Asked to name the iconic taste of anglo Montreal, most people tend to fall back on high-carb cliché’s like smoked meat and bagels. But look further, into the city as served up by 21th century fiction and you’ll find quite another range of images.
Anglo Montreal is mean streets, back alleys and stoner Plateau rats, an altogether wild party town whose inhabitants are nonetheless proud to be here and sometimes—at least after midnight or when the weather breaks—deliriously happy.
A city where the past and present collide, its inhabitants struggle to negotiate ways around and through a motherload of history, both ancient and fresh. Inevitably, we face the weather, fierce winters alternating with sweltering summers, hardly any in-between. Our common challenges are both unifying and divisive: the ice storm, the referendum. Love, sex, food, ghosts, the dance of two languages meeting in public places.
So many images floating through my mind, the result of dipping into some 24 novels and short story collections set in Montreal, and published since 2000. Montreal is busy re-inventing itself in fiction.
You don’t have to take my word for it. On Sunday, November 28, Rover will team up with Infinitheatre to offer a reading featuring excerpts from these 24 books, just the bits that seem to nail our town. A mixture of generations and genres, sensibilities and styles, the common ground being setting: Montreal.
The following list (our programme) does not include everything written about Montreal since 2000, but I’m prepared to argue it is representative. If you’ve written or heard of other novels/collections with a Montreal location, please let me know. I’m interested in creating a bibliography and plan to write something of length on the theme.
Meanwhile, don’t miss what promises to be highly economical and I hope memorable verbal slide show of our fair city, circa 21st Century.
Writers and their works:
Lance Blomgren, Walkups
Gina Roitman, Tell Me a Story, Tell Me the Truth
Heather O’Neill, Lullabies for Little Criminals
Ann Charney, Distantly Related to Freud
Ami Sands Brodoff, The White Space Between
Nairn Holtz, The Skin Beneath
Gail Scott, The Obituary
Edward O. Phillips, Voyage on Sunday
Matthew Fox, Cities of Weather
David Homel, Midway
Claire Holden Rothman, The Heart Specialist
Doug Harris, You Comma Idiot
Mary Soderstrom, The Truth Is
Rawi Hage, Cockroach
Elise Moser, Because I Have Loved and Hidden It
J.R. Carpenter, Words the Dog Knows
Linda Leith, The Desert Lake
Marianne Ackerman, Matters of Hart
Neil Smith, Bang Crunch
Louis Rastelli, A Fine Ending
Peter Dubé, At the Bottom of the Sky
Glen Rotchin, The Rent Collector
John Brooke, The Last Days of Montreal
Claude Lalumière, This is the Ice Age
At the Bain St. Michel, 5300 St-Dominique St.
Sunday, November 28, from 5 to 7 pm.