Reports of My Death:Beyond-the-Grave Confessions of North American Writers

This isn’t the Christmas Season or the Holiday Season as much as it is the Season of Big Books by RPCVs! Having received last week: War of Hearts and Mind: An American Memoir, which comes in at 618 pages and written by James Jouppi (Thailand 1971-73), this week in the mail came: Reports of My Death: Beyond-the-Grave Confessions of North American Writers by Girard R. Christmas (Thailand 1973-76; Western Samoa 1976-78).  This tome is 660 pages! Both of these books are self-published. And, by the way, what’s with these Thailand RPCVs? Do they have too much time on their hands and that is why they are writing such long books?

Reports of My Death, aka, ROMD, is the labor of love of Gerry Christmas. It took him twenty years to research and write. “As a teenager,” he wrote me, “I always hated the way authors were presented in textbooks. Reports of My Death is a reaction to that.”

And what a reaction!

What Christmas has attempted to do is “present the lives of North American writers in a succinct but lively way.” He does so by using the first person present tense to make the writers “come to life.”

In organizing the book he used the Joel Gareau scheme of ‘nine nations.’

“I asked Joel Garreau,” Christmas says, “if I could use his ‘Nine Nations of North America’ theory. That way I could group the authors culturally. Mr. Garreau kindly gave me his permission to do so.”

For those of you who do not know (and I was one of them) The Nine Nations of North America is a book published by Garreau in 1981. In it Garreau suggests that North America can be divided into nine regions, or “nations”, which have distinctive economic and cultural features. He also argues that conventional national and state borders are largely artificial and irrelevant, and that his “nations” provide a more accurate way of understanding the true nature of North American society.

Christmas conceived, wrote, edited and compiled the Reports of My Death over a twenty year period. He then submitted the manuscript to more than fifty established publishing houses before finally throwing in the towel and self- publishing it on Lulu. His most substantial nibble from an established publishing house came from Little Brown and Company where an editor wrote him a long and glowing letter about the book before rejecting it for publication.

“I still believe that he made a big mistake in doing so,” Gerry laments. “It is a damn good book, if I do say so myself. I do not know of another one like it. That might sound arrogant of me, but so be it!”

Reports of My Death sells for $49.95 in hardcover; $34.95 in paperback; and $9.99 as an ebook. You can find it on Amazon.

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  • First a disclaimer: I served with Gerry Christmas in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa. We spent countless hours–in villages, on beaches, on the road–talking about books and writing. He is my friend–and a man of infinite good cheer.

    That said, I read, reviewed–and loved!–“Reports of My Death.” If I did not know him, I would say the same.

    ROMD is written with wit, passion, and a deep knowledge of subject. My favorite chapters focus on Mark Twain, Jack London, Vardis Fisher, Stephen Crane, and Frank Norris.

    Christmas writes about the imperial author (example: Nathaniel Hawthorne) and the scribbling ruffian (example: Jim Thompson) with equal panache.

    I loved this book–and recommend it highly.

  • Reports of My Death was obviously written as a labour of love by its author, the estimable Gerry Christmas. And it shows. Wikipedia gives you much of the biographical information about the writers touched on, but Gerry has managed to humanise the exercise in a very distinctive manner by placing it in a wider cultural and literary context.

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