Monday, June 23, 2008

Montreal, and the 501st night

{Photo by rocketlass.}

As I'm off to lovely Montreal this weekend for a conference, I have a question for the Canadian readers of this blog--from the comments and from the information Google analytics provides, I know you're there. Are there any novels set in or around Montreal that I really ought to read? Ed Park inadvertently offered up on on his blog today, Gordon Sheppard's Ha!--but it's nearly 900 pages, carries a subtitle of A Self-Murder Mystery, and seems a bit daunting for a four-day trip, much of which will be occupied by my efforts to fake my way through the leadership of a panel. So does anyone else have a suggestion?

Even as I ask for suggestions, I suppose I should probably confess: I'm probably not going to get around to acting on any of them in time for this trip. I've still got about half the boxes in Harry Stephen Keeler's The Box from Japan left to open, and I've also been weirdly anxious to read some Joseph Conrad the past couple of weeks, so Lord Jim will probably also accompany me. But I promise to gladly bank any good ideas for a future Montreal trip, which, given how much I enjoy that city, I promise will eventually happen..

A final note: this is my 501st post, enough to get me halfway to survival in the Sultan Shahryar's court. As even the best of my posts lack nearly all of Scheherazade's charms, however, I have trouble imagining that I would have lasted even through 501 nights.

No, somewhere along the way the sultan, frustrated at my lack of invention--the fact, for example, that I must needs consult a new book before every post--would surely have sent my head bouncing down the stairs, smiling goodbye to my toppling shoulders.

Still, a blogger can try, right? Thanks for reading.


  1. Read Mordecai Richler's Solomon Gursky Was Here. Great book. Great Montreal book. And very funny. It wouldn't hurt to learn a bit about the Bronfman family before you start reading. Have a great trip.

  2. Thanks, Ari. Another reader e-mailed to recommend Richler, so I think the decision is made. We're staying right down the street from a Chapters, so I may just be able to pick the book up.

  3. Missed this at the time, but if Montreal has piqued your interest then may I suggest Mavis Gallant's Montreal Stories (not a novel, but damned wonderful). And if you wait a month or so then you can pick up Rawi Hage's Cockroach which gives a very different view of the city.

  4. Thanks, o'leary. Gallant's got a volume of Paris stories out from New York Review Books, but the Montreal stories appear to be out of print. I'll have to look around for them.

    I've never heard of Hage, but you've at least piqued my interest enough that I'll take a look.

  5. Rawi Hage won the IMPAC for his first novel - set in Beiruit. Cockroach is about an immigrant's experience of Montreal - very good.
    The Montreal stories are collected in the big Gallant that came out few years ago, which is where I've been re-reading them this summer. They're also available in an excellent audio edition from Rattling Books - there may be an excerpt on their site.
    Just this week I found a peculiar Montreal novel from the 1940s - pretty much unread these days. Written by a woman named Gwethalyn Graham and about anti-semitism in Montreal around that period. Very uneven novel but an interesting view of that particular time & place.

  6. O'Brien10:44 AM

    Leonard Cohen's 1963 novel The Favourite Game is enjoyable. Some self deprecating humour and poetic renderings of Sherbrooke and other Montreal streets