ste. Catherine Street, on her much anticipated pilgrimage to Montreal’s storied Argo Bookshop, the purpose of which was to seek out review recommendations for interesting new Canadian fiction from a Montreal perspective.
Established in 1966, the Argo is one of Montreal’s oldest bookstores. It’s original owner and founder, John Lamont George, was a fixture of the Montreal literary scene until his death in 2006. Tiny (200 square feet) but mighty (6,000 volumes) it was kept running by two devoted employees after Mr. George’s demise before eventually acquiring new ownership. Through some trick of light and line the store manages to appear airy and commodious despite its tiny size, and a survey of the shelves quickly indicates that this is a readers’ bookstore, the selections carefully considered and, in light of the space restrictions, surprisingly complete. Although I was specifically interested in Canadian literature, the store offers a wide selection across the reading spectrum.
Current owners J. P. Karwacki, Jesse Eckerlin, Meaghan Acosta, and Gap Boo Ahn are young, enthusiastic, dedicated, and were only too happy to help select some fresh Canadian writing for me to consider. At one point, the counter was completely obscured by a stack of tantalizing possibilities, but, after much agonizing and in consultation with the ever gracious Meaghan Acosta, the following six titles, in no particular order, were selected:
The City’s Gates by Peter Dube
Looking For Tito by Goran Simic
Exit by Nelly Arcan
Blood Crossings by Nadine McInnis
and Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
and Niko by Dimitri Nasrallah
Stay tuned for reviews.