About the Author

Stuart Ross

Stuart Ross published his first literary pamphlet on the photocopier in his dad’s office one night in 1979. Through the 1980s, he stood on Toronto’s Yonge Street wearing signs like “Writer Going To Hell,” selling over 7,000 poetry and fiction chapbooks. A long-time literary press activist, he is a founding member of the Meet the Presses collective, Editor at Mansfield Press, and for eight years was Fiction & Poetry Editor at This Magazine. He is the author of two collaborative novels, two story collections, seven poetry books, and the novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew, which co-won the 2012 Mona Elaine Adilman Award for Fiction on a Jewish Theme. He has also published a collection of essays, Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer, and co-edited the anthology Rogue Stimulus: The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament. Buying Cigarettes for the Dog won the 2010 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His most recent poetry book is You Exist. Details Follow. He lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

Books by this Author
Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer

Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer

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Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer

Further Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer

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Hey, Crumbling Balcony!

Hey, Crumbling Balcony!

Poems New and Selected
edition:Hardcover
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I Cut My Finger

I Cut My Finger

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Motel of the Opposable Thumbs

Motel of the Opposable Thumbs

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Pockets

Pockets

A Novel
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tagged : literary, jewish
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Excerpt

I looked out my bedroom window and saw my brother floating over the weeping willows. His feet fluttered, as if he were wearing flippers. His arms trailed at his sides, his fingertips pointing back to where he had just come from. Where he had just come from now looked like a hovering oil slick, glittering with traces of the moon’s pale light.

The houses crouched in their yards, amid the damp grass, and they breathed almost silently. Every so often one twitched or shuddered. Rain streaked down their windows. The tip of an evergreen was tilted by the wind, but it pushed back, straightening itself until it pointed toward the thick clouds.

A comet whipped through the night sky. The next comet waited its turn. And still more after that one, more and more comets. There was some jostling in the line, a bit of shoving, and then calm.

I stood in my bedroom, at the foot of my unmade bed. I turned on a lamp and my shadow was thrown across the floor. With effort, it pulled itself to its feet and lurched toward the window. The phone rang once and then whoever it was hung up.

I reached into the bottom of my pants pockets, grasped the seams, and pulled the pockets out till they looked like dog ears flopping against my thighs. They were empty. I counted to eighteen, and stuffed them back into my pants. Then I scooped up palmfuls of my own shadow from the floor and filled my pockets with them.

Pants are trousers. Trousers are slacks. Shirts are blouses. Socks are stockings. That summer, I dug for clams while wearing clam-diggers. Or maybe I dug for trilobites. Was it trilobites?

Morning arrived. The house was silent. It didn’t move. I looked out the window. My brother stood in the backyard, beside the red-brick barbecue our father had built. He reached forward and his hand grew immense. He wrapped his enormous fingers around the house and crammed it into his pocket. I turned on my lamp, and everything disappeared.

The door to my parents’ bedroom was shut. Gently, I pushed it open and peeked in. The television threw a glow onto their bed. They lay side by side, my mother and father, completely still. I heard the voice of Deborah Kerr in The Innocents. It was, therefore, sometime after 1961. I slipped out of the house, into my car, and drove to the cemetery. I reached into my pockets, took out some small rocks, and placed them on the headstone my parents shared.

The Hebrew alphabet has twenty-two letters. The Hebrew school I attended was located in the basement of the synagogue near our house. The teacher called me by my Hebrew name — Zalman. It takes four Hebrew letters to spell Zalman. There are four stages involved in something or other to do with the Kabbalah. It is marvellous how everything is connected.

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Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew

Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew

A Novel
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Excerpt

I didn’t mind ants or cotton boll weevils, and I sure didn’t mind worms, undulating on hooks or sliding through moist soil, but anything with long and spindly legs scared the hell out of me: especially spiders, centipedes, and those really big mosquitoes that looked like they could lift a station wagon with their suction feet.

