Brilliant experimental, surrealist fiction from the award-winning author of Snowball, Dragonfly, Jew
A wonderful dream and a horrific nightmare, a fuzzy consciousness of pain and family, Pockets is a novel of fragments — both literally and figuratively. In a series of prose-poem chapters, the nameless narrator, in a largely Jewish 1960s suburb in the northern reaches of Toronto, repeatedly enters the world, as if for the first time. His landscape is one of trilobite fossils, bicycles with banana seats, Red Skelton, and overwhelming loss. Among shadows that both comfort and threaten, a brother who drifts through the sky, he finds his narrative full of pockets of emptiness he can’t help but try to fill.
A heartbreakingly personal and profound work, Pockets redefines the novel, delivering infinite scope in something diminutive, pocket-sized. Every reading brings new revelations.
Stuart Ross is a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. He is the author of about a dozen books and countless chapbooks. His story collection 'Buying Cigarettes for the Dog' won the 2010 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. Stuart is the fiction and poetry editor for 'This Magazine', a regular columnist for 'subTerrain', and has his own imprint, "a stuart ross book," at Mansfield Press. He was the 2010 Writer in Residence at Queen's University, and has led writing workshops across the country. After half a century in Toronto, Stuart moved to Cobourg, Ontario, in 2009. 'You Exist. Details Follow.' is his seventh full-length poetry collection.
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.
“Each brief page of this brief, surrealistic novel brims with the unexpected, the astonishing, the odd . . . Pockets is a beautiful little book.” – The Murdock
“These untitled micro-chapters fit together like Lego blocks built by William S. Bourroughs and his wild Brion Gysin friend. Stuart Ross simply never fails to delight, surprise and inform as he entertains . . . Today's Book of Poetry doesn't really know any other poets like Stuart Ross. But if you were to take Kurt Vonnegut's imagination, a Garrison Keillor sense of the storyteller and candy twisted it all together with a generous dose of wit and wisdom from Randy Newman and his melodious lamentations, you would be nearing the mark.” — Today’s Book of Poetry
“Pockets pioneers a new novel form, giving readers the opportunity to become the protagonist, to know what it feels like to be the singular person that is the cumulation of all these moments and memories stacked on top of each other, each one distorted by the last.” — Prairie Fire