26 March 2009

First review of Cigarettes

Susan Cole, the arts editor at NOW Magazine, wrote the first review of Buying Cigarettes for the Dog. Now, I always say that whether the review is good or bad, I'm always grateful that someone paid attention or that it bothered someone enough to write about it. This is a good review, though! It made me weepy.

It's also so nice to see the cover appearing in colour here and there. Fidel Peña and the gang at Underline Studio did an incredible design job. Plus, Fidel's always recommending great books for me to read.



197 pages, $19.95 paper.
NOW RATING: NNNN [out of 5]

Vignettes like those in Buying Cigarettes For The Dog aren’t easy to pull off. You have only a small space in which to make a big impression or evoke a strong emotion, which is why poets like Stuart Ross are best suited to the exercise.

Ross doesn’t waste a word, and the impact is often breathtaking. He knows how to extend a metaphor so that even the most absurd or hallucinatory episodes – and there are many of these – convey deep meaning. I mean, of course the Pope doesn’t come to stay at his house (Me And The Pope), but Ross makes you believe that the papal visit to Toronto messes with his head and his relationships.

Elliott Goes To School gets inside the mind of a high school shooter. The near-novella Guided Missiles – the only lengthy piece in the collection – tracks a sad radio DJ on the brink of disaster. And in the 11 short pages (really short, since this book is small-format) of Dusty Hats Vanish, Ross conveys Nicaragua’s heartbreaking poverty and political upheaval while slyly commenting on tourism in the region.

But some of these stories are also laugh-out-loud funny. Language Lessons... With Simon And Marie! spoofs the stilted syntax of a couple learning English. And anyone who’s had to sit through an evening of self-indulgent or just plain shitty theatre will fall in love with Ross’s vicious but dead-on So Sue Me, You Talentless Fucker.

A talented guy like Ross can get away with that.

Over and out.


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