The Word Bookstore
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The bookstore was started by Adrian King-Edwards and Luci Friesen of McGill University in 1973 in their own apartment living room as an "underground" bookstore, with a photo of George Bernard Shaw to their front window. The couple, who had first met at McGill University, had spent the previous summer hawking paperbacks out of their VW van in Northern British Columbia, prior to the opening of the store in their apartment. They moved their store next door into its current location on 469 Milton Street in 1975, which was the site of the former neighborhood Chinese laundry for 70 years. Housed in this 19th-century brick building with a main floor a little larger than your average living room, the store has changed very little since it first opened. There are still no computers or electronic cash registers and calls are still made on a rotary phone. On a frosty December afternoon you’re still likely to spot someone curled up in the antique armchair beside the warm gas stove, reading a mystery novel. And, of course, shelves overflowing with hundreds of books still run from floor to ceiling on every wall.
When The Word opened its doors for the first time, the McGill students and poets who had frequented the apartment next door for bi-weekly poetry readings and impromptu literary salons were among their first customers. Over the years, The Word has become a citywide institution, frequently ranking as the number one secondhand bookstore in the Montreal Mirror’s annual Best of Montreal list. In 2009, the Quebec Writers’ Federation presented Friesen and King-Edwards with the QWF community award in honour of the couple’s contribution to local literary culture. The Word holds readings of poetic works and publication announcement of local authors and has been an important meeting place and inspiration for Canadian writers such as Artie Gold and Sheila Fischman.
The Word Bookstore specializes in literature, philosophy and poetry. They also carry a unique assortment of books in such fields as drama, history, political science, theology, Eastern religion, and art. A section located at the front of the store beneath a framed black and white photo of Leonard Cohen highlights the latest work of Montreal poets. Take a glance at the shelf below and you’ll find a wide array of Canadian literary magazines, independent books sold on consignment, and student-produced zines. The shopper on a tight budget need look no further than their one-dollar shelf and fifty-cent pile where fresh books of all kinds are added on a daily basis.
The Word is also renowned for the high quality of its stocked items, with books purchased from the estates of retiring or deceased professors, or from its largely McGill-based scholarly clientele. It is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Canada.
- Gingras, Richard (2009), A la recherche de trésors/ In the Beginning, There was The Word (106: The Montreal Issue)
- McGillis, Ian (2000), The Word Bookstore: A Tribute, Véhicule Press
- Morrissey, Stephen (2007), Remembering Artie Gold, Montreal, Quebec: Coracle Press, ISBN 978-0-9687599-5-0
- JONES, MATT (2009), Honouring the Word:The Quebec Writers’ Federation tips its hat to the owners of the cramped, quirky McGill Ghetto bookstore, Montreal Mirror