I rarely read obituaries and have never written about them – but this one is different. It is about Stuart McLean, author of The Vinyl Cafe.
My copy of The Vinyl Cafe sat on my bookshelf for years. However a few months ago I moved it to my coffee table where it is today. I found it is the perfect book to grab on my weekly trips to the Museum of Fine Arts. The subway ride is thirteen stops. That is just enough time to get through one of Stuart McLean’s fabulous short stories. My challenge for the day is always not to laugh out loud on the way.
While the short stories about Dave, Morley and their small town are hilarious to read, the real joy that I will remember is listening to Mr. McLean’s soft lyrical voice as he told the stories on CBC Radio. In the obituary it said:
“Fans recalled how they sat in parked cars in driveways across the country, unable to get out until they learned whether Dave had made things right with Morley after some household disaster, such as messing up the roasting of the Christmas turkey.”
I was one of those fans. Often, knowing the ice-cream in the back of the car was melting, I would sit in the car waiting for the end of the story – even when it was a story I had heard before – like the Christmas turkey story, which “sort of took on a life of its own.”
With his passing, I have learned that Mr. McLean was a journalist as well as a story-teller. I love this bit of advice he gave about how his journalism career took off:
” The light went on and I learned, all you have to do to be excellent is to try hard. To care. To do it again and again. If someone had taught me that in grade seven, I wouldn’t have had to flunk grade 11. I didn’t know that then. As everybody always says, it’s not brilliance. it’s just sweat.”
Well I, for one, think Stuart McLean had “brilliance” in his writing style and in his ability to tell the story in a mesmerizing manner that kept many of us sitting in our parked cars on weekend mornings. So if anyone is looking for inspiration on how to write, they should get themselves a copy of The Vinyl Cafe.
I am fortunate! My copy is in plain sight on the coffee table where it will sit for a long time as a tribute to a great Canadian writer and radio icon. I will miss the radio program. I will miss you Stuart McLean, but you and Dave (your radio persona) have left a lasting memory.
To read the full obituary go to the Globe and Mail’s “Vinyl Cafe creator wrote wove beguiling tales“.
Go to The Vinyl Cafe website to learn more about Stuart McLean.
You can listen to podcasts of The Vinyl Cafe on CBC’s website.