D+Q Office Reads: Welcome, Sruti! Happy Holidays, everyone!

Here's our fourth installment of our "what we're reading in the office" blog, which will be our final one of the year, so take it as our de facto holiday suggestions...

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Anchor)

At Librairie D+Q, we are coming to the end of what my coworker Saelen called our “feminist fall.” Thanks to a stellar events line-up by Jason, we have seen an outlandish list of talented female authors grace the stage of D+Q this Fall. How do we list who without sounding like we are *bragging*? OK, let’s brag: Kate Beaton, Anna Leventhal, Roxane Gay, Eileen Myles, to name a few and the still to come Glora Steinem (12/1) and Carrie Brownstein (12/7)! Say what? Is this real? But really–this is what our store is about, and what our customers demand. Let’s go over some of 2015 bestsellers that did not have Fall 2015 events: Elena Ferrante, Miranda July, Heather O’Neill, Simone de Beauvoir, Kim Gordon, Yumi Sakugawa, Patti Smith, Jillian Tamaki, Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Phoebe Gloeckner, Kat Su, Leanne Simpson, Marie Kondo, Diane Obomsawin, bell hooks, Maggie Nelson, Allie Brosh, Julia Rothman... All of these women have sold over 50 copies for the store this year alone and amongst our top sellers. In fact, 60% of our top 70 titles are by women.

Why does this matter? Why should I call out these female authors? Why should I be proud? Why is Peggy blabbering on about this again? Well, judging from other bestseller lists, it doesn’t happen all that often. To answer these questions, let’s consider our store’s second bestselling book in 2015 We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Note, this book is neck and neck with Roxane's Bad Feminist, and both will sell well over 200 copies by years end. So yes, our two best selling books are feminist books. Again, why does this matter?

In We Should All Be Feminists, Adichie pens an essay for a TED Talk, and details the subtle and not so subtle forms of sexism she has endured in her life; how culture privileges men, why people are scared of the word feminist, how the word turns people off. She uses her childhood in Nigeria, grad school in the US, and every day universal experiences to show the difference between how we raise men and women. But she cats her net wider than just the female experience, she explains how but society traps men within the confines of masculinity, how we’re all raised with expectations solely based on our gender. I have loved Adichie since I read Americanah, one of my favorite reads of the past few years. I love her voice so much, and get lost in it, that I forgot about the BeyoncĂ© song until a day after reading the book. Really I Did. It’s that flawless.

I can’t help but think of our store as special. but I also can’t help but frame this in the context of Quebec, which while not perfect, it is where families get paid maternity leave, subsidized daycare, where our government enacted the Pay Equity Act, so maybe it’s not surprising that there is a bookstore where the top selling books are Bad Feminist and We Should All Be Feminists. My favorite passage is where Adichie says gender matters everywhere and to paraphrase – lets dream of a different world, fairer, happier, with people truer to themselves, that we must raise our daughters differently and also we must raise our sons differently. I couldn’t agree more.

- Peggy Burns, publisher

Submission by Michel Houellebecq (Farrar Straus & Giroux)
Fuck Seth Price by Seth Price (Leopard Press)
Make Me A Woman by Vanessa Davis (Drawn & Quarterly)

Taking care of some “finally’s” in my current reading! First up: Michel Houellebecq's Submission. Finally, finally, finally. I spent far too many months reading about this book, before I could actually get to the book itself. I’m reading the English translation by Lori Stein. Submission originally made headlines in light of its controversial timing of publication (right around the Charlie Hebdo attacks), and ongoing political/cultural tensions in France. Set in 2022, France's Islamo-Leftist Socialist Party forms a government led by traditional and patriarchal based values. So, you know — light read! In other new, I found myself in Toronto this weekend and picked up another “finally” in the form of a copy of Fuck Seth Price by none other than Seth Price. Beyond his role as an artist, I’m not too sure who Seth Price is, and why he hates himself so much. I look forward to finding out. Evidently, there are other perks to my new position here at D+Q beyond the actual perk of working here (!!!), there are delicious and free books at my disposal! This month I sat down with Make Me a Woman by Vanessa Davis, and cried, and laughed, and watched Buffy. It may have been a day that ended in Y. Good work, everyone.

- Sruti Islam, marketing assistant

Cruddy by Lynda Barry (Simon & Schuster)

November, amirite? The perfect month for watching too much TV and not reading a thing. JK guys (kind of), here's what I've been up in my reading life:

Lynda Barry's Cruddy is one of my all time favourite novels. It's pretty rare I re-read a book because, like, the stack of book by my bed that I'm planning to read, going to read, want to read, surely will read one day is taller than me, but it's safe so say Lynda does not follow the rules, so neither do I when it comes to her books. The words flow off the pages of Cruddy like butter (surely it helps that the whole book was written with a paint brush and watercolours). You can't help but embody the characters as you read Lynda's cheeky, sassy, groovy, murderous, bad-ass words. The book follows Roberta Rohbeson past and present—past Roberta on a road trip with her homicidal father; present Roberta, five years later, as she starts taking drugs and spirals toward suicide. This book is dark and dark and dark and it's weird (for me anyway) to be so excited about something so horrific, but Lynda Barry has magic like none other, and I cannot recommend this book enough.

I spend a lot of time this month reading comics too, because I got to pick up a bunch at both CAB and here in Montreal at Expozine. Here's some of my favourites: Patrick Kyle's New Comics 7 as always for it's expert shapes/lines and also for the comics about smelly dinosaurs; Ron Rege Jr. and Fiona Smyth's Perish Plains vol. 4, because I won't see those two doodling together again anytime soon, I'm guessing; and HTML Flowers's No Visitors issue 1, because a collection of comics, poetry, and scraps that is at times hard to read cuz it's tiny would normally be something I wouldn't finish, but I could look away <3

Happy reading, suckers!

