May Newsletter (05/01/2015)

Greetings! Tomorrow is Authors for Indies Day, so be sure to come by our shop any time between 11AM and 8PM to meet local authors and discover the books they want you to be reading!


A quick synopsis of the newsletter: May’s book of the month is Brooke Jeffrey’s Dismantling Canada: Stephen Harper’s New Conservative Agenda from McGill-Queens Univeristy Press. As for events (click on the links for the Facebook events), we’ve got a great line-up we hope you’ll check out. First (May 9th) we’ll be hosting a triple threat book launch of short stories, a novel and poetry with Rhonda Douglas, Nadine McInnis and Leslie Vryenhoek. Second (May 13th), we’ll be hosting our 29th Featured Reading with poets/small press stars Lillian Necakov, Nick Power and Jim Smith. Finally, we hope any and all folks will be able to come out to our LAST open mic session (#35) on May 27th. This will be Argo co-owner JP’s last month at the shop, and he’d love it if you could drop in and say goodbye!

& don’t forget: We’ve got a regular discount of 15% off offered to any and all book clubs and book club members.

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Book of the Month: 20% off

Dismantling Canada by Brooke Jeffrey


“Stephen Harper is the first prime minister to represent the new Conservative Party, and the first to declare that his goals include nothing less than changing Canada by entrenching conservative values and replacing the Liberals as the country’s natural governing party. After nine years of a closed-door governing style, his agenda is no longer hidden.
As Brooke Jeffrey outlines in compelling detail in Dismantling Canada, Harper’s agenda is driven by a desire to impose order and tradition at home, and to take firm stands on emerging issues abroad. With only thirty-nine per cent of the popular vote in 2011, his government appears to have gone a surprisingly long way towards achieving those objectives, with little or no concerted public opposition. Illuminating the importance and influence of British and especially American right-wing conservatives on Harper’s strategies, the book explains how he has achieved so much through a combination of stealth, pragmatism, and ruthless determination.” (from McGill-Queen’s University Press)


New & Latest Arrivals








  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls



  • Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
  • Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Night by Elie Wiesel
  • Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment by Lama Surya Das
  • Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual Transformation by Lama Surya Das
  • Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem by Gloria Steinem
  • Race, Nature,& the Politics of Difference by Donald S. Moore
  • Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical Writings by Walter Benjamin
  • Illuminations: Essays and Reflections by Walter Benjamin
  • Selected Poems of E.E. Cummings
  • Collected Poems of Siegfried Sassoon
  • Collected Poems of Stevie Smith


Events for the Month of April


Triple Threat Book Launch
Rhonda Douglas, Nadien McInnis & Leslie Vryenhoek
Saturday, May 9th
Argo Bookshop
Reading @ 6PM

On Saturday, May 9th at 6PM, the Argo will be hosting an evening of poetry, short stories and novel excerpts from three authors:

Rhonda Douglas will be launching her debut collection of short stories entitled Welcome to the Circus(Freehand Books), a book that “dazzles with daring, dangerous prose. Every moment is a tightrope act, precariously balanced on the edge of destruction. These ten strikingly original stories highlight the courageous, acrobatic acts we learn to perform in search of love.”
Douglas is the author of Some Days I Think I Know Things: The Cassandra Poems, (Signature Editions, 2008). Her writing has been published across Canada and has won awards from The Malahat Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, Prairie Fire and Room Magazine.

Nadine McInnis will be launching her new book of poetry Delirium for Solo Harp (Buschek Books): “How do we accompany someone we love through the process of dying? The harp stands in for the visceral aspects of being human in these unflinching poems about the final days of a father’s life. Nadine McInnis is tuned and attuned to the music of memory and mourning.”
McInnis is the author of eight previous books of poetry, literary criticism and short fiction. Her work has been compared by Publishers Weekly to that of Alice Munro and has won or been shortlisted for many awards. Her last book of poetry, Two Hemispheres, was short-listed for the Pat Lowther Award, the Relit Award and the Lampman-Scott Award. Her most recent book of fiction, Blood Secrets, was long-listed for the international Frank O’Connor Short Story Award and short-listed for the Ottawa Book Award.

