Douglas Glover - This headlong, intense interior monologue combines humour, horror and brutality with intelligence and linguistic dexterity to forge a revised creation myth for the New World

Douglas Glover



Douglas Glover, Elle, Goose Lane Editions; 2 ed., 2007.


douglasglover.net/


Imagine a 16th-century society belle turned Robinson Crusoe, a female Don Quixote with an Inuit Sancho Panza, and you'll have an inkling of what's in store in Douglas Glover's outrageously Rabelaisian new novel — his first in ten years. Elle is a lusty, subversive riff on the discovery of the New World, the moment of first contact. Based on a true story, Elle chronicles the ordeals and adventures of a young French woman marooned on the desolate Isle of Demons during Jacques Cartier's ill-fated third and last attempt to colonize Canada. Of course, the plot is only the beginning. The bare outline is a true story: the Sieur de Roberval did abandon his unruly young niece, her lover, and her nurse on the Isle of Demons; her companions and her newborn baby did die; and she was indeed rescued and taken home to France. Beyond that, Glover's Rabelaisian imagination takes over. What with real bears, spirit bears, and perhaps hallucinated bears, with mystified and mystifying Natives, with the residue of a somewhat lurid religious faith, and with a world of self-preserving belligerence, the voluble heroine of Elle does more than survive. Elle brilliantly reinvents the beginnings of this country's history: what Canada meant to the early European adventurers, what these Europeans meant to Canada's original inhabitants, and the terrible failure of the two worlds to recognize each other as human. In a carnal whirlwind of myth and story, of death, lust and love, of beauty and hilarity, Glover brings the past violently and unexpectedly into the present. In Elle, Glover's well-known scatological realism, exuberant violence, and dark, unsettling humour give history a thoroughly modern chill.


“[Glover] begins here, at the very birth canal of the nation state we know as Canada, with this shadowy improbable event/non-event, and brings to the pages of his new novel, Elle, a character so torched with life, suffering, humour, and wisdom that she should be depicted on our flag . . . [Elle is] a maginificent hail Mary of pure imagination . . . a ribald, raunchy wit with a talent for searing self-investigation . . . Glover’s prose throughout, while being consistent in voice, is also a rich blend of elegance and punch, raw affect and slippery allusion.” (The Globe and Mail)
“Glover’s Elle, or Marguerite de Roberval, is a magnificent hail Mary of pure imagination: a child of the Enlightenment also versed in Hellenist philosophy and Gallic folk wisdom; a ferociously lustful and free-spirited appetite; a standing code for life when it’s lived between worlds; but also a ribald, raunchy wit with a talent for searing self-investigation. Glover’s prose throughout, while consistent in voice, is also a rich blend of elegance and punch, raw effect and slippery allusion.” (Globe and Mail 100)


“Douglas Glover imagines our history as no one else can . . . Elle also persuades us as a meditation on Canada, which Glover does very well . . . Equal to [Solomon Gursky] in its contribution to Canadian mythography.” - Philip Marchand

“Lusty, lively and lascivious . . . magical, dreamy ambiguities . . . a delightfully ironic and wickedly funny voice, utterly feminine, anachronistic, post-modern . . . Glover has a field day casting aspersions on contemporary realities and imbuing his action-packed text with sharp, sassy wisecrackery . . . With this sexy, spirited, rip-roaring creature, Glover casts a dramatic phantasmagorical new sheen on a chapter in Canadian history that until now has been shrouded in murk.” - Toronto Sun

“A juicy page-turner . . . a deliciously ironic, often frankly erotic 205-page interior monologue . . . Rabelaisian history that rocks.” - Pat Donnelly


“A ribald, rollicking, Rabelaisian, risqué, riveting novel . . . Who would have thought a novel set on an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1542 could be so damn much fun to read?” (Vancouver Sun)
“A rivetting tale of adventure and survival as well as a novel of ideas about religion, sexual politics, colonization and language.” - The Ottawa Citizen


