June Hutton: the Dusty, Inky, Papery Smell of Discovering CanLit

For those of us who grew up in southeast Vancouver, the local bookseller was the corner drugstore. You entered the front door of MacKenzie Drugs at 49th and Knight and had to edge past the pharmacy and between the surrounding shelves of bottles of medicine and packages of pills, and then wind your way around the racks of chocolate bars and candy, until you descended several steps to a lower room that Mr. MacKenzie had stocked with rows of magazines and paperbacks. It emitted the dusty, inky, papery smells that are perfume to the budding reader.

It was there I discovered Mordecai Richler. First it was The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, then Hunting Tigers Under Glass, and then Cocksure, with a wonderfully nasty scene with a dish cloth that etched itself onto my teenaged brain. Wow.  What an introduction to CanLit.

I bought them all.

Eventually I was heading downtown to Duthie’s, looking for more books. By then I was taking English 100 courses at night school, and I made a bee-line to the orange spines to learn more about the authors I was hearing about in class, Lawrence and Maugham and Hemingway, among others.

Over the years I’ve shopped at many bookstores. I’ve always been struck by the dedication of staff, their willingness to hunt down the right title, to come up with suggestions when I am stuck for ideas, myself. But it is those first two booksellers I can thank for launching my love of books. Both enterprises are gone now, the disappearance of Duthie Books a sad example of the struggle of independent booksellers to survive, but their impact on me remains.

Now that I’m an author I appreciate even more the influence that booksellers can have on readers. That’s why I’m taking part in Authors for Indies. It’s my chance to give back. I’ll be out there on May 2 in an independent bookstore, ready to greet readers and recommend books to them. I might even be talking up an old favorite, Mordecai Richler.

(c) 2015 June Hutton


On Saturday May 2, the Book Warehouse store at 4118 Main Street, Vancouver, will be hosting June Hutton.

June Hutton’s first novel Underground was called “taut and lean, elegant and poetic” by The Globe and Mail, and was nominated for the 2010 OLA Evergreen Award. Her second novel Two Gun & Sun, about a frontier newspaperwoman’s entanglement with two strangers, will be released this fall by Caitlin Press. Also this fall, she joins SFU’s The Writer’s Studio Online as its fiction instructor and mentor. Currently an instructor for both UBC’s The Writing Centre and SFU Continuing Studies, June lives and writes and reads in East Vancouver.