Creative Nonfiction THE SMALLEST OBJECTIVE Yields Discoveries About Several Local Personalities

By: May. 07, 2020

Creative Nonfiction THE SMALLEST OBJECTIVE Yields Discoveries About Several Local Personalities

With book printers now up and running, New Star Books is delighted to announce The Smallest Objective is available May 28, currently online for pre-order and as an eBook. The emotional and physical impetus for Montreal author Sharon Kirsch's newest book stems from a sequence of loss, and recovery.

Here it is grief for her mother's waning independence, and the act of reclaiming family stories. Entrusted with her mother's move to an assisted-living facility after fifty years in the same home, it is Kirsch's respon­si­bil­i­ty to sort out the accu­mu­la­tion of fam­i­ly memen­tos. Most imme­di­ate­ly press­ing is the solu­tion to an old fam­i­ly mys­tery: what is her father sup­posed to have con­cealed beneath her par­ents' bed­room floor? She undertakes an excavation for buried treasure in her now-vacant family home, aided by a team of archeologists. The book includes black-and-white photographs of the objects that spoke to Kirsch, disclosing her past.

Many themes in The Smallest Objective reflect the current climate. This literary memoir examines lives lived; of having to take stock, a forced spring-cleaning, the opportunity to filter the important things. It's about staying connected to loved ones who sometimes can't be reached, metaphorically or physically, as Kirsch is separated from her mother with dementia living in a care home in another city, and is feeling heartache, anxiety and fear. The book boasts Montreal as a main character; describing the rich history of this vibrant city... as it will be again. This is an ideal time to read a book and be transported; immersed in other people, reflecting on parents and extended family, and the wild eccentrics who were only a hushed whisper...

The Small­est Objec­tive is a sto­ry about the decline of a par­ent, and of the author's reflection of this pas­sage in life; but it is also a chronicle about mid-cen­tu­ry Mon­tre­al and its Jewish community. As the narrator struggles with her mother's failing memory, unexpected secrets come into focus and a layered legacy of willed forgetfulness is uncovered.

This first-person creative narrative produces unsettling discoveries about several local personalities as revealed by the things that survive them-a microscope and lantern slides, a postcard from Mexico, a worn recipe book, a nugget of fool's gold, an enve­lope of yel­low­ing news­pa­per clip­pings, and the obituary of a renowned black sheep in the family. In the end, packing and unpacking, the search yields both less and more than she ever imagined about this unique family, as well as the extent to which they were punctured and shaped by the muffled anti-Semitism of the time.

The fragmented collection of artefacts opens win­dows onto the writer's family's past, but also onto the city and society that she thought she knew. In The Small­est Objec­tive (the title refers to the lens of a microscope that allows for the highest degree of magnification), we learn the story of Kirsch's grand­fa­ther, Simon Kirsch, an ide­al­is­tic young plant scientist at McGill versed in the fossil record who turns lat­er in life to iconic Montreal prop­er­ty devel­op­ment; of Jockey Fleming, the Runyonesque uncle manqué well-known by gossip columnists who hid his ori­gins to play the role of one of Montreal's great colour­ful char­ac­ters (outdoor 'office' at Peel/St. Catherine) when it was still unri­valled as the largest city in Cana­da; and of Kirsch's independent aunt, whose ear­ly death dur­ing the year of Expo '67 tore a jagged hole into the author's mother's life. This captivating book offers an intriguing vantage point on 20th‐century life and expired truths exposed.

Kirsch is eager to introduce readers to several charismatic characters representing different stages in the immigrant experience, from a new immigrant brought to the city as a child to a second generation born in Canada, "My paternal grandfather was an accomplished botanist and an early leader of the Jewish community, whereas my great-uncle was a celebrated street personality who lived at the margins of the law. I believe I'm the first who can disclose anything of Jockey Fleming's origins; no one who's written about him knew his background, and it was even rumoured he was from the US," she offered.

New Star Books Publisher Rolf Maurer was drawn to The Smallest Objective for what was 'concealed beneath the floorboards', riveted by Kirsch's hinted secrets and depth of discovery, "This is a book about the Kirsch family, but it is foremost a book about the events and attitudes of the day that distorted both her grandfather's and her great-uncle's lives, as well as the darker and more tragic aspects of peoples' existence. As with any great memoir, the real gold is in the stories that the narrator encounters in settling her own account," he said. For Maurer, the book is set apart from the mainstream of contemporary memoirs which can tend towards self-absorption, adding, "Sharon's field of vision embraces the forces which have shaped the family; there's worldliness, a 'European sensibility' in her work." For further insights into Kirsch's story, check out her blog.

The Smallest Objective is an intricate and melancholy memoir about the hidden recesses of a Montreal family, and the treasures that the past can bring in the face of a difficult present. With the intent of staving off grief while attending to her mother's final days, the author embarks on a quest to retrieve the origin and circumstances surrounding found relics. The book is a tonic for anyone with an interest in their own unknown family history.

Founded in 1974, Vancouver's New Star Books publishes six to ten new titles per year, including fine works of poetry and prose fiction & nonfiction on politics, culture, social issues and BC history.

The author of What Species of Creatures (2008), writer and editor Sharon Kirsch has published fiction, narrative non-fiction, and journalism, most recently in subTerrain and Room magazines.

Print release date May 28| Published by New Star Books ISBN: 9781554201556 | 272 pages |$22. The Smallest Objective pre-order and eBook available now at Amazon & Kobo among others