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Christopher DiRaddo’s "The Geography of Pluto" a sharply written time capsule of gay Montreal in the 1990s

Crédit photo : Paul Specht
Christopher DiRaddo’s
Toronto’s World Pride hoopla and Montreal’s Divers/Cité shindig have come and gone, leaving it up to our city’s oft forgotten Fierté/Pride to cap off a summer’s worth of LGBT-minded reflection on hard-won battles and lingering injustices (culminating in Sunday’s de rigueur Pride Parade). Whether Nightlife.ca's LGBT readers will jump at the chance to be flag bearers on a beat-throbbing float or altogether steer clear of out-and-proud extravaganzas, there’s a good chance the city and its storied Gay Village played a part in their sexual awakening – much as it does for Will, the 28-year-old protagonist in Montrealer Christopher DiRaddo’s poignant, sharply written debut novel, The Geography of Pluto.
 
A project 14 years in the making, Pluto explores the emotional peaks and valleys of Will, a high school geography teacher still reeling from romantic loss and longing for answers. There’s the obligatory anguish that comes with moving on from Max, his first real love, and handling his widowed mother’s cancer scare as best he can. Besides its eloquent ruminations on the unique mother/gay son dynamic, Pluto also provides a considerable window into the distinct hotbed of gay nightlife that was Montreal in the ‘90s. Setting up the city as a bona fide character – from the Atwater Library where his bibliothecary mother singles out many bedtime reads for her son to Priape’s Big O parties where Will does a lousy job of drowning his sorrows, DiRaddo’s Montreal is wonderfully time specific and full of evocatively rendered surprises.
 
In celebration of Montreal Pride and the Gay Village, once upon a time the city’s indisputable nightlife hub, Nightlife.ca sifted through some of DiRaddo’s most delectable descriptions of after-dark Village institutions (some still standing, others long gone). Would you agree with Will’s BFF and party partner-in-crime, Angie, that “everything looks better in hindsight?” Your trip down Sainte Catherine East memory lane begins here:
 
1. K.O.X.
“The club housed three very different bars: a small dyke club named Sisters upstairs; a men-only leather dungeon named Katakombs downstairs; and in the centre, where the main entrance opened into a gigantic hall, was K.O.X., a pansexual circus featuring the most outlandish creatures I had ever seen. […] A thick gloss of sexual possibility highlighted everything, from the crowded unisex bathrooms to the drag queens who worked the door.” (Christopher DiRaddo/The Geography of Pluto)
 
2. Adonis
“ […] A seedy male strip club at the far end of the Village. Adonis is a funny place: small and dingy with exposed brick walls that remain hidden within the club’s dark shadows. The regular crowd is a mix of older men, young hustlers, and drug dealers, but for the past few weeks Thursday nights were Ladies’ Night, the only time women were allowed. Drinks were cheaper and the dancers more eager to take it all off for the gender many of them preferred.” (Christopher DiRaddo/The Geography of Pluto)
 
3. Sky
“Sky now boasted two wooden barges on which smooth-faced twinks served cocktails, and a series of minimalist couches at the back that no one sat on.  Many of the faces were still the same, however – the boys at the bar sitting like birds on a wire.” (Christopher DiRaddo/The Geography of Pluto)
 
4. Parking
“Céline Dion had replaced New Order on the speakers. She rhymed “you and I” with “meant to fly.” I had heard clips of this song used before on television for an airline commercial. It was a simple rhyme, not very interesting and excessively sentimental, but it attracted a large crowd to the dance floor. The dancing boys were lost in the chorus. The song had triggered an emotional response, and they were alight with nostalgia or hope.” (Christopher DiRaddo/The Geography of Pluto)
 
- The Geography of Pluto | Published by Cormorant Books
- Literary Pride 2014 | 
Readings by Daniel Baylis, Daniel Allen Cox, Christopher DiRaddo, Peter Dubé, Shelagh Plunkett, Sina Queyras and Deborah VanSlet
August 14 | Notre Dame des Quilles at 7 p.m. | 32 Beaubien East
- Montreal Pride full schedule of events: fiertemontrealpride.com