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Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 11.24.06
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Buy "my" book

My book arrived in the mail last week. It felt like Christmas. Well, maybe not Christmas. More like getting a smallish tax refund.

Technically, it's not "my" book but I'm in it. Ever so briefly, 150 words to be exact. But it's a real book with a real publisher and I'm being paid real money. Not yet, but I will be. I think.

The book is Mountain Man Dance Moves: The McSweeny's Book of Lists. It's a compilation of droll, profane, and entirely useless lists that originally appeared on the website McSweeney's Internet Tendencies.

My list, "Cinematic Expressions of Self-Loathing If There Were No Mirrors to Smash," appeared on the website a year and a half ago. For the privilege of being read by thousands if not hundreds of people worldwide, I conceded copyright.

Why would I do such a thing, you may ask? Well, McSweeney's is a fairly respected humour site. Plus, it was a chance to expand my ego - er, I mean reader base. Some of my McSweeney's work has received several complimentary comments from complete strangers across North America.

I am temporarily flattered when this happens until I read a popular blogger like Heather "Dooce" Armstrong whose entries receive over 300 comments daily. Mathematically, 1 Internet commenter = 13,427 Internet readers with better things to do than write to strangers.

My big payoff came this summer when I received notice from McSweeney's that they would be using one of my lists in a compilation, for which I would be paid 25 dollars.

Hold it: that's 25 American dollars!

Plus, I would get a copy of a book. That's right. You know it's the big time when you don't even have to buy your own copy.

Sometime later, I received an e-contract from McSweeney's headquarters in San Francisco asking me to supply my Social Security Number. I wrote back that I was Canadian and didn't have a Social Security Number; would a Social Insurance Number do? I received a reply in legal jargon that, roughly translated, meant "Fine, whatever."

Several months later, the book was released. I was somewhat perplexed to find that the cover depicts a pastel air-brushed unicorn. Granted, there are an inordinate number of lists about unicorns in the book, but I think the sissy cover may backfire with the target 22-35 male demographic. It could, however, be a hit with first-year college girls.

Since then, Mountain Man has received some press, including a review in The New York Times. Not the "Review of Books," the Style section.

And editor John Warner was interviewed on National Public Radio, which has thousands if not hundreds of listeners.

I'm proud to report that Mountain Man is now the 1937th best-selling book at Amazon.com.

My copy finally arrived last week (no cheque yet but I'm sure it's coming). I found my list (page 20) and read it with pride. To be included in a collection of really quite funny pieces! To be among such a distinguished group of list-makers!

Of course, I only have one list. Then there are writers like Mike Sacks, who has 16. That's, like, 16 times $25. I wonder if he gets 25 copies of the book. His work is hilarious, but I'm beginning to not like Mike Sacks. The show-off.

Most of the lists in the book I've already read on the website. In fact, they're still online and anyone can go there and save themselves the 16 bucks. So why bother with the book at all? Because you can't take the computer to the bathroom, which is where this humour belongs.

So if you see me casually walking around with a book sporting a unicorn on the cover, feel free to walk up and say, "Hey, what's that?" so I can answer, "Oh that? That's my book."

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