Moe Berg listened to those who said, 'You should write'

by Andrew Flynn, Canadian Press, printed in National Post, November 14, 2000

The gangly bard of Queen Street has turned his pen to the pursuit of literature.

At 41, Moe Berg is most definitely an adult now, a fact he once lamented in song as the frontman for The Pursuit of Happiness. His first step in making the transition from music to fiction is a collection of short stories, The Green Room (GutterPress, $16.95).

"It felt pretty natural, just because I'd done so much writing in my life," Berg said recently at the coffee shop where he spends his mornings.

It's been 15 years since he moved from Edmonton as the singer and principal creative force behind The Pursuit of Happiness, famed for its 1986 hit I'm An Adult Now. Since then, the soft-spoken Berg has been a fixture on the Canadian music scene as a musician, songwriter and producer.

"I've always written; I wrote songs almost every day. I've always been encouraged my whole career by people saying, 'You should write a book' because of the way my lyrics were," says Berg, who has retained a sort of awkward but amiable teenage impishness. "I always wanted to write, and I thought I really needed to wait until I had a good story. So one day I wrote a story - it isn't in the book, because it wasn't that good. But at least it broke the logjam and kind of got me thinking along those lines, because I'd always thought of writing in terms of song lyrics."

Not surprisingly, considering Berg's predilection for dissecting the experience of urban outsiders in his music, the characters who inhabit the 17 stories of The Green Room are essentially failing to cope in an urban environment.

"Most of the main characters, they may not be losers, but they somehow fail or they have trouble negotiating their way through life," says Berg.

None of the predominantly male characters could be considered heroes, though neither are they demons. For the most part, they are slightly-less-than-confident average joes doing not much more than analyzing themselves.

"I guess there's a bit of me in that," says Berg. "I'm not the character in any of the stories but I do understand that - I've lived through some of those experiences or experiences like them. I'm part of this Toronto urban landscape."

©2000 Canadian Press / Southam Inc.

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