Leslie Vryenhoek will be launching her debut novel Ledger of the Open Hand (Breakwater Books): “Worlds collide when cautious, small-town Meriel meets her well-heeled college roommate. The give and take of this improbable friendship will shape Meriel’s life for years to come. With humour and insight, this debut novel explores the intimate power of money and personal debt, the fictions we create in our relationships, and how we tend to treat love as a balance sheet.”
Leslie Vryenhoek is a St. John’s-based writer whose fiction, poetry and memoir have appeared internationally. The author of Scrabble Lessons (short fiction) and Gulf (poetry), she has won numerous awards and is the founding director of Piper’s Frith: Writing at Kilmory.


Argo Featured Reading #29
with Lillian Necakov, Nick Power & Jim Smith
Wednesday, May 13th
Argo Bookshop
Doors @ 7PM, Reading @ 7:30PM

Come to the Argo on May 13th for an evening of poetry with some of Toronto’s small press superstars, a preview of Jim Smith’s one-man play I Love You Judy Merril, and discussions on the small press scene!

It’ll be the funniest thing since striped cats!” – Jim Smith

Lillian Necakov is the author of a bunch of books of poetry, including The Bone Broker (Mansfield Press) and Hat Trick (Exile Editions). She runs the Boneshaker Reading Series in Toronto, where she lives with her family.

A founding member of the Meet the Presses literary collective, Power has performed with the storytelling duo The Wordweavers and the sound poetry ensemble Alexander’s Dark Band. He works as a psychotherapist in private practice. He was published in 2014 by Teksteditions (Melancholy Scientist), and also has chapbooks with Underwhich Editions (wells), The Writing Space (a modest device), and Battered Press (No Poems). He has been editing and publishing with his own Gesture Press for 30 years.

Jim Smith’s last two books were Back Off, Assassin: New and Selected Poems, in 2009 which was long-listed for the 2010 Governor General’s Award for Poetry (the year of the leaked list!); and 2012’s Happy Birthday, Nicanor Parra, published the same year that Jim visited the then 99-year-old poet in Chile. This year, he is exploring a whole new area – his one-man show, I Love You, Judy Merril premieres for 7 nights this July at the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival, directed by Second City alumnus, Canadian actor Jim Annan. In the meantime he still laws for a living.



The LAST Argo Open Mic! (#35)
Wednesday, May 27th
Location TBD
@ 7PM

It’s with a heavy heart that we’re announcing the month of May will be Argo co-owner JP’s last month in the shop. Ergo, the open mic series which so many great Montrealers have contributed to must sadly come to an end.

We’re hoping to make this one a grand bash of readings, and are currently researching a location that will allow us to have some drinks and dialogue. So stay tuned through either the Facebook event page or here on our website, as we’ll be posting the when and where during the next couple of weeks!


The Walls Could, In Fact, Talk: Musings on Chris Ware’s Building Stories

Building Stories

by Chris Ware

Knopf Doubleday, 2012

Hardcover, $55~

Chris Ware‘s Building Stories is the inconclusively plotted story of an somewhat average albeit one-legged, unnamed woman’s life, and the neighbours she shares a 3-storey walk-up with in her early adulthood: A landlady and a stagnating couple, with the occasional appearances of the walk-up itself and the religiously cathartic Branford, the Best Bee in the World.

Persistent doldrums pervade this fragmented, multi-format text made up of (but not limited to) pamphlets, posters, bound books, newspapers, and stapled three-panel zines, the feelings of isolation and desperation folks can attest to with everyday life. It’s seen in so many faces of Ware’s work; think of Jimmy Corrigan (Pantheon Books, 2000), with its vacant and consistently downtrodden stares through windows and at walls for detailed excursions into memories and introspection on the present, all the while waiting for the sky to fall.

So: It is an open-ended, depressing and broken story, both literally and figuratively. And this is what makes it so great.

Yes, every character in this book is consumed with loss (riffing on Daniel Worden here). There are little to no counterpoint figures who are successful or happy in the world of Building Stories, and if there are, the spotlight will only touch them fleetingly. Misery persists. However, the absence caused by loss forms a collectively relatable presence. So if loss is collective experience, what would happen if you collected it? Voilà, you have Building Stories.

