Raising a glass to a Canadian literary icon

Salty humour and smoked meat were on the menu at the first annual Mordecai Richler Literary Pub Crawl, which raised $10,000 for the new Writer-in-Residence Program named after the legendary Montreal novelist.

Noah Richler reminisces about his father at a dinner to close out the first annual Mordecai Richler Literary Pub Crawl, which raised over $10,000 for the new Writer-in-Residence program in the Faculty of Arts. / Photo: Owen Egan

First annual Mordecai Richler Literary Pub Crawl raises funds for new Writer-in-Residence Program

By Pascal Zamprelli

“Now Mordecai was a constant note-sender,” said celebrated Gazette editorial cartoonist Terry Mosher (Aislin) as he addressed the crowd at Winnie’s Pub on Crescent St., “but this is my favourite. We had a run-in over something and I can’t even remember what it was, but he sent me this note saying: Dear Mosher, I did not take offence at anything you said or did. However, be advised my new novel features a short, overheated cartoonist, actually a failed shortstop who flees down the 401 to Toronto once his beautiful wife discovers he is a f*g. I call him Merry Tosher.”

And thus the tone was set for an evening of sometimes salty humour, good cheer and fond memories: the first annual Mordecai Richler Literary Pub Crawl, organized by McGill’s Faculty of Arts.

The first stop at Winnie’s also included a screening of part of a new documentary on Richler by Quebec journalist Francine Pelletier. Next up was Ziggy’s Pub, for more reminiscing and a smoked meat sandwich for some of the pub-crawlers (others, who had sprung for the “uptown” option, went on to Le Mas des Oliviers for dinner and to hear Richler’s son Noah share some of his memories.)

The goal of the event was to raise money for the new Mordecai Richler Writer-in-Residence Program through ticket sales and a silent auction, the most interesting lot of which was no doubt a half empty bottle of Scotch that was kept at Paragraphe bookstore in case Richler came by to visit.

Situated in both the Department of English and the Département de langue et littérature françaises within the Faculty of Arts, The Mordecai Richler Writer-in-Residence Program offers students an opportunity to study practical and theoretical approaches to writing. The $2.5-million endowment fund will support two writers per year, who, among other things, will give public lectures and readings and advise students. The fund will also provide for eight annual graduate awards of $5,000 each.

“Housing this position at McGill, in a city where writers from diverse cultural backgrounds flourish, will offer students and academics a unique opportunity to explore the wealth of Canada’s distinct literary worlds and celebrate the richness of this diversity,” said Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi.

McGill has already raised $750,000 for the fund, and the successful pub crawl fetched an additional sum of more than $10,000. The night will be remembered both for its contribution to the future of Canadian literature and for the nostalgia trip it offered Richler’s friends and colleagues.

“I was very fond of Mordecai,” concluded Mosher. “He advised me on aspects of life and business; things that I’m still grateful for today. I miss those confrontational times if for no other reason than they were so caricaturable. And I certainly miss Mordecai, who, no matter your point of view, kept things interesting.”