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Ross Murray's Border Report
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Ross Murray
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is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at ross_murray@sympatico.ca
Posted 12.05.13
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

Where do you hang a naked writer?

"That's a boob!"

Abby pointed across the dinner table to my modest pile of birthday presents waiting to be opened. Or at least some were waiting to be opened. Sometimes my wife just lays the gifts out as is. Thus the visible boob.

"Yup, it definitely looks like a boob," I said, trying to be cool about it. Acknowledging the existence of the boob is better than dismissing it with "It's just a boob."

Every boob comes wrapped in a complex social, psychological, sexual construct that makes people giggle and squirm, especially 12-year-olds and men. It's never just a boob. Boobs are huge.

The boob in question was merely a hint of flesh on the cover of what appeared to be a wall calendar at the bottom of the gift pile. It was sitting atop a beautiful handmade cutting board, also not wrapped but a delightful surprise. Likewise not wrapped was a big bag of pistachios, though these weren't a surprise because Deb had picked them up at the grocery store and I had paid for them at the cash. Like I say, she can be casual about gift-giving.

But let's get back to the boob.

I pulled the calendar out of the pile to discover it was a "Bare It For Books" 2014 calendar featuring mostly naked Canadian authors, which is far less disturbing than you think, especially if you think "Mordecai Richler."

Instead, there was poet Miranda Hill mid-pillow fight; writer and hockey enthusiast Dave Bidini drawing attention to his athletic support in a way that will haunt your dreams; novelist Farzana Doctor lusciously sprawled across a bar top and possibly violating several health codes.

All the writers have discreetly covered their literary devices. The prize for best use of a space shuttle goes to novelist Terry Fallis, who -- for God's sake his name is "Fallis," surely that's enough!

Proceeds from the calendar will benefit PEN Canada, which defends freedom of expression, fights censorship, helps to free imprisoned, writers and assists writers living in exile in Canada.

That answers the question, "Why?" But it did not answer Abby's question, "Why?" as in "Why, Mom? Why would you buy that? Why would you buy a calendar with boobs?"

Living with a 12-year-old is like living with a Victorian.

"I definitely see crack," she said, equal parts fascinated and appalled. She turned to November, where short-story writer Saleema Nawaz held a loaf of bread over the top four-fifths of her breasts. "Look," said Abby. "You can see her lumps."

She flipped to October.

"That bicycle seat's definitely going to need a wipe down," I said.

And then Abby asked a pertinent question: "Where are you going to hang it?"

"Well, I can't hang it at work," I said quickly.

"You can't?" asked Deb. "I thought you could hang it in your office."

"I work at a school," I said. "I can't really have half-naked people on my wall."

In fact, the only workplaces I can think of where you can get away with half-naked people on your wall are an auto repair shop and an art gallery.

And then I wondered whether for that matter I wanted Bare It For Books here in the kitchen. I do like the calendar. I mean, who knew Canadian writers were so good looking -- besides my wife, that is? But there's no place for nudity in the kitchen, and I have the burn marks to back up that statement.

How ironic, then, that a calendar aimed at fighting censorship should be helpless against the forces of self-censorship. Freedom of expression may be a right, but in a battle between my rights and my in-laws feeling uncomfortable, I'm going with the in-laws; my rights don't bring me casseroles.

So where will we put this stunning Bare It For Books calendar? Maybe in the bedroom, where nude things are often hung. I just have to ask myself whether I want to wake up every morning all next December and feel uncomfortable looking at Yann Martel looking uncomfortable.

Wherever I put the calendar in the end, I'm sure I can manage it with the maturity and composure that this important cause deserves.

Oh, and one last thing: Fallis. HA-HA-HA! Fallis!

To find out more about the calendar and the campaign, visit bareitforbooks.ca

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