The book’s realism draws you in, and its physiology offers an incredibly dynamic reading experience. While the collection of different print items can be read in any order, I decided to read them in the order they appeared in the box, from the top of the stack to the bottom. As a result, my “last” page shows our heroine trying to think of something to read among the Great Authors (Joyce, Melville, Nabokov) proclaiming “Fuck! Why does every ‘great book’ have to always be about criminals or perverts? Can’t I just find one that’s about regular people living everyday life?” Ware’s done just that, reflecting how ‘everyday life’ is seldom thought to be without the meaningful thoughts and contexts we take for granted, very much in the same vein as Joyce’s Ulysses. Instead of seeing beauty in our world’s careful, chance placement of surroundings, we tend to emotionally engage with what is absent from it. You probably don’t feel a trip to the grocery store will add much to the growing mythology that is Your Life, but the carefully stark and almost museological panelling and detail makes this painfully apparent. In careful geometric drawings, Ware has organized a Kunstkammer of both 21st-century urban and suburban living on every page. The characters may not see life that way, but a reader can, as is shown when the heroine finds “her” book in a bookstore in the brief metatextual tale “Browsing”:


The heroine would find (fifth panel), among the pages, a book resembling something from the Little Golden Book children’s series (remember those?). In it, she’ll find the story “September 23rd, 2000”, which begins with her apartment building taking stock not of the times it has been empty, but of the signs of life that have passed through it. When a reader takes stock of everything Building Stories has to offer, the intricacies that life in general has to offer, they are much like this building, who “now has to admit to feeling a little bit grateful for the arrival each day of 24 more hours yet to come.”

– JP

October Newsletter + New & Latest Arrivals

Happy October, everyone!

Now that the textbook season has calmed down, we’re now resuming our monthly events. A lot of great stuff is planned for this month, both in and out of the shop. But before we get to those announcements, here’s a list of the new and latest arrivals of the shop as of late. Click the title of a book to view information on or a review of that title, or just search for them in our catalogue (recommended for price checks):


…Didn’t see anything you would find interesting? You can find more in this month’s newsletter: Argo Bookshop Newsletter – October 2013


Book of the Month – 20% off :

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez

The Sound of Things Falling follows a young law professor named Antonio Yammara and his fateful encounter with Ricardo Laverde, a retired pilot from Columbia’s bygone days of Pablo Escobar. One afternoon, after Laverde receives a mysterious cassette, he is shot on a Bogotá street corner alongside Yammara. Traumitized by a bullet that did not carry his name, Yammara decides to investigate Laverde’s past, taking him through the precarious combined history of Columbia’s Peace Corps volunteers, Nixon’s War on Drugs, and the ill-fated smugglers of marijuana and cocaine thrown in between.

The book’s prose is illuminatingly descriptive, coupled with consistently dark and foreboding tones. Attention to detail both historical and interpersonal will keep a reader engaged, if not Vasquez’s ability to unearth truisms from the seemingly absurd.


juan-gabriel-illo_2429920bBorn in Bogotá in 1973, Juan Gabriel Vásquez is an author whose work is considered reactive to the magical realism of authors like Marquez. When asked about another novel of his, The Secret History of Costaguana: “I want to forget this absurd rhetoric of Latin America as a magical or marvellous continent,” he says, preferring “the violence and cruelty of our history and of our politics.”



Our next read is The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by Masanobu Fukuoka:

“Masanobu Fukuoka’s manifesto about farming, eating, and the limits of human knowledge presents a radical challenge to the global systems we rely on for our food. At the same time, it is a spiritual memoir of a man whose innovative system of cultivating the earth reflects a deep faith in the wholeness and balance of the natural world. As Wendell Berry writes in his preface, the book “is valuable to us because it is at once practical and philosophical. It is an inspiring, necessary book about agriculture because it is not just about agriculture.” Trained as a scientist, Fukuoka rejected both modern agribusiness and centuries of agricultural lore. Over the next three decades he perfected his so-called “do-nothing” technique: commonsense (sic), sustainable practices that all but eliminate the use of pesticides, fertilizer, tillage, and perhaps most significantly, wasteful effort.” – NYRB

On October 31st, we’ll get together to discuss the book over some drinks. Everyone’s welcome, and anyone partaking receives a 15% discount off the book. The meeting after this month’s will be postponed until January 2014. If you would like to join in for our monthly discussions, send an email in order to receive regular updates.




Atwater Poetry Project Reading with Steven Price and Sarah Burgoyne

Thursday, October 3rd @ 7PM

Atwater Library – 1200 Atwater Ave.

Come and enjoy the inaugural reading of this season’s Atwater Poetry Project. We’re happy to present Steven Price and Sarah Burgoyne.

