Journalist Ian Ostroff Covers a Whole Lot of Ground

Journalist Ian Ostroff’s piece on the Montreal literary scene (in English) goes back decades to include the time when novelist Richard King was co-owner of Paragraphe and Chris Houston (pictured) was manager of Chapters downtown — and then moves quickly through the intervening decades to today’s lively literary scene:

“The literary community was vibrant and happening. And what’s interesting is, we’d often attract both English and French readers. Even though language divided us, the bookstore was a good meeting ground. Suddenly, we’d all just connect over stories,” Chris Houston said, former manager of the Chapters on Ste. Catherine in the late 1990s’. “We had spoken-word events, little concerts, book launches, and proudly helped aspiring writers get their voices heard through our spoken word events, and by making their self-published chapbooks available in store for a time. Virtually every night something of a cultural nature would be going on at the store. There really was an energy.” 

Building on the historical element, Richard King — former co-owner of Paragraph Books and an established mystery author — told The Suburban how modern book retailing was invented here in Montreal. Linda Leith — founder of Blue Metropolis, author, and publisher — gave insight to the number of literary communities in various different languages in Montreal. The level of creativity and vibrancy is inspiring. Quite naturally, it produced great writers. 

“Performing at the spoken-word events was important for the development of my voice. I used the audience as my editors because they were intelligent and well-read,” Heather O’Neill said, International bestselling author of Lullabies for Little Criminals and many others. “And I believe that, the more specific and local you are, the more universal you become. That is the funny thing about trying to write fiction. The best way to engage is to be honest with who you are. Eventually, through sharing my work and putting myself out there, I got to where I am.” 

— Ian Ostroff, The Suburban, May 11, 2021


Photo courtesy Chris Houston of him and his associate Leah Chang at Chapters Downtown.