Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 9.16.17
Stanstead, Quebec


Literary giant? A Penny For Your Thoughts

On the way back from Prince Edward Island this summer, we passed Shediac, NB, home of the world's largest lobster. Children climb on it. Don't worry, it's made of concrete. Watching children climb on a real giant lobster, now that I would pull off the highway for.

A little further on, we passed the exit for Nackawic, home of the world's largest axe. That's got to be something to see. We didn't.

Some people must, though, otherwise why build these outsized entities -- the giant nickel of Sudbury, the giant Ukrainian egg of Vergreville, the giant ego of Jason Kenney?

Meanwhile, back in PEI, we visited Green Gables, not because I'm an 11-year-old girl but because it was free. All national parks were free this past summer to mark Canada's 150th birthday, and the Anne of Green Gables tourist attraction was on our route, and I was damned if I wasn't going to get all the patriotic free stuff I possibly could.

That's how we found ourselves waiting with the other tourists to traipse through the heritage home, which turned out to be a wee, low-ceilinged, sparsely furnished hovel that would go for $1.2 million on the Toronto market. And get this: author Lucy Maud Montgomery never even lived there! No, the house was the home to Montgomery's aunt and uncle, Bud and Vivian Green Gables.

My takeaway from this visit was that, as with oversized everyday objects, there's a market in literary tourism.

Which got me thinking of my own town here in Stanstead,QC. We need something to draw tourists off the highway. Sure, we have the Stone Circle, but that's essentially a miniature version of Stonehenge, and no one wants to see small versions of normal-sized things; just ask my old girlfriends. (Ba-dum-TISHHH!)

What we need in Stanstead is something big, both physically and culturally, something beloved yet awe-inspiring, famous yet approachable, imposing but cuddly.

Stanstead should construct a giant Louise Penny.

The award-winning mystery writer is big internationally, so why not make her big in Stanstead? Plus, Louise Penny has built her fame around novels set in a fictionalized Eastern Townships, so it's only fair that the real Eastern Townships should build some fame around a fictionalized Louise Penny

I know what you're thinking: "When are sock garters going to make a comeback?" But I bet you're also thinking that Penny's Inspector Gamache mysteries are generally set in a fictionalized Knowlton area, nowhere near Stanstead. I'm sorry, but Knowlton already has the real Louise Penny and the Louise Penny tourist maps and the adorable ducks and an actual legitimate book store! DOES KNOWLTON HAVE TO HAVE EVERYTHING?

I apologize for the outburst. I'm confident that this would never happen if I had the calming presence of a giant Louise Penny nearby, which, unlike the normal-sized Louise Penny, would be impervious to cold and critics.

We could erect our giant Louise Penny -- the World's Largest Louise Penny! -- right next to the American border, the author's eyes fixed resolutely but kindly on U.S. markets and acclaim, which are the only legitimate markets and acclaim.

But let's not get too political about this. The point is that it's a giant Louise Penny for all to enjoy. Children could climb on Louise Penny, which, as with lobster, they should not be allowed to do in real life.

Because this will be the World's Largest Louise Penny (and we want it to stay that way), it will have to be really, really big, so big that people could go inside Louise Penny. Imagine a doorway in Louise Penny's left shin leading to a spiral staircase up to her abdomen. Obviously there'd be a book store there, a café serving biscotti and Gamache goulash, and of course a team of forensic detectives on call 24/7.

Up a further set of stairs, tourists could witness a murder scene in Louise Penny's neck, daily at 1 and 3:30 p.m. For an extra fee, you could stand on top of Louise Penny's head to scan the landscape -- the literary landscape, if you will, though you probably won't.

The gift shop would do brisk business selling penny candy, penny loafers, Louise Penny pens. Who-donuts. T-shirt that read, "I Climbed to the Top of Louise Penny and All I Got Was This Lousy Deus-Ex-Machina."

Intriguingly, it would be easy to get into Louise Penny, but how to get out? A bit of a mystery.

People pulling off the highway to take pictures of Louise Penny, families picnicking in the sprawling shade of Louise Penny -- ah, yes, a giant Louise Penny is exactly what Stanstead needs.

Either that or an inflatable Donald Sutherland.