Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew by Stuart Ross
Stuart Ross’s novel Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew is a moving, funny, insightful, and engaging novel, imbued throughout with a great depth of feeling and a richness of observation for a cultural milieu rarely recorded.
Readers of Ross’s previous fiction will delight in seeing his trademark wit and the absurd reframing of modern life in a resonant, emotionally vivid, and humourous magic realism.
The novel is a bitter, sweet, wry, funny, sad novel about memory, grief, identity, hatred, discrimination, childhood, meaning, and...love. It is, I think, most fundamentally, existential in its concerns: imagine Samuel Beckett growing up in Jewish mid-Toronto in the early 60s and 70s, sharing a pastrami on rye with his dad and having a mother who may or may not have assassinated a prominent Neo-Nazi in a Toronto suburban strip mall.
The novel investigates how our own personal mythology of stories and images drawn from our life, despite being at times painful or bittersweet, make us who we are, create our own sometime fraught identity, and help us keep going, helping us to find often difficult and conflicting beauty and meaning for our lives. Our memories—uncertain and untrustworthy as they are, our relationships with our family, even the bands, movies, and books that we like are touchstones which build our sense of the world, and are what (despite their seemingly modest and un-mythic reality) are exactly what allows us to care about and mediate the bewildering reality that is modern life. It ain’t easy, but at the end of the day, we have ourselves, those whom we love and have loved, our memories, and the rich, satisfying if sometimes difficult, experience of living.
I can't think of anything even vaguely like this in Canadian literature. This relatively short novel is a major addition to Ross's already powerful and significant body of fiction and poetry.
[Just by way of full disclosure, Stuart is a friend of mine, and about 15 years ago, we co-wrote the short novel, The Mud Game, (The Mercury Press)]
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