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Milton Ontario Makes a Book List

"Desperate times call for someone from Saskatchewan." —John G. Diefenbaker

What follows is a one-of-a-kind books list by Morgan Murray, whose debut novel Dirty Birds has been celebrated by CanLit institutions including the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Canada Reads, the Atlantic Book Awards, the ReLit Award, and more.

Murray, obviously, however, with all this acclaim, has been much too busy and successful to write the list himself, and so he enlisted his protagonist Milton Ontario (not to be confused with Milton, Ontario) to create the list on his behalf...and then in truly Milton Ontario fashion, the list got lost amidst email back-and-forths and faulty attachments, and went missing for two whole years.

It was recently unearthed, however, and we think it's too good to waste. Many thanks for the Esteemed First Time Novelist for making sure we finally got it.


Book Cover Dirty Birds

An overly verbose note from the Esteemed First Time Novelist regarding what it is you are about to partake of:

Look! Novelling is a big business, okay! It is not what you think. It’s not the quaint pursuit of a lonely genius with their ink stained fingers scribbling away in a smoke filled Parisian cafe. Don’t be naive! This is the 21st century! Novels and associated novelanalia are the product of an elaborate machinery designed to rake in the dough. Big dough! So I, a novelist, a published novelist, obviously don’t have time to waste on anything as trivial as writing these days! What with my normal array of wine and cheese galas and appointments for Deep Irish Manicures (I must insist that the negative press this procedure has garnered of late is completely unfounded. It is not simply sticking your fingers in holes poked in common potatoes. A novelist wouldn’t be caught dead fondling a common potato! These are special holes drilled especially in special Irish potatoes that have medicinal properties especially suited for contending with the unfathomable demands upon the published novelist’s hands). The CEO of Exxon certainly doesn’t dirty his hands and ruin his manicure sucking oil from the earth like a common roughneck. Nor should a novelist sully his DIM with typing like a common peasant. So, as any self-respecting big novelling outfit does, I posted an ad to Craigslist in the w4m (writers seeking mentees) section seeking assistance in creating this list:

Esteemed novelist seeks sub to fill-in. Utmost discretion of the utmost importance. Send samples.

For some unknown reason, this ad netted me a flood of poorly composed, poorly lit, and overexposed photographs of men's *ahems*, there was only one legitimate applicant—if I might generously call it that—someone I recognized right off as the protagonist from my most recent [Ed. note: and only] novel, our hero Milton Ontario.

I assure you, kindly reader, that I had no intention of hiring this wet noodle, this—if you will indulge my Canadianism—hoser poseur, this real flannel flaneur. But, as I believe it was the honourable John G. Diefenbaker who once said, “desperate times call for someone from Saskatchewan,” or something. I had no choice but to hire the young protagonist to compose a piece of something that would sufficiently meet the requirements for the assignment from this esteemed electronic publication and duly promote my esteemed novel (Dirty Birds, in case you haven’t heard, the novel none other than the esteemed Scotia Bank Giller Prize and multi-Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour laureate Will Ferguson himself has compared to the work of none other than the esteemed Kurt Vonnegut. That’s right! Mr. Cat’s Cradle himself, Kurt Vonnegut! Mr. Ferguson might have meant to respond to my overtures with “quit doing that” but it autocorrected to Kurt Vonnegut, and here we are!). So without further ado, I place you in the incapable hands of Milton Ontario, protagonist.

Warmest salutations,

-Morgan Murray, novelist, published

Postscript—Did I mention that Milton Ontario is a poet? Not a very good one? Sincere apologies in advance.


6 books that sound pretty good to me, by milton ontario


brisk like it

a triscuit a tracksuit

a biscuit in a

bask in it

6 books you say

6 books on the 49th shelf

leaning like the tower of


on the shelf

gone glossy with yesterday’s regrets


Book Cover Chinkstar

chinkstar, by jon chan simpson

set in the midst of a war

a gang war 

between asian gangsta rappers

not unlike big big biggies

and redneck rig pig piggies

in red deer

no less

alberta yes

a missing big brother

an unrequited lover

sang like a song sings

the lingo and everything

its a small list

but chinkstar must be

among the top two or three

central alberta asian gangsta rap gang war fictions published in toronto in 2015

at least


Book Cover Hard Core Logo

hard core logo, by michael turner

washed up

has been

has beans

will travel

through western canada

one last hurrah

a band of punks




against the dying of the 

cigarette lighter

in the tour van

on the way to van

or was it 

on the way from van

with the raisin bran

like old men

its been a while

Its bean a while

but its given us 

billy talent

both band and

callum keith rennie vehicle

a tour van

egg or chicken

doesnt matter

tarantino approves


Book Cover Caught

caught, by lisa moore

watching the made-for-tv

miniseries movie of the week

is for the weak

is cheating

this must be read

this must be supped

this must be slurped and sipped and slipped into like hot

tomato soup

all these years later

too many

i can still hear the




of the sexy

tomato soup

moore is to 

tomato soup

what warhol is to

tomato soup

but with words

instead of factories full of

runaways and

tomato soup


Book Cover the end of music

the end of music, by jamie fitzpatrick

a gander

a goose

a time warp

an aeroport

a cold war

cold plate

cold shoulder

cold shower


the razz-a-ma-tazz



of the bustling once was

now isn't

but neither are you


you once was


just about

not quite

just like



except for that musical

it’s gotten good reviews

from politicians who have never been to a musical


just about

not quite


Book Cover Mortimer

mortimer, by robert munsch










by a beloved childrens author 


Book Cover Boom Time

boom time, by lindsay bird


sings songs

of fort mac

cat calls

from cat walks

from mine hands

in hard hats

and work boots


of black gold

black lung



of lunch room undoings

by back page 

betty page


for the barrel chested

blue breasted


on turnarounds




we all know the 


but not the


because no one has ever been

to the bottom of the

bottomless pit

where they grow

iphones and

eye rolls and

eye sores and

crass boors in the

work camps and

work boots




everybody is

a buddy from



but this is 

town is 

home to


the bottomless pit

sees to that


Book Cover Dirty Birds

Learn more about Dirty Birds:

In late 2008, as the world’s economy crumbles and Barack Obama ascends to the White House, the remarkably unremarkable Milton Ontario—not to be confused with Milton, Ontario—leaves his parents’ basement in Middle-of-Nowhere, Saskatchewan, and sets forth to find fame, fortune, and love in the Euro-lite electric sexuality of Montreal; to bask in the endless twenty-something Millennial adolescence of the Plateau; to escape the infinite flatness of Saskatchewan and find his messiah—Leonard Cohen. Hilariously ironic and irreverent, in Dirty Birds, Morgan Murray generates a quest novel for the twenty-first century—a coming-of-age, rom-com, crime-farce thriller—where a hero’s greatest foe is his own crippling mediocrity as he seeks purpose in art, money, power, crime, and sleeping in all day.

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