“Superb in mingling historical context, narrative, and especially the discordance between native American and European spirituality . . . both gorgeously descriptive of the ice-bound eastern coast of Canada and funny . . . Her survival throughout and its aftermath back in France illuminate three subjects less skilful authors might take on only singly: the encounter between Christian Europeans and the animist aboriginal North Americans; the way place shapes people and peoples; and the tiny spaces in which women and thinkers were trapped in pre-enlightenment times . . . A packed read, delivering imagery, history, humour, and wonderfully creative writing.” - The Edmonton Journal


“Revisits Canadian history in charming, unusual ways [headline] A raunchy romp through the Canadian wilderness . . . Enriched with a wickedly smart narrative, and a post-modern, wise-cracking approach to history . . . The situations [are] both tragic and endearing, and the narrative is peppered with great sidebars about the future of Canadian literature and the revisioning of history (the real savages, as we all know, were the Europeans) . . . a bold and unique rendition of Canadian history.” - The Calgary Herald


“Lusty, lively and lascivious . . . Canadian history was never so raucous and ribald . . . a delightfully ironic and wickedly funny voice, utterly feminine, anachronistic, post-modern . . . Glover has a field-day casting aspersions on contemporary realities and imbuing his action-packed text with sharp, sassy wise-crackery . . .  With this sexy, spirited, rip-roaring creature, Glover casts a dramatic, phantasmagorical new sheen on a chapter in Canadian history that until now has been shrouded in murk.” - The London Free Press


“A cross between Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders . . . Elle the book and Elle the girl both have a tremendous energy, a galloping, brawling liveliness.” - The St. John’s Telegram


“Douglas Glover is a very serious writer. He’s also a wickedly, belligerently, intelligently funny writer with a scatological gift worthy of Rabelais . . . More to the point, he’s one of our most exuberant literary leg-pullers, a postmodern Jekyll and Hyde . . . Elle unfolds like a mad Creation myth dreamed by a French Eve, a Robinson Crusoe in drag, banished to Paradise, otherwise known as Canada . . . Glover’s so-called historical novels are simultaneously so much less and so much more. They are meditative literary pastiches that offer radically alternative views of what Canadians and, safe to say, the rest of the world, conventionally view as our history . . . In Glover’s fevered creative imagination, the colonization of the New World is not only a clash of cultures, old and new, European and indigenous, with their conflicting languages, histories, customs, mores, values and such, but a clash of mythological world views, a clash of dreams and visions. For, at bottom, Douglas Glover is a dreamer, bravely dreaming forward the dream that is Canada into the next millennium.”  - Robert Reid


“A historical novel with a postmodern heart . . . Elle occupies a frozen nether world between fantasy and reality . . . [Glover’s] prose is deliciously bawdy, his tone lively and hilarious.” - The Winnipeg Free Press


“Sentence for sentence, Elle was the most exciting book of fiction I read this year, not only because of Glover’s felicity with language, but because of the ideas he explores with singular brilliance.” - The Guelph Mercury


“A gripping and vivid romp through Marguerite’s quite incredible adventures, seen through the prism of the author’s wild imagination . . . This is not a book for the faint-hearted or the squeamish . . . Elle has much to say about the nature of religious experience and morality, about the concepts of exile and courage, for those of us who want some eat in our reading. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun to read, if, like, me, you tend to flip to the naughty bits first. And it’s based in Canadian history — what could be better?” - The Danforth Review


“A riot of a riff on that moment in Canada’s past when cultures collided in the New World . . . in hallucinatory prose . . . The story may be just a bit of mythic folklore, or it may be true – Glover’s done a ton of work to get the historical detail right – but either way, he tells it from the point of view of someone in a state just this side of total delirium . . . If only history were taught with books like these. A gem.” - Now, 4-star review


