“Dirty Birds” by Morgan Murray

Just another white-guy who wrote another book about another white-guy

Growing up on a farm in a small central-Albertan village, Murray describes himself as “just a nobody from nowhere.” He has studied in many different corners of the world, such as Calgary, Prague, Montreal, Paris, and St. John’s. Murray now lives in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia with his wife Kate Beaton, a canadian cartoonist who sketched the cover art for Dirty Birds in a waiting room while pregnant with their daughter Mary, who entered their lives while Murray was in the middle of writing his book. The cover page follows a railroad to Montreal, thena boat to St. John’s leading all the way to the Sea. 

The novel follows the young and painfully average Milton Ontario who moves from his hometown of Belly-Button, Saskatchewan to big-city Montreal after college in hopes of becoming a poet and ladies-man like his idol, Leonard Cohen. Entirely inspired by Murray’s time living in Montreal from 2007 to mid-2008, Murray sums up his experience as follows: “I looked dumb, acted dumb, became a hipster, did male modelling, and it was awful.” Murray lived in a cheap, run-down little apartment with 4 strangers, and Milton’s apartment was written as almost identical to Murray’s, except without a bedroom window. 

Dirty Birds was born from a short story about Murray’s first interview in Montreal. Several years later when he was in grad school at the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Murray’s sister came to visit, which is when the first rough outline of Dirty Birds was drawn out. Not long after, Murray had a draft for his first book.

When planning his conference at St. Lawrence Murray thought he would preach to students how to become rich and famous by writing a book full of bad words and bad jokes– but he remembered that last year, around this time in early Spring, he had sent out the unedited version of his book for its very first preview and a couple early reviews. Reminiscing about what brought him to this point, Murray instead talked about all the people he “blames” for the birth of Dirty Birds. His parents are undoubtedly the most to blame for the book. His love of books comes from his mother and all the bad words and bad jokes in the novel are the result of his father. 

Various figures throughout his life have all left quite the impression on Murray’s life, all of which can be blamed for his novel: J.D. Salinger, author of The Catcher in the Rye; F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby; Allen Ginsberg, author of Howl; Kury Vonnegut, author of Breakfast of Champions; Ernest Hemmingway, Mordecai Richler, Jack Kerouac, Charles Bukowski– a whole bunch of dead white guys who wrote about other white guys. 

In grade school, Murray wrote a story and gave it to his teacher Mrs. Peterson, who returned it to him with a message from some lady called Sandra who told him to never stop writing. And that right there, may just have been that start of his career as a writer. In fact, many years later, Murray desperately wanted to get into a workshop he did not have the prerequisites for given by Canadian author Lisa Moore. Subsequently, he wrote on his plea for admission about the story he wrote as a child, and for some reason, it got him the spot. 

Lisa Moore is indeed another person to blame for Dirty Birds. Her book February, released in 2010, was one of the first books Murray read that was not by a dead white guy. It was reading February that made Murray so desperate to get into Moore’s workshop. Getting the chance to meet her and learn from her amazed Murray. In April 2019, Lisa Moore gave a conference at CEGEP St. Lawrence continues to shape young writers and young minds across Canada. 

Murray has held several other conferences over the past year and has gotten recognition all across Canada for Dirty Birds. From coverage in his local newspapers, to all CBC platforms from his home library. As a first-time novelist, Murray has yet to discover how much impact his book will have on the world. Dirty Birds has already made it up to 67,787th best selling book on Amazon. Considering that there are over 5 million books on Amazon, Dirty Birds made it to the top one percent. Even though he may just be some white guy from the middle-of-nowhere, he is certainly already starting to shape young minds just as all the authors had for him and are now to blame for the release of Dirty Birds

The Morrin Center’s Imagination Writers’ Festival started April 6th and lasted until April 11th.

By Isabelle Devi Poirier


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