Tracy Hurren, managing editor

After the political coup in 1973, both of my parents—who didn’t know each other at the time—had to escape Chile. Both of them ended up in Canada, and, for at least 20 years, neither of them went back to their country. It always created a strange sort of paused backstory, one where there were floods of details from Chilean daily life pre-1973, and nothing but wide brushstrokes post. I’d hear about the family I had back there, but everything else was frozen in time. I remember finally going to Chile in 2012, and being told I used “hippie slang,” because my mom had only taught me the sayings and phrases that she knew from when she lived there.

So when I read Alejandro Zambra’s My Documents, it was like a veil had been lifted: on movies, on soccer, on the sex-appeal of Paul Simon’s solo career. I loved these stories, the way they captured people on the verge of changing their lives, convinced they were moving forward, deluding themselves beyond belief or simply forced to turn away by circumstance. Add to that the looming, semi-opaque Pinochet presence (and later, absence), the bratty, sassy, blunt Chilean sense of humour I grew up with, modernized with updated references, and Zambra’s subdued meta-style of writing, and it’s hard to pass this one up. 

Here is a photo of a Chilean holding up a book by a Chilean who is writing about other Chileans (harhar).

- Marcela Huerta, production assistant

Terror Assaulter: O.M.W.O.T (One Man War On Terror) by Benjamin Marra (Fantagraphics)

Have you seen Cobra? It’s pretty cool. Sly Stallone ('86 vintage) plays this slick vigilante cop who chews a toothpick and lets criminals know he’s “the cure” before shooting them. There’s also a scene where he snips off the pointy end of a piece of pizza with a pair of scissors for his supper, as you do when you need to stay lean and mean. At the end of the film he impales the villain (called the “Night Stabber” or something similar) on a hook that carries him into a furnace to be burned alive, which seemed unnecessary but was kind of satisfying too, I guess. 

Marra’s newest is both an homage to those eighties Golan-Globus mega-masculine epic operas of violence that were staples of every corner store’s video wall and a critique of that post-9/11 American jingoism. Drawn in a primitive early indie comics style (though the fight scenes betray that a more talented hand is at the helm), the stone-faced hero works for a “super-secret team of U.S. foreign service Agents” and this mother just kills the hell outta anyone. We know this, not only because we can see it but also because everyone explains what is happening as it happens ("you chopped my neck", "you caught my kick") And when he’s not killing, he's stone-cold sexin' ( "I'm taking my pants all the way off", "I can tell this feels pretty good to you") to the delight of both the women and men he meets. And of course, like any action hero worth their salt he has pre and post-decimation catchphrases ("How was the meeting?" "Let's just say 'it was good'"). I found the whole thing unbelievably ridiculous and pretty damn funny -  Marra's a pretty skilled satirist.

The last part of the book deals with the agent’s domestic life. His court-ordered wife is his ex-arch enemy, now out of prison and enjoying life as post-op transsexual and his son was cloned from his DNA. Together they team up to deal with lingerie shopping, parking spot theft and keeping their marriage together. So, you know, some really relatable stuff.

-Jason Grimmer, marketing director, Librairie D+Q

Puke Force by Brian Chippendale (Drawn & Quarterly)
Teratoid Heights by Mat Brinkman (Highwater Books)

In honour of American Thanksgiving, I brought Teratoid Heights and Puke Force back home to beautiful southern New England with me. Both were super weird and really great houseguests. Having lived in Providence for a while, I’m a sucker for any of the Fort Thunder stuff, but it’s been especially fun to read these two right after each other. Their rough hewn drawings and zigzagging compositions have a lot in common, but the differences are also striking - where Brinkman’s wordless comics take on an almost mythical weight, Chippendale’s relishes in the specifics and meanders in unexpected ways. Uncomfortable jokes, mysterious guests, creatures eating even weirder creatures, Thanksgiving in a nutshell!

- Alison Naturale, print manager

Putain by Nelly Arcan (Seuil)

I recently made the resolution to read more French, since I feel like I've been losing my mother tongue lately. Lucky for me, the D+Q bookstore now carries French prose books, so I went in for a gander and left the store with Nelly Arcan's 2001 debut book Putain (translated to Whore in English). For those of you who aren't familiar with Nelly Arcan, be warned that both her life and writing are quite harrowing. In the autobiographical Putain, Arcan tells her story through Cynthia, a young student who works as an escort in order to pay for her education. Written in a stream-of-consciousness style with long sentences (often only one or two per page), Arcan doesn't sugarcoat or shy away from graphic depictions of the sex trade, but rather, emphasizes the deep-rooted psychological power struggle linked to the profession, and the often dehumanizing effect on sex workers.

The text is also dark for other reasons. Nine years after writing Putain, Arcan was found dead in her Montreal apartment after committing suicide. This disheartening turn of events is foreshadowed in the book, with the words suicide and noose appearing at every few pages, making the bookall the more difficult to stomach. With the notion of suicide looming throughout, it's hard not to see Putain as a cry for help that was sadly ignored. That being said, don’t let the bleakness discourage you from reading Arcan’s works, because her writing is really some of the most unique and significant prose I’ve read in a while.

Don’t read French? No worries, Arcan’s books have been translated into English. I would suggest picking up the last work by Nelly Arcan, titled Burqa of Skin, which was translated by Montreal’s very own Melissa Bull. The book was launched at our D+Q shop earlier this year, and has received many rave reviews since. Speaking of which, guess who gave me the incredible Dolly Parton mug (straight from Dollywood no less) in the above photo? My good buds Melissa and Frederik! Talk about a perfect pairing for my very worried-looking reading face.

- Marie-Jade Menni, production assistant

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