He's an adult now

by Kieran Grant, Toronto Sun, October 31, 2000

"I don't want to sound pretentious, but ..."

Moe Berg says this a lot during a recent conversation about books, namely his own first published work, The Green Room.

"My goals were very modest," the erstwhile leader of The Pursuit Of Happiness explains. "I wasn't trying to make a grand statement."

No worries. The Green Room, a collection of short stories that Berg will launch Thursday with a suitably modest celebration at Lava on College St., is charmingly simple.

The stories rarely run more than a few pages.

Simple, controlled, slice-o'-life tales about lust, love and lack thereof are put forward in plain language. The detail is funny and often graphic -- like Woody Allen writing for Penthouse Forum.

All stories take place in Toronto, specifically in the Annex area. Whether 40-year-old men or 15-year-old girls, most of the characters, Berg says, "are failures."

And -- most impressive for a guy who scored a hit on both sides of the 49th parallel with I'm An Adult Now and spent the late '80s in the role of Canadian rock star -- there is a conspicuous lack of rock.

"I don't know how many people would be interested in my personal experience in music," he says, laughing. Actually, none of the stories in The Green Room are autobiographical. "People used to ask me if my songs were autobiographical, too," Berg says.

"But I don't think that's really what being a writer is about. No one's life is so interesting that they can just report on it and put out a lot of great material."

Berg turned to solo songwriting and production after dissolving TPOH in the mid-'90s. He continues to make music, which he plans to release through a Canadian online label such as Maplemusic. com. "That's more appealing to me than getting back into the rat race and worrying about getting play on MTV or MuchMusic," he says.

Berg put aside the tunes for two years to concentrate on The Green Room, which was promptly picked up by Toronto-based indie publishers Gutter Press.

Still, he sees strong parallels between the musical vignettes and the type-written ones.

"Both work best when they're written in a concentrated period of time," he says.

"Pop music is, by definition anyway, not very pretentious. And it's very concise. When I produce bands, my aim is to make their ideas as concise as possible. My sister says one of my personality traits is that I'm afraid I'm going to bore people. I keep things short so no one can get too bored."

Berg is currently at work on his first novel, and there's a theatre project on the horizon.

"I don't have to think about wanting to write," he says. "There's no downside to sitting down and making stuff up. People say, 'It must take a lot of discipline.' It takes a lot more discipline to do the other things I have to do in a day."

Copyright 2000, Sun Media, Canoe Limited Partnership. All rights reserved

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