Steven Price is one of the most respected poets of his generation in Canada. His work has been translated and well-received internationally. Steven’s first book, Anatomy of Keys (Brick Books, 2006), won the Gerald Lambert Award for best first book in this country. He subsequently published a novel, Into That Darkness (Thomas Allen, 2011). Omens in the Year of the Ox (Brick Books, 2012) is his second poetry collection. Steven Price currently lives and teaches in Victoria B.C.

Sarah Burgoyne is a Montreal poet. Her work has been published in Bodega, LAKE magazine, and on Stuart Ross’s blog “The Week Shall Inherit the Verse”. Sarah’s chapbook, Happy Dog Sad Dog, is forthcoming with Proper Tales Press in November.

As always, wine and conversation will be available.


Writers Read at Concordia & The School of Canadian Irish Studies Presents:

Emma Donoghue

Thursday, October 10th @ 7PM

Room H-767, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.


Open to the public: Emma Donoghue‘s bestselling 2010 novel Room was shortlisted for the Man Booked Prize, and won a number of other awards, including the Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year. Her most recent book is Astray, a sequence of fourteen fact-inspired short fictions published in 2012. We recommend you check out Emma Donoghue’s website for all things Emma Donoghue. Want information on more upcoming readings with Writers Read at Concordia? You can either scroll down for another listing of an event, or check out their website!



The BBAM! Storytelling Slam

(hosted by Argo Bookshop & The Word Bookstore)

BBAM! Gallery: 3255 St. Jacques

Sunday, Oct. 13th from 3PM to 4:30PM


Come listen to some true stories told live at the BBAM! Gallery in St. Henri! For those who are not familiar with it, The BBAM! Gallery is a charming and intimate venue on St. Jacques less than a block away from Lionel-Groulx metro.

This first installment of our storytelling series will feature performance literature innovator Ian Ferrier, veteran Montreal storyteller Gerard Harris and BBAM!’s own Ralph Alfonso, as well as talented writers and performers like Joel Asa Miller, Keith Waterfield, and Stephanie Noel. This month’s theme is ‘a golden opportunity’ and our storytellers will tackle the topic with a wide variety of autobiographical yarns. Audience members will be asked to judge the readers and prizes will be given to the top scores!

Think you’d like to participate in this or future storytelling slams? Send us an email!



(Argo Featured Reading #21)

A BookThug Dual Montreal Launch with Sandra Ridley & Michael Blouin

Thursday, October 24th @ 7PM

(located at the Argo: 1915 Ste. Catherine West)

BookThug (, the Toronto-based publisher of innovative literature, and Argo Bookshop present a dual launch of poetry (The Counting House) by Sandra Ridley and prose (I Don’t Know How to Behave) by Michael Blouin.

Sandra Ridley’s first full-length collection of poetry, Fallout, won the 2010 Saskatchewan Book Award for Publishing, the Alfred G. Bailey Prize, and was a finalist for the Ottawa Book Award. Her second book, Post-Apothecary, was short-listed for the 2012 ReLit and Archibald Lampman Awards. Her new book is The Counting House (BookThug).

On her book of poetry: “Akin to a bookkeeper’s accounting of what’s given and taken in a fraught, uncertain exchange, The Counting House goes on to record the pageantry and pedantry of courtly affection gone awry. Symbols and origins of traditional rhymes involving kings and queens serve as inventory, alongside elements of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish and Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. In forensic sequences of inquisition, scrutiny, and reckoning, Ridley reveals the maiden as muse as modern darling – unhoused and exacting – in ‘all of her violet forms.’” –




Michael Blouin is a ReLit Award winning author for Best Novel in Canada, has been shortlisted for the Amazon First Novel Award, the bpNichol Award and the CBC Literary Award and is a winner of the Diana Brebner Award and the 2012 Lampman Award. His latest novel is I Don’t Know How to Behave (BookThug).

His new novel, I Don’t Know How To Behave, “combines the true story of Canadian daredevil and stunt driver Ken Carter (1938-1983) with imagined biographical elements from the lives of Canadian film director Bruce McDonald and Canadian poet Gillian Sze. Along the way, this quintessential Canadian story (told in a manner that has never been attempted before!) crashes head first into many related things, from screenplay theory to hip hop history to the story of early Canadian film to drawings to photographs to bank robberies to chaos theory…”




Writers Read at Concordia Presents:

 Tanya Tagaq, Christian Bök, & Jaap Blonk

Monday, October 28th @ 7PM

Room H-767, 1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.

