04 September 2009

another smoking doggy review

Just a small piece, part of a multi-book review, from the Halifax Chronicle-Herald. That makes about 15 or 16 reviews for Buying Cigarettes for the Dog.

Sun. Aug 30 - 4:46 AM

Love’s Civil War Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, edited by Victoria Glendinning (McLelland & Stewart, $35, 496 pages)
Inside Iran Mark Edward Harris (Chronicle Books, $35, 208 pages)
Buying Cigarettes for the Dog Stuart Ross (Freehand Press, $19.95, 198 pages)

[big snip]

Stuart Ross has an interesting take on the world. Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, his latest collection of off-beat stories, have a tendency to veer into the surreal. His themes, though, are usually clear: The stupidity of war; the ability (or inability) to communicate; how we do or don’t cope with life. His stories are strange and mesmerizing.

Ross doesn’t waste words. Some of his stories are only four to six pages, snappy even for a short story. His often dark humour resounds through the collection. Language Lessons with Simon and Marie instructs those with "faltering English" how to "engage in sophisticated repartee at University Gatherings, Diplomatic Functions and other Social Opportunities." Perfect English, but please don’t try this in company!

In the title story, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, a husband tells his wife he’s going for smokes and returns home some years later to find strangers living in his house. He is puzzled.

Reading these stories is like watching Ross poke at life with a sharp stick, wondering what will turn up.

While not to everyone’s taste, they are strangely compelling, resonating long after the last page has been turned.

Freelance writer Judith Meyrick lives in Halifax.


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