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Drinkin’ In Canada

Yes, it is that cold here.

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Homecoming Gig

Of all the readings on the tour, it was the final night in my hometown of Ottawa that made me the most nervous. There is something comforting about appearing before strangers: At the end of the event, whether it be a grand success or a dismal failure, you will never see the audience again. In Ottawa, it was family – my mother, father, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin – and friends – from high school, from university, from the newspaper, from the courthouse. It’s not so much that I felt I had to impress these people, but at all costs I did not want to let them down.

I think things went fairly well. The event was held at Collected Works, a great independent bookstore in the Westboro neighbourhood. As Charlie Gordon, a great writer and an early inspiration, said, it’s a great place to have a reading because it is so intimate it always feels like it is a full house. In the end, we had about 25 or 30 people and there was mulled wine and a generally festive atmosphere. Afterward, we had a little party at my parents’ house with more wine and beer and a great spread of cheese and such. It was, despite my initial reluctance, a perfect way to end the tour.

My father Ross, my sister Beth, my mother Patricia.

My cousin Mike and his wife Laura.

Two of my dearest friends, Will and Julie.

This was particularly amazing. Helen and Albert fell upon the wondrous Atlantis Books while touring Greece this past summer. They learned of the reading from the Atlantis site and Helen actually took the bus down from Montreal to attend.

And this, of course, is the incomparable Jake Rupert.

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From Car Home to Parents’ Home

After six weeks of living out of the car, I arrived at my parents’ house in Ottawa to spend the Christmas holidays. Many of my friends – Quinn and Dave are two examples that leap to mind – would have kept their car meticulously organized during those six weeks. I, on the other hand, am the type of fellow who has to chain his car keys to his pants in order not to lose them. Sadly, this is what happened when I unloaded the car …

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You always hear writers mumbling something about how they don’t read their reviews. I am starting to understand why.

It can be worse than a crack trip. All up up up and then suddenly down and then up and then down and then … well, you get the idea. When I was being interviewed on the BBC or by Vogue Australia or by NPR, I felt quite pleased with myself. Perhaps not a star, but a nicely glowing piece of space rock. Kind words in places like Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The London Times, The Ottawa Citizen and the San Francisco Guardian left me with a medicine ball head. Then, there was a distasteful review in Canada’s leading newspaper and an article in The New Statesman that described me as something of a rube backwater Canadian. I almost let myself get depressed.

The truth of the matter, of course, is that I am blessed as hell just have my work discussed in so many distinguished forums. One of the reasons I write is that I want to have my voice heard when I rant about all the issues of the day. (Because, clearly, I could cure all of the ills of the world if people just listened to me.) Thanks to this book, my soapbox is suddenly a little bit higher, a little bit more sturdy.

And, as I have known all along, the true test of the book would be what people who know the bookstore and know George Whitman thought. From early readers, such as Luke Basham and Adrian Hornsby, to the dozens of people I have met on this book tour or received emails from, the people who really understand Shakespeare and Company generally agree that I did a decent job. Perhaps most amazingly of all, the other day my editor received a hand-written note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Ferlinghetti is one of the world’s most important poets, one of George’s oldest friends, and one of the people whose opinion I was most anxious for. I was even scared to go into City Lights while in San Francisco in case he didn’t approve. Instead, I received some of the most soothing praise yet. This is a portion of what he wrote:

“Jeremy Mercer’s tale of George Whitman and his beloved bookstore is
a book of revelations, for it tells the hard-to-discover true story of
George’s life and of the twenty-thousand-and-one nights of this enchanted
place that continues to be for its habitées as well as for its creator, a
way of life.” -Lawrence Ferlinghetti

So, there we go. Affirmation upon deception upon affirmation. I really look forward to escaping to the quiet island of Santorini …

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The last US tour stop

Has it really been 43 days on the road? And 23 bookstores visited? Tuesday night was my last American gig on the tour, at the famous Books & Co in Dayton. The owner, Sharon (red hair, seen here with Vivian the event manager) has made Dayton a must-stop for authors and is the most wonderful host. It was a good show with lots of positive feedback, but there was a lingering sense of melancholy. Sure, there is a homecoming show in Ottawa, but that is going to be more of a celebration with friends and family. This is the last time I will be up before strangers in a strange city for a while.

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The people that you meet …

On of the best part of visiting the homes of random and not-so-random strangers is that you are constantly surprised by the goings on of other folk. Take Jennifer in Indianapolis. Thanks to a Craig’s List posting and an email correspondence, she invited me to stay with her on my way through Indianapolis. A lovely young woman with a fantastic sense of humour and a quick wit. But guess what she does at 3.30 in the morning. That’s right. She plays with the bones of dead animals.

All right, I confess. This is part of her bio anthropology project for university, not some strange semi-Satanic ritual. But still, kind of odd.

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© 2010 Jeremy Mercer. Website by Strangecode.
photo : Stefan Bladh

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