Book Title: Canada & Other Matters of Opinion
Author: Rex Murphy
Published: 2009
Pages: 329
Category: Non-Fiction: Canadian politics, nonfiction: politics

It took me quite a while to get through this fifth book in my attempt at 52 this year.  I even read another book entirely between the first & second thirds of reading this one.

Rex Murphy is a Canadian institution, he writes a weekly column in the Globe & Mail, commentates on CBC, and I actually had the pleasure of hearing him speak live when he was in Victoria a couple of years ago. He is an incredible orator, and has an amazing way with words.

His worldview however, is different than mine in many ways, not that this is a bad thing in selecting reading material, but I am trying very hard in my life right now to let go of any cynicism in my current situation and look for the best. So Murphy’s overwhelming cynicism at the state of the world (or at least, how I perceived it in this book) was hard to take.

Here’s one example of what I mea:

“It’s been well known for decades now that Vancouver is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, and further that it has resolved every major social and political problem known to man or metropolis. The Downtown Eastside, old-timers will recall, was cleaned up decades ago, and is now a most splendid housing-estate cum park, with a mix of citizens of every income and colour and culture – a true model to the world.” (pg 163, Great News Out of Vancouver – September 29, 2007)

Sure he’s making a point. Vancouver has its own share of problems, like any other large city. I appreciate sarcasm. But 329 pages of it is a lot for me to take all at once. Murphy’s weekly columns are enough cynicism and sarcasm for me…a book of them is a bit too much.

For in the words of Conan O’Brien…

“All I ask of you is one thing: please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism- it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.”

But enough of what I’m trying to do with my life, and the words of late night talk show hosts that I didn’t ever really watch until they were close to leaving. Back to the book.

Pieces of it I truly enjoyed, and I always enjoy well-written prose, and this book is full of it. The book itself was a collection of segments written over the past 5-6 years, with some commentary added upon editing for publication. I enjoyed reading Murphy’s commentary on events that I don’t have distinct memories of – as I was developing my social consciousness and news-reading habits over the period of time these articles were written. So events that are hazy in my mind have suddenly been brought back into the realm of news, discussion, and opinion. That I did enjoy. I also really enjoyed this segment:

“Would there have been a Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series without Bram Stoker? No. However far from his Dracula the campy reruns may be, the persistence of the vampire story, and the fable’s elemental features – blood-parched undead, fearful only of sunlight, garlic and the crucifix… – owe everything to Stoker’s renewal of the legend.” (pg112 – Sanity Takes a Holiday, Dec 11, 2004)

It’s an excellent segue to my next book…I’ll admit to which book it is when I write the review.


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