 

My friends and I were playing in the lake, floating around in our red, green, and blue rubber doughnuts, our butts hanging down through the holes into the cool water. We were splashing each other and debating who was better from Man from U.N.C.L.E. — Ira liked Napoleon Solo, because he always ended up with a girl, one with red lipstick and piled–up blond hair, but Sammy saw that as a weakness and argued that Illya Kuryakin was way cooler: he was immune to girls and had a Russian accent. I tried to make a case for Maxwell Smart, but he was only a half–hour long, like Captain Nice and Mr. Terrific, so he didn’t even count. As Sammy puckered up and made kissing noises into the air, mocking Napoleon Solo, my eyes caught a glint of purple, a lightning flash of black, and I saw that a giant dragonfly had perched on my knee. Its wingspan was that of a crow, and its body was made of a thousand horrible segments, a thousand thoraxes, a thousand anthraxes, each sprouting a terrible hairy leg. Its pointy metallic head jerked from side to side, its jaws clanging open and shut like an assembly–line contraption that crushes things flat, and its blank black eyes drilled right into me.

First Ira screamed, and then I screamed. I began to kick my little pink legs, my butt slipping deeper into the water, but the metal creature just wouldn’t let go. I could feel its needle feet gripping my knee, clinging stubbornly as my heart banged and my limbs thrashed, and the rubber float that held me on the surface of the water rocked like a ship in a storm.

Then I saw my bare feet swoop into the clouds, my toes poking right into them, and everything got loud, and thick, and echoey, and slow–motion. Water punched up into my nostrils, and my eyes went blurry with brine.

That thing of knowing how to swim, I hadn’t bothered with it yet, though I could dog–paddle, I could just about dog–paddle. Luckily, we were close to the shore, and when my feet found the gritty bottom — the moss, the stones, the warm sand shifting between my toes — I pushed myself straight, and the water came only to my shoulders. My whole body shuddered, and I slid my hands down to my knees, plunging my face again into the water. I swiped spastically at my legs, grabbing for the winged monster.

But somehow, in all the chaos, it had disappeared, just pulled up its spiny pincer feet and winged away, hitching a ride across the lake with the warm breeze, engorged with my blood and maybe even some of my brain, I really didn’t know for sure.

When I straightened again and pulled my head from the water, I was coughing, and Ira was laughing, bobbing around in his squeaking doughnut, and Sammy was laughing, too. They were cracking up, spluttering water all over the place. On the dock just a few metres away, Michelle was pointing and howling, and Naomi. They wore colourful two–piece swimsuits — the colour of dragonflies, in fact — and they laughed at me, these little girls with straight dark hair and dark eyes, because I had looked like I’d gone nuts. I had looked like something out of an Abbott and Costello movie you saw on TV on a Sunday afternoon, if your dad and brother weren’t watching football, like that one when Costello got chased up the old church bell tower by a lumbering mummy.

 

That night, after we barbecued hot dogs for dinner, toasted some buns on the grill, and opened a can of Jolly Green Giant corn niblets, ho ho ho, we gathered around the boxing ring that had been set up in a clearing at the edge of the woods, not far from the beach. I noted that although it was called a boxing ring, it was square, and I imagined what it would be like if people wore square rings on their fingers. Or what if their fingers were actually square?

My brother had one hand on my shoulder, and he pointed up at the ring and said, “That guy’s George Chuvalo!” A big white man with watery red eyes, a flop of thick, sweaty hair, and a nose both puffy and flat was dancing around on the mat, springing on the soles of his feet, throwing his gloved fists at the enormous open palms of a thin black man who wore a pressed white shirt and a straw boater. I pushed forward and gripped the edge of the platform, peering up between the ropes at the two dancing men. I watched their feet and their hands, and I watched their faces all tensed up and concentrating. George Chuvalo had thick, knotted shoulders and a chest that was puffed up like his internal organs were all going to burst through.

 

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You Exist. Details Follow.

You Exist. Details Follow.

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Certain Details

Certain Details

The Poetry of Nelson Ball
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also available: Paperback
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Rogue Stimulus

The Stephen Harper Holiday Anthology for a Prorogued Parliament
edition:Paperback
tagged : canadian
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Surreal Estate

Surreal Estate

13 Poets Under the Influence
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