10 April 2009

The Walrus walks the Dog, with a nod to Gerry Mulligan

Pleased to find that The Walrus has listed Buying Cigarettes for the Dog one of "Eight Essential Spring Books." Not sure how the other seven might feel about the company; I think if we were on a lifeboat that was starting to take on water, I'd be the one thrown to the sharks. The review is by Mark Medley.

from The Walrus, May 2009


Buying Cigarettes for the Dog
by Stuart Ross
Freehand Books (2009), 200 pp.

Stuart Ross’s first book of short stories since 1997 is a daring collection. These twenty-three bizarre vignettes leap from the straightforward to the experimental and back again. his fiction is often bold, sometimes infuriating, and always rewarding.

Ross is a documentarian of the absurd. “Me and the Pope” imagines the pontiff as an annoying house guest eager to rob a convenience store; in “Shooting the Poodle,” a man needs a bodyguard to protect him from his dog. There are sobering moments as well: “Elliott Goes to School” concerns a young man who takes sixty-three children hostage, while “Three Arms Less” explores the fallacy of war without coming off as preachy. An underlying anger courses through these stories: one senses Ross wants to shake the world by its collar and make it aware of its idiocy.

Economically written, the book is full of delightful flourishes: thin white legs become “ostriches pecking for food,” and fleas on a dog in Guatemala “re-enacted various Latin American revolutions.” Nonetheless, in some stories form trumps function, while others have quirky set-ups — “Cow Story” is about a bovine invasion, “Bouncing” centres on a man who cannot stop tumbling head over heels — that ultimately fail to pay off.

Through poetry boot camps, small-press book fairs, self-published chapbooks, and literary zines, Ross has fashioned a unique career in Canadian letters. He’s a tireless, and some would say shameless, self-promoter, and he bolsters his reputation with this book. Like the man himself, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog demands attention.

— Mark Medley

In other news, I received, unsolicited, a fantastic lit mag in the mail recently. It's the "Number Zero" issue of Gerry Mulligan, edited by Ben Tripp out of Red Hook, N.Y. It's about 100 letter-size pages stapled down the left margin between a couple of sheets of white cover stock. The look is reminiscent of the old mimeo and photocopy mags that came out of New York City and elsewhere in the 1960s through 1980s.

It contains great work by some writers I'm familiar with — Tom Savage, John Wieners, Lydia Davis, Bill Berkson, Trevor Winkfield, Charles North, Clark Coolidge, Sylvia Gorelick, Anselm Hollo — and wonderful introductions to writers I hadn't heard of: Emily Greenley, Wade Savitt, Ann Stephenson and a lot more. There's no one aesthetic ruling these pages: Tripp seems wide open to whole lot of approaches, which makes this magazine a lively read and a lot more fun even than most anthologies (especially Canadian ones).

Sometimes a magazine just excites me so much I wanna put everything down and start up a new one! Then again, I could work on Issue #2 of Syd & Shirley. It's only been four years since #1.

(You can inquire about Gerry Mulligan's availability from tripp.benjamin@gmail.com.)

Over and out.


At April 17, 2009 11:15 am , Blogger speterme said...

Thrown to the sharks? I don't think so. They'd eat you first. Maybe throw your bones to the sharks or gnaw on them until the rescue like some starving people chew on stones to make it seem like they've eaten.
I gotta track down a copy.
-- stv ptrmir, minnapolis, mn


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