Tanya Tagaq is a contemporary performance artist who uses the ancient traditional Inuit art of throat singing. She has released two critically acclaimed albums – Sinaa and Auk/Blood – both of which were nominated for Juno Awards.

Christian Bök is the author of Crystallography (Coach House 1994), a pataphysical encyclopedia nominated for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, and Eunoia (Coach House 2001), a bestselling work of experimental literature, which has gone on to win the Griffin Prize for Poetic Excellence.

Jaap Blonk is a self-taught composer, performer and poet from Holland. He has performed around the world, on all continents. With the use of live electronics the scope and range of his concerts has acquired a considerable extension. His book/CD “Traces of Speech” was published in 2012 by Hybriden-Verlag, Berlin.



Argo Open Mic #21

Wednesday, October 30th @ 7PM

(Argo Bookshop)

Montrealers! Come read some of your work for 5 to 10 minutes at our Open Mic! For those of you who might not know : Every month, the Argo Bookshop hosts this open venue for people to share their writing, music, articles and comedy. Bring your friends and enjoy the evening! Make sure to come early to sign up and save yourself a spot!

A Note: Our NYRB Book Club’s Next Read

Every two months, our NYRB-centric Book Club meets to discuss our latest pick. This time around, it’s Victor Serge‘s Conquered City. It may be a bit too late in the month to join in on the next discussion, but if you are interested in joining and receiving the next Book Club choice at 15% off (available only to members), feel free to send us an email about it: argobookshop [at] gmail [dot] com

Victor Serge’s novel Conquered City is a stunning first-hand account of the 1919-20 Russian civil war in St. Petersburg and the Bolsheviks’ “doomed gamble” that a Proletariat Dictatorship could permanently overthrow human bondage through the “righteous” use of terror and force:

“We have conquered everything and everything has slipped out of our grasp. We have conquered bread, and there is famine. We have declared peace to a war-weary world, and war has moved into every house. We have proclaimed the liberation of men, and we need prisons, an “iron” discipline – yes, to pour our human weakness into brazen molds in order to accomplish what is perhaps beyond our strength – and we are the bringers of dictatorship. we have proclaimed fraternity, but it is “fraternity and death” in reality. We have founded the Republic of Labor, and the factories are dying, grass is growing in their yards. We wanted each to give according to his strength and each to receive according to his needs; and here we are, privileged in the middle of generalized misery, since we are less hungry than others! Will we succeed in overthrowing the ancient law which bends us to its will at the very moment when we believe we are escaping it?”
– Jesse

Still Warm From the Press: 5 Titles

Pitch Dark and Speedboat by Renata Adler (New York Review of Books)

We’ve been waiting for these two titles from Adler since the announcement of them in early January. While the award-winning Speedboat promises the same impact today as it had in the 1970s, lauded for its unconventional narrative-exposé of the American landscape (a touchstone for writers like David Foster Wallace & Elizabeth Harken), its follow-up Pitch Dark promises the same verve with grating journalistic ability… only distilled to one moment, poised at a critical moment of an affair a woman has with a married man. Pathos abounds!

Kindertotenwald: Prose Poems by Franz Wright (Knopf)

Franz Wright amazed us with his Earlier Poems alone, but Kindertotenwald is a confirmation of sheer versatility. Love how the New York Journal of Books puts it: “At times Mr. Wright is intuitively brilliant, a true poet speaking prose, yet at times these read simply as prose. Tone is consistent and carefully modulated, though it varies and is embedded in the subconscious. It’s as though someone woke up from a deep sleep and began speaking.”

I Await The Devil’s Coming by Mary Maclane (Melville House)

Maclane is clearly a genius, but you can tell that she’s still working out her “philosophy”. Her writing is intense, but also playful and often quite funny. Though her name is synonymous with sexuality now, Maclane wrote about everything in her 1902 diary. Then a 19-year-old living in urban Montana, the book ranges from existential and depressed to intentionally silly and ridiculous. One of our staff picks!

The Book of My Lives by Alexander Hemon (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

There’s a good interview on the New York Times about the processes behind this *highly*-praised book and its Bosnian-born Chicago writer: What happens when a fiction writer breaks the resisted urge to write non-fiction on the subject of his old and new homes, in the process excising and exterminating “that precious, youthful part of (himself) that had believed (he) could retreat from history and hide from evil in the comforts of art”?