“Glover, with his penchant for the vulgar viscera of history, has turned the yarn of the lady of Ile des Demons into a ripsnortingly super book . . . A uniquely Canadian melange of Rabelais and Susannah Moodie . . . It’s Mr. Glover’s puckish but profound imagination, applied to a real event of history, that makes Elle so appealing. He is one of the few Canadian writers looking at the country with a northern version of magic realism.” - Peter Black


“A magical world filled full of bears (not since Marian Engel have bears been so erotic), dreams, and myths . . . There is hardly a paragraph in Elle that doesn’t excite the imagination, barely a page that doesn’t provoke a laugh. Elle provides the kind of reading experience that comes so rarely and, when it is gone, you are left bereft, wanting it to never end. - Owen Sound Sun-Times


“A powerful verbal energy that demonstrates the author’s love of language and manifests itself in may bizarre, hilarious, and imaginatively compelling ways . . . a man possessed by words, scrambling to get them down (or out) in a state of high glee . . . Glover explores serious moral and spiritual issues, focusing on questions of authenticity . . . [Elle’s] odd combination of humility, wit, and insight makes her more fully and sympathetically human than many a central character in standard realist fiction . . . One of the best writers of his generation, author of some of the most brilliantly imaginative short fiction in the history of CanLit . . . a playful, courageous, intelligent book.” - The Fiddlehead

“Dive[s] right through the looking glass to a new territory in which real events are intertwined with stories — and stories within stories — all stitched together with threads of history, geography, biography, and myth . . . A Canadian Wonder Woman . . . Glover’s writing is quick and lush, elegant and erudite. He plays with the possibilities of story and the limitations of language.” (Event)
“The packaging is gorgeous, the story intriguing, and the execution brilliant. A delicious mix of beauty and irreverence, realism and shamanism, fact and imagination.” - Qwerty

“Fantasy, satire, poetry and comedy of manners contribute in turn to a total picture which finally becomes not just a story but a historical reconstruction . . . Glover presents a fresco in which monsters and heroes struggle for a throne without a pedestal, recalling that the ground on which we stand is not made only of virtues. It is also fed by crimes, lust, and animal sacrifice.” - Le Devoir


Among my favourite parts of historical novels is the acknowledgments, and Douglas Glover, in his Governor-General’s-Award-winning Elle, does not disappoint. After crediting a wide array of ethnographic sources and contemporary travel journals that fed the imaginative fire for this ribald, irreverent tale of French explorers in the New World in the 16th century, Glover adds, “Otherwise, I have tried to distort and mangle the facts as best I can.” And what a delightful mangling it is.
The majority of the historical fiction published in Canada over the last few decades has by and large striven to preserve a sense of narrative and historical plausibility, sticking if not to what ostensibly did happen in the past, then at least to what might have happened. Glover’s Elle, in contrast, is a wild, bawdy, allegorical, and conspicuously anachronistic chronicle of the experience of contact during French exploration of Eastern Canada during the 16th century, a kind of cross between Susan Swan’s The Biggest Modern Woman of the World and John Steffler’s The Afterlife of George Cartwright. Taking the rough outlines of his narrative from the story of the historical Sieur de Roberval’s abandonment of his wayward niece on the Isle of Demons in the St. Lawrence River, Glover etches a tale of contact as a mutual infection, a reciprocal destabilization of New World and Old World cosmologies.
Dreaming of creative revenge against her rigid and doctrinaire Calvinist uncle, Glover’s eponymous heroine watches her lover, nurse, and newborn son perish, while she herself, a parodic Crusoe, stubbornly persists. The novel is rich in postcolonial allegory, with Glover deftly satirizing Elle’s colonizing inclinations as she ineptly struggles to survive the harsh Canadian winter with the help of her impassive indigenous rescuer and lover, Itslk. Elle, however, is also transmogrified, shamanistically imbued with a bear-spirit, an experience that challenges Itslk’s cosmology but also leaves Elle in a liminal space upon her rescue and return to France (where presiding over her recovery is none other than Francois Rabelais, clearly the resident muse of Glover’s novel). Hers, as Elle observes, is “the anti-quest: You go on a journey, but instead of returning you find yourself frozen on the periphery, the place between places, in a state of being neither one nor the other.”
Glover thus portrays contact as a transaction much more complicated than a simple, unilateral imposition of colonial power, but the particular appeal of Elle is Glover’s evocation of the simultaneous, tumultuous transformation of the Old World – the philosophical, spiritual and political turmoil of France at the cusp of modernity, a phantasmagorical vision of inquisitorial violence, barbarity, lust and carnage. Riotously funny and iconoclastic, Glover’s novel is also a profound meditation on the politics of belief – how belief shapes our view of the world and ourselves but also shapes our oppression of others. -  Herb Wyile

