Canada’s own McSweeney’s?
When a small, upstart publishing house also claims to be the country’s “fourth most popular gun manufacturer,” you know its founders have fallen under the sway of U.S. indie publishing king Dave Eggers.
The indie press in question, PistolPress, is based out of Montreal and was founded by Concordia University students Hillary Rexe, Jp King, and Gil Filar, after they attended a 2007 lecture by the McSweeney’s publisher. “It was just really inspiring, seeing somebody who was getting so much done with his life in terms of writing and publishing,” says Filar. “So we sat down over late-night Harvey’s and started talking about putting together a press.”
The trio spent four months compiling the work of published and unpublished authors, and four hours throwing around names for the press, finally settling on PistolPress because, as Filar says, “alliteration never hurts.” They released their first anthology, Pistol: A Caliber Supply of Poesy, Prosaic Compositions, Deviceful Accuracies, Pictorial Arts, & Contrivances, in April 2008. The cover of the anthology features an antique handgun surrounded by a florid, ornate frame.
“It was a mixture of poetry, prose, and art,” Filar says proudly. “We had five visual artists in there, and I think 16 poets and prose writers.” Among the authors included were Sheila Heti, Elyse Friedman, Catherine Kidd, and the editors themselves.
Six months later, Pistol released two books of poetry, Deanna Fong’s Butcher’s Block and King’s We Will Be Fish. The publisher’s next anthology, The Future Hygienic, will be released on Pistol’s one-year anniversary in April.
Most of Pistol’s titles have had runs in the 400-copy range, and sales have been good so far, says Filar from his and Rexe’s Montreal home, which doubles as Pistol’s office. “We’ve been doing distribution ourselves, going to bookstores and selling online,” he says. “We pretty much sold out of the Pistol anthology, which is great.”
The trio emphasizes aesthetically pleasing covers and youthful content. “Not necessarily ‘youthful’ from a young person’s perspective, but fresh, irreverent, and whimsical,” says Filar. While Pistol’s current material is mostly poetry and short fiction, the trio hopes eventually to publish coffee table art books and novels as well.