Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer


128 pages
Contains Index
ISBN 1-895636-65-5
DDC C818'.5409






Reviewed by Joseph Jones

Joseph Jones is librarian emeritus at the University of British Columbia
Library. He is the author of Reference Sources for Canadian Literary


Stuart Ross has been active in the Toronto small press scene for more
than two decades. This book is a collection of columns published between
2001 and 2005 in a free literary tabloid. Postscripts of comment,
update, or expansion follow about half of the selections. Lots of white
space help the 25 pieces to average about four pages each.

The “racket” is the business of producing books and periodicals
outside the mainstream. The racketeers write, lay out, print, bind,
promote, and sell their own little vertically integrated publications.
These confessions offer glimpses into the surrounding esoteric literary
world. An astonishing nine-page index names lots of names. Many are
obscure, some are not. Appearances by writers like Christian Bцk, Lynn
Crosbie, Crad Kilodney, W.P. Kinsella, and Alice Munro occasion some
meaty tidbits.

A sense of humour carries Ross quite a distance, even as he complains
about his reputation as a “stand-up literary comic at readings.” Wit
keeps his ruminations entertaining. The polish of the writing exceeds
what the pieces’ occasional, unpaid origin would promise. More than
anything else, the book opens a door onto activities and events like
readings, street selling, literary contests, launch parties, festivals,
performances, composing, anthologizing, typesetting, and collaboration.
Several pieces approach their small press topics through the forms of
quiz, advice, imaginary bookstore, and personal biography. In one
“nitpickey, snipey column,” Ross complains about the quality of a
book from a press that has a “chronic typo” problem. He then
advocates fanatic proofreading. His volume is beautiful in all
aspects—paper, cover, layout, and typography.


Ross, Stuart., “Confessions of a Small Press Racketeer,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,