What do you with a girl who has journeyed to the Land of the Dead (Canada), has consorted with savages, left her soul on an island inhabited by demons, given birth to a fish, disappeared into a labyrinth of dreams and turned into a bear? At best, if I return to the place I once called home, I will be a spectacle. Now I have no home nor self nor soul.” (from Elle, by Douglas Glover, Goose Lane, 2003)
When, on p.167, I reached this passage in Douglas Glover’s novel, Elle, I thought: oh, I’m so glad someone’s put things into context because for a moment I feared I might be losing my mind…  not that that would have stopped me reading. The book was, despite my confusion at times, unputdownable for its quirky take on history and its sensuous imagery mixed with perfectly pitched satirical elements.
Its shape takes the form of an anti-quest, best explained in Elle’s words:
“… You go on a journey, but instead of returning you find yourself frozen on the periphery, the place between places, in a state of being neither one nor the other. Instead of a conquering hero, you become a clown or fuel for the pyre or the subject of folk tales.”
In a nutshell:
A wealthy and young nymphomaniac slightly bored tart living in 16th century France, who has disappointed her father (seems he disapproves of rampant lustfulness), sends her to Canada on one of Jacques Cartier’s ships. On board, she’s soon at it with a handsome but seasick tennis player—mostly to distract herself from a raging toothache (a tooth later removed by tying one end of a string to it and the other to a dog named Leon, who is then encouraged to jump overboard, taking the tooth with him).
Perceived as being more trouble than she’s worth, Elle is abandoned en route on a tiny island at the mouth of the St. Lawrence, along with her nurse and her lover. Soon after, they both die and she’s left alone to cope with the elements, hunger, and eventually a kind of weird dreamlike madness where she maybe/maybe not turns into a bear and maybe/maybe not gives birth to a fish. (One of the most beautiful scenes follows this ‘birth’ with Elle’s initial horror being replaced by love and the realization that the ‘creature’ will not live long; she then begins to tell it everything she knows…)
Eventually she befriends the indigenous people and ultimately comes to understand something of them, all of which leads to her transformation from acerbic child obsessed with trivialities to deeply thoughtful woman respectful of life and connected with the earth. It’s in this new, improved state that she returns to France to face a kind of culture shock of the soul.
What I loved:
Elle’s voice. She may be afraid, confused, possibly going doolally at times, but her delivery is consistent and crystal clear—casual almost—whether she’s reducing the most horrendous or inane events to brilliant satire, or being philosophical on the deepest level.
(Also loved the cover photo of a statue in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in Paris; cover design by Chris Tompkins)
Favourite Character:
Richard, the tennis playing lover who does little more than build a tennis court (and rebuild it each time the tide goes out). He has almost no dialogue but is clearly, and cleverly, drawn by his actions; every scene with him in it made me laugh.
What I Questioned:
Possibly a few too many dreams. The story can be confusing at times—though this confusion parallels Elle’s experience, is essential, and works beautifully. However the dreams, and certainly the number of dreams, began to  detract from the surreal-ness of her experience by virtue of their mundane-ness (I mean, we all have dreams).
Three Impressions Overall:
Memorable characters. Beautifully strange journey. Smart, subtle, and delicious humour. - matildamagtree.com/2012/05/18/anti-quest/


Douglas Glover’s ninth book, Elle, opens with a Rabelaisian scene of illicit fornication and vomiting. It is promising stuff – lascivious, bizarre, entertaining – and while much of the novel lives up to that promise, the potential is ultimately undone by some fairly basic errors in execution.
Loosely modelled after Marguerite de Roberval, the niece of French colonist Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval, Elle is a young French woman bound for Canada on her uncle’s ship in the year 1542. In her own words, she is “a headstrong girl.” Despite an aristocratic upbringing and education, she is a hedonist at heart, with a fondness for sex. She is caught with her lover by her uncle, and the two, along with Elle’s nurse, are abandoned on the wild shores of the New World. The lover and nurse quickly expire, but Elle thrives in her own strange way.
The coarse style of the 16th-century French satirist François Rabelais informs the novel. Satire, the exposition of human folly through the exaggeration of human nature, is most effective when shaped around a core of human dignity. Compare, for example, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia. While Utopia is universally recognized as a brilliant work of political satire, Swift’s Gulliver has actually transcended the page to become part of Western mythology because his story is both more fantastic and specifically human – and thus more sympathetic – than anything in More’s Utopia.
But to Glover, it seems, there is no human nature with which to sympathize. He borrows Rabelais’ coarseness but undercuts the satire by making Elle a blank slate in the Canadian wilderness. All of her courtly European conditioning is conveniently useless amongst the wilderness and “savages.” This is the present viewed through the prism of the past.
The contemporary relativism of cultural theory informs much of this book. Unfortunately, cultural theory’s analytical modes can be described as satire minus the joke: where satire tickles and cajoles in its iconoclasm, cultural theory kills and dissects. As though working from a checklist, Glover subverts Elle’s character to pedantically assail the idols of culture: language, gender, religion, and so on.
Free from her conditioning, Elle has a child who emerges “sexless”; she professes to “no longer be beautiful, or French, or related to anyone”; she expounds on symbols and codes and questions the existence of God. Meanwhile the savages appear stereotypically noble. Great stuff, if only this were a doctoral thesis.
Terry Griggs’ novel Rogues’ Wedding expertly handled the same material with fantastically entertaining results. The key difference in approach is that Griggs, whose novel is set in the Victorian era, simply laid out a vision of the world – strange, complex, intriguing, and fluid – and left the reader to make leaps and draw conclusions. Glover far too often imposes an omniscient, explicating voice that functions like a thick glass wall between the reader and Elle.
By the time Elle is rescued after 10 years among the natives in Canada, she has reinvented herself as a dream creature, half-woman, half-bear. Apparently literally capable of transformation into a bear, she is a fascinating construction, with six teats, copious body hair and, as is learned at the book’s climax, the capacity for extreme violence. When she actually befriends François Rabelais back in France, the novel takes on a truly intriguing mythical richness. But it all comes too late and without enough narrative force.
Elle’s climactic and vicious revenge on her uncle, hinted at early in the book, comes about only by happenstance. Had Glover devised a more substantial artifice of narrative, by planting in Elle the objective of revenge and thus making her an active character, he would have likely provided a much more engaging rise to that preternatural climax.
Glover has a wonderful facility for imagery, language, farce, and the grotesque. At times Elle takes on a superb weirdness that makes it seem, as the publisher asserts, “a Brueghel painting in words.” It is unfortunate that Glover chose to undermine his own talent, and the promise of the novel’s story, by forgetting the basics in favour of a didactic and academic agenda. - Shaun Smith


When I first started reading this book I hated it. I felt it was crass and rude. In favour of another book, I put aside Elle having only read about 10 pages. However, when it came to returning the book to the library, I hesitated and decided to give it another go. Basically, I was curious as to how this book could have won the Governor General's award. I'm certainly glad I did, because it turned out to be rather enjoyable!
The novel is about a rather promiscuous upper class French girl, who is on her way from France to Canada with some of the first explorers. The novel follows her time in Canada (the New World) and her return to France (the Old World, as it were). Through this journey, the reader follows the protagonist through death, abandonment, rescue, and exploration of a new world and herself.
I began to enjoy this novel as soon as the young woman was abandoned in Canada. That might sounds a bit rough, but it's true. This wasn't the glorious tale of the brave explorer who found Canada, colonised, endured brutal winters with fellow colonisers. Rather, this novel shows a seemingly more accurate picture of what those initial journeys were like. The protagonist discovers a point that the celebrated Cartier was not the first to discover the New World, but that merchants and whalers had been trading with the local people for many years prior to his discover. So much for the glory of the explorers. This novel is not for the glorification of historical figures!
The ship on which this young girl traveled was fully of the unskilled "gentlemen adventurers" from the upper crust of French society who sought wealth or personal glory or whatever from these seemingly tame explorations. The diaries of Cartier serve as inspiration, talking of tough winters, savages, and the trading potential and wealth to be made in the New World. The protagonist is no different, from a wealthy family and bored with society, she sought adventure. And did she ever find it!
The author juxtaposes the "savages" against the "civilised" French explorers. The author hides none of the what Europe held at this point in time, everything from sexually transmitted diseases to religious fanaticism. The author paints a picture that is similar among the natives of Canada. A fluid sex culture and a society driven my mysticism. In many ways, these cultures are paralleled, neither one appearing elevated or more civilised than the other.
Dreams play an important role in the novel. Whilst living in Canada, the protagonist begins to dream. From this point in the novel, reality and dream begin to blur. Points seems purely dreamlike and others complete reality. However, many moments in between are hazy, leaving the reader guessing what is real and what is dream. I wondered if this confusion between dream and reality was a way for the protagonist to process her life in the Old World and her new experiences and understanding in the New World.
"I am in a place where everything means something, but nothing is understood."
Much of the novel is spent considering the issue of the Old World and New World, how these worlds can combine, how they met. The anti-quest (a term used in the novel, not one of my own invention) is a consistent theme throughout the novel. What begins as an adventure and quest for the New World turns into a misadventure, or an antiquest. The antiquest is the adventure for the unglorious, for the explorer never to be lauded.
At the same time, whilst discrediting the brave and glorious stories of history, the novel discusses the mystery surrounding Canada and the customs of its First Peoples. This is a harsh land. In addition, the image of the bear plays a key role in the novel. I am not completely certain of the meaning of it, but it is certainly a reoccurring and interesting image.
Those that ventured to Canada seemed to become forever lost. They no longer fit into their previous live in the Old World, whilst being unable to fully become apart of life in Canada. These individuals were forever caught in a longing for Canada or be changes in someway that the Old World no longer suited them. Likewise, those from Canada that were brought to France or otherwise, never seemed to adapt to life there. They forever longed for their old life, but were unable to return. I suppose this is the nature of exploring new things, nothing seems to fit anymore.
I am certain I have missed much of the symbolism of this novel. It was packed and I feel as though I have only skimmed the top of it. This book would be a great one for a book group and long discussions. It does have its rude moments, absolutely, but the reader is warned very early on about this. The rudeness, however, does play a central role the depiction of civilisations. I would certainly recommend this novel. It somehow managed to capture the mystery of Canada, whilst painting a more true picture of what exploration  was at the time. - reidsreadings.blogspot.com/2012/04/elle-by-douglas-glover.html


Rūta Šlapkauskaitė: Bears, Bodies and Boundaries in Douglas Glover’s Elle: A Novel (pdf)
Douglas Glover’s Elle: A Menippean Satire — Haijo Westra & Adam Westra
 

Douglas Glover


Douglas Glover, The Life and Times of Captain N., Goose Lane Editions, 2013.


Douglas Glover’s acclaimed novel The Life and Times of Captain N. is now available in a GLE Library edition. Originally published by McClelland & Stewart, the novel was acclaimed by the most respected critics in Canada and the US, and compelled The Toronto Star’s Philip Marchand to call Glover “one of the most important Canadian writers of his generation.” Set on the Niagara frontier in the final days of the American Revolution, The Life and Times of Captain N. sees the revolutionary new world order from the standpoint of the losers. Hendrick Nellis, a Tory guerrilla, has also been a redeemer of whites abducted by Indians. His son Oskar finds himself sometimes allied with the Indians, sometimes at war with them. Hendrick kidnaps Oskar for King George’s army, and Oskar, haunted by dreams and by books, is the teller of the tale. The book he intends to write is sketched out in his letters to George Washington and in the signs tattooed on his skin as mementos of his personal Indian wars. The Life and Times of Captain N. trespasses into the no-man’s-land where the delirium of combat drives races, genders, languages, and ideas into a primeval frenzy. Master of the psyche’s primitive depths, Douglas Glover draws the reader into a violent and erotic emotional whirlpool. Some of the incidents in The Life and Times of Captain N. are based on the lives of the real Hendrick Nellis and his family, and, says Glover, “I have no doubt their descendants and relatives on both sides of the border will find much to complain of.”


In this historical novel set in the Mohawk Valley of New York State during the Revolutionary War, Native Americans side with the British against the rebel colonists in skirmishes that ebb and flow across the rugged countryside. Glover ( The South Will Rise at Noon ) attempts to tell the story of Capt. Hendrick Ellis, a Tory, and his recalcitrant son Oskar, who takes a blood oath against his father for fighting on the wrong side. Oskar, who is eventually kidnapped and pressed into service for King George, maintains a precocious correspondence with "Gen'l Washington" and fancies himself a writer. Though this may sound like an adventure tale out of Fenimore Cooper, Glover's rash of postmodernist technique yields something closer to the violent pastiches of William Burroughs. Texts from "Oskar's book on Indians" mix with the dreams and observations of two mysterious white women (one of whom lives with Indians) to produce a disorienting and shattered world. Glover has certainly written a book true to his take on the era--"The war is like a whirlwind . . ."; but anachronisms and academy-addled prose ("I could see the worry in their faces, as if the grammar of their resolve and the structure of the world they were about to meet in battle were different") betray an inadequate control of the material. - Publishers Weekly


“Passionately intricate . . . . Brilliantly re-invents the history of a new nation’s inner life: what was forged, what was lost, and what might yet be regained.” — Chicago Tribune


“The narrative is by turns funny, erotic, appalling, and haunting. . . This vividly imagined novel portrays the American Revolution unforgettably as regional nightmare rather than national epic. Highly recommended.” — Library Journal

“Its language is so sharp, so evocative, that the reader sees well beyond the tissue of words into a forbidding life called the past . . . It is brutal and violent, and all the light to be found in it comes from the author’s poetic grace.” — The New Yorker


“Darkly humorous, simultaneously restless and relentless in its patterning of voices and imagery, this is a close study of individuals trapped by a world in flux: a chaotic view of a new world order from the standpoint of the losers.” — Kirkus Reviews


“A venture into a haunting era . . . Glover has written a wonderful portrait of a young mind [Oskar] made for history’s certainties and shattered by its brutal ambiguities.” — The Los Angeles Times

“It is this command [of language] — evidenced also in the sardonic humour that informs the narrative — that marks Glover as one of the most important Canadian writers of his generation.” — Philip Marchand, The Toronto Star (17 April 1993)


“Enough scatological realism and explosive violence to rip the lid off any notions about the quaintness of frontier life . . . a forcefully imaginative work.” — Maclean’s

“Dark, funny, exuberantly violent . . . It’s a tale that will smack readers up-side the head like a warrior’s club and leave old preconceptions about historical fiction in a muddied, bloodied heap . . . A work of art.” — Quill & Quire


“A poetic horror . . . a hellish world of shifting realities where the only constant is pain . