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Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew [Paperback]

Stuart Ross
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 1 2011
Ben is a performance artist about to enter his forties. His father and mother are both dead, and his brother, Jake, is a lousy source of information. So when he begins to struggle with a particularly nagging memory, he doesn’t know where to turn. The memory: the assassination — by his mother — of a prominent neo-Nazi. In a non-chronological montage of memories, Ben travels back and forth through the events of his life, some of which seemed trivial at the time but are important now: his childhood summers at a cottage in central Ontario, his teenage years in a Toronto suburb, his disastrous university career, the calamity that precipitated his brother’s institutionalization. Stuart Ross’s first novel is a blend of suburban realism and out-of-body surrealism. • Co-winner of the J.I. Segal 2012 Award in the category of English Fiction and Poetry on a Jewish Theme “Ross’s slight first novel is composed of brief, somber, funny tales, and begins in Ontario with the narrator’s memory of his mother avenging the gas chamber deaths of her Polish relatives by shooting a prominent neo-Nazi in the head...These are sharply composed vignettes with a keen sense of timing and humor.” — Publishers Weekly “Consistently minimalist and nostalgic but also variously touching, hilarious, and sad.” — Booklist

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"Ross’s fiction, always at least slightly absurd or surreal, is frequently humorous. Occasionally, it is more deeply affecting. The reader who appreciates Ross’s aesthetic—as well as the challenges it poses—should mostly enjoy Buying Cigarettes for the Dog." —Quill & Quire

"Consistently minimalist and nostalgic but also variously touching, hilarious, and sad." —Booklist (March 15, 2011)

"A moving and funny novel . . . Unlike other poets-turned-novelists, Ross understands the power of both poetry and clear prose . . . . Ross’s writing compels." —Winnipeg Free Press (April 2, 2011)

"A short, yet powerful journey of discovery and healing, portrayed through a series of memory based vignettes. . . . The disjointed nature of the narration lures readers into a dream-like state, and gives the reader a more intimate, complete understanding of the characters than would be possible in a more traditional style." — (April 1, 2011)

"Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew succeeds not only because of Ross's distinctive style, but also because he can think and feel with the best of them, and shows maturity of vision without sacrificing the childish sense of play and absurdity his readers expect from him." —Globe and Mail (June 21, 2011)

About the Author

Stuart Ross is the author of several collections of poetry and short stories. His most recent story collection, Buying Cigarettes for the Dog, won the 2010 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. A longtime Toronto resident, he now lives in Cobourg, Ontario.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dreams vs. Reality Sept. 10 2011
By Leanne
We all have dreams that mix with reality. We wake up and wonder if something really occurred, or whether it was "just" a dream. Such is the underlying premise of Stuart Ross' novella Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew.

Ross' character Ben shares out of sequence memories of his life, beginning with an assassination of a former-Nazi by Ben's own mother. Throughout the book, Ben continually questions whether this event actually happened, almost to the point of asking someone else if it did...but not quite. Considering that there is no memory of an imprisonment of his dying mother, as well as the fact that the chapter detailing this so-called memory is titled "The Dream", shows the reader that this memory is probably, in truth, just a dream; the most realistic and horrifying dream of his life, true, but still a dream. It is Ben's attempt to give meaning to his mother's all too short life. Yes, she resented and was obsessed by the existence of the Nazi while she was about to die herself, never mind that because of him, or at least people like him, much of her family had "turned to smoke over Poland".

This confusion between reality and fantasy could have been distracting if not for Ross' skilful stream of consciousness writing style. His uniquely Ontarian references instantly brought me back to my own childhood of the 1970s with a pure, clean and honest nostalgia rarely felt in novels. It is more than a coming-of-age story as Ben doesn't ever really come of age, despite becoming the last man standing in his own family. He is obsessed with his past and the ephemera of his childhood, as many of us still least in our dreams, if not in our daily lives.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fast, funny read Feb. 25 2012
By A. Lewis - Published on
Both my wife and I enjoyed this funny novel set in the Toronto area. There are many flashbacks to earlier parts of the storyteller's life and it is not always easy to tell when the flashbacks begin or how to organize the information in your head. But that is part of the fun of this book. We find out near the middle-end of this thin book that the storyteller is probably in their thirties. The majority of the flashbacks are to their childhood. The great majority of the situations mentioned revolve around the storyteller's family and a few local characters in the neighborhood he grew up in.

There is a dynamic event mentioned in the novel that the storyteller is unsure of whether it really happened, and we are left wondering whether it really occurred in the story. This event revolves around some human behavior themes and echoes some stories occurring in the real-world news over the last 15 years.

A small number of insights are appreciated more if you were also brought up Jewish like me, you do not need to be Jewish to appreciate this funny, interesting novel. The story is probably semi-autobiographical as the author appears to be Jewish and lives in the Toronto area.
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