The Tale of the Zany Book That Perplexed Me

I’m currently reading “Buying Cigarettes for the Dog” by Canadian writer/poet/etc Stuart Ross. It’s a collection of short stories that can only be described as odd, quirky, and zany. You dive right in with the first story: a man starts tumbling down a hill and never stops tumbling. Life goes on, and he keeps tumbling.

The stories are really neat and I like the oddity of them, but I don’t know if I can read the whole book. I feel like it’s too much zaniness. I love odd stories that don’t follow the roles and odd characters. Mick Jackson’s “Ten Sorry Tales” is easily one of my favourite books of the year. It has stories about a girl who collects bones and two old ladies who collect people. But, Jackson’s stories follow enough rules for me to be able to process the whole story while I’m reading it: there’s a beginning, an end, and a logical (but odd) progression in between.

Stuarts stories feel a little more like they were writing by someone a severe attention span issue. Some of the stories feel like they’re being told by someone who got distracted part way through or who squished several stories together. One feels like it didn’t really have a conclusion.

But, at the same time, when I read them I keep thinking “this is genius”. Maybe it’s just that reading them one after the other is too much? I think that if I were reading them with a few days in between, I’d like them better. It would give me a chance to stop and process each story. I need a chance to think about the absurdity of the things that happened, the implications, and whether Stuart was trying to comment on something. For example, in the story about the tumbling man, was he making a commentary on how hard it can be to stop metaphorically tumbling?

From what I’ve read, I’d say that it’s a great book and worthy of people’s time, but I’m not sure if I’ll keep reading. Maybe I’ll come back to it in the future.

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