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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 05.17.10
Stanstead, Quebec

ROSS MURRAY

My new book

I'm doing it by the book (hint, hint)

If you find shameless self-promotion distasteful, you might not want to read on. Otherwise, I may come off as a bit of a jerk. Then again, what else is new?

Recently, Deb and I managed to get away for a whole day in Montreal. Alone. No children, no animals, no need to curb swear words. We were as giddy as kids in a candy store, except in our case, it was a bookstore. Without the kids, it was an opportunity to do some leisurely book browsing minus the moping and the sighing and the starving to death.

Books have been on my mind a bit lately because (here comes the shameless self-promotion) I have a book coming out next month -- You're Not Going To Eat That, Are You? It's a collection of columns that appeared over the years in the Stanstead Journal, Log Cabin Chronicles, and The Sherbrooke Record. This is how a lazy person writes a book without actually writing a book; it may take eighteen years but it gets done.

With the book soon going to press, visiting a large bookstore was simultaneously amazing and depressing. Amazing because there are so many books. Depressing because there are so many books.

Floor after floor of books. Every surface covered with books. Books of every genre and style:

Big fat art books for impressing friends but not for reading.

Books about quirky theories that are summarized in the intro and then flogged for 250 non-fiction pages.

Memoirs, AKA People I've Slept With.

Fiction for women about time-traveling men in kilts and occasional smut.

Novelty books that seemed fun at the time of purchase but turn out to be a letdown at home.

And lots of books about zombies and vampires. This is the bandwagon aspect of the book industry. One Twilight hit and suddenly everybody's writing about conflicted vampires. (quot;Being immortal sucks!quot;) What's unleashed the zombie-lit uprising I'm not sure, but here too there are copycats. After the success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (seriously), there's now The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie and War of the Worlds Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies.

(Incidentally, vampires and zombies both feature in my book, which includes illustrations by my daughter Emily.)

Looking around, I realized there are so many books that I'll never get to read. I feel the same way when I go to the wine store, although, darnnit, I'm doing my best.

In addition, there are all those books that no one even wants to read. That's why I tend to gravitate to the quot;Reduced for Salequot; table. I feel sorry for the books no one wants. Also, I'm cheap.

The bargain table is where I picked up a slim memoir by Calvin Trillin, whose style influenced my early columns, a few of which are featured in my book, available now for pre-order at www.townships.ca.

So here I am, about to add to the pile of books that no one really needs or necessarily wants, unless they're my Mom. And with the Internet systematically destroying newspapers, television, and attention spans, I wonder whether anyone even cares about books and storytelling any more? Like a zombie, is the book industry merely the walking dead?

Which brings me to the point of our trip to Montreal, namely to attend a taping of CBC's quot;The Vinyl Cafequot; at Place des Arts. The hall was sold out. So many English people. It was like Anglopalooza.

Amazingly, all those people were there to hear Stuart McLean tell stories. That's pretty much it -- unabashedly sentimental, unapologetically homespun, really funny stories about ordinary people that make audiences smile and laugh and purchase thousands and thousands of books and CDs.

That there are so many people eager to just sit and listen to good storytelling gives me hope for the written word. Maybe it won't always be in book form (mine is; buy one for your bathroom; buy one for both bathrooms), but I'm confidant people will always find a time and place for good writing.

Not that I'm comparing myself to Stuart McLean. It does, though, give me an idea for my next book: The Vinyl Cafe and Zombies. I should have it finished in another eighteen years.

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