Stuart Ross is the author of 20 books of fiction, poetry, and essays. He received the 2019 Harbourfront Festival Prize, the 2017 Canadian Jewish Literary Award for Poetry, and the 2010 ReLit Award for Short Fiction. His work has been translated into Nynorsk, French, Spanish, Estonian, Slovenian and Russian. Stuart lives in Cobourg, Ontario.
What draws me to the writer: His reputation as an editor drew me to his editing service close to 15 years ago. His comments were helpful and validating. His writing manages to be plain, comic and depressed yet leaves with complicated emotions and feeling transported. His vigorous poems in readings own a room, or in recent times, own a zoom. If you haven’t got, 70 Kippers: The Dagmar Poems by Michael Dennis and Stuart Ross (Proper Tales Press, 2020) get that too.
A hybrid essay/memoir exploring loss and grief, and trying to figure out what both of those are and what they might mean.
A writer friend once pointed out that whenever Stuart Ross got close to something heavy and “real” in a poem, a hamburger would inevitably appear for comic relief. In this hybrid essay/memoir/poetic meditation, Ross shoves aside the heaping plate of burgers to wrestle with what it means to grieve the people one loves and what it means to go on living in the face of an enormous accumulation of loss.
Written during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, shortly after the sudden death of his brother left him the last living member of his family and as a catastrophic diagnosis meant anticipating the death of his closest friend, this meditation on mortality — a kind of literary shiva — is Ross’s most personal book to date. More than a catalogue of losses, The Book of Grief and Hamburgers is a moving act of resistance against self-annihilation and a desperate attempt to embrace all that was good in his relationships with those most dear to him.
PP: What was your aim with the book:
SR: I rarely write for catharsis or therapy, but my main purpose in writing that book was to find a way to cope with what I was experiencing. I’d decide later if it was a book that could be published for an audience beyond me.
PP: What was or will your favourite moment(s) in making this book?
SR: I wouldn’t say I had favourite moments. It was a very sad process to write it. Maybe what brought me great pleasure was seeing the cover art that Angie Quick created for it. I gave her very non-specific instructions, and she did brilliant work.
An in-depth interview of Stuart Ross at OpenBook.