A Marriage of Two Worlds: Wigrum and The Paper Hound Bookshop

by Megan Jones
with photos by Chloë Filson

This past Monday, September 30, 2013, Wigrum by Daniel Canty; translated by Oana Avasilichioaei launched to an intimate audience in Vancouver’s newest bookshop, the Paper Hound, owned by close friends and longtime booksellers Kim Koch and Rod Clarke.

Daniel Canty reads Wigrum in French.

Oana Avasilichioaei reads Wigrum in English as Daniel Canty waits his turn.

The launch was a success, with many guests staying long into the evening to talk with the author and translator, browse the eclectic shelves, and sip some wine while nibbling on flaky French tartlets (courtesy of le Crocodile).

I like to think that the biggest goal of a publicist with regards to book launches is not selling more books, but rather finding the perfect location for the book to come alive in. When an author reads a book in a space that responds to form and content, the space itself transcends, if only for a moment, the world of the material and enters the world of the book, taking its audience members with it.

Having absorbed the logic of lists and the principles of classification systems, both Wigrum and the Paper Hound teeter on the boundary between fact and fiction, on the uncertain edge of the real and the unreal. The Paper Hound stock, sourced from mythic estate sales and fervent trips to attics across this misty city are arranged by genre or subject that vary in obscurity – Fiction, French philosophy, Intrepid Orphans – and listed alphabetically by author. The “real and imagined” objects that inhabit the Wigrumian narrative are separated by collection (Excerpts from Patience, the Collection of the Mirror, and the Prague Collection) and listed alphabetically by object name.

On the outside, Wigrum is a gorgeous, angular book (it reminds me of a certain Scandinavian jaw line), designed by FEEDStudio in Montreal. It won awards for its forward-thinking design, which includes a font called, aptly, Wigrum.
The Paper Hound’s small storefront adopts an equally simple aesthetic: a clean white image of an angular paper hound distinguishes the shop windows from those of neighbouring bookstores.

On the inside, Wigrum is complex and deliciously imperfect. Imaginative character studies and extended references (set in footnotes) converse with one another, drift apart, and come back together to create the touching, circular narrative of Sebastian Wigrum and his willing and unwilling associates, collectors of objects and the stories that emanate from them.

If you choose to enter the Paper Hound, like the reader of Wigrum you will discover an abundance of stories, objects, and memorable conversations. Rare books line the large, straight-backed shelves, from Beethoven’s Letters to minuscule Beatrice Potter to early-century New Canadian Library paperbacks. Less prominently displayed are the antique bookmarks (not for sale), carved wooden hounds, loosely scribbled notes, and old maps, which collect on the corners of tables and shelves, the edges of an old childrens school desk.

On Monday evening, as Canty and Avasilichioaei began to read from their new inventory novel, the audience settled into their bookish surroundings. One by one, we slipped into the atmosphere created by book-hunters Rodney and Kim, Sebastian Wigrum and his precious objects, and the thousands of whisperers from the passed and present world of stories.

The antique Poetry Dispenser hangs opposite the Paper Hound front desk.

Paper Hound co-owner Kim Koch came in on her day off to help launch Wigrum (thanks, Kim!).

Editor Ann-Marie Metten talks with poet Jordan Abel and journalist Chelsea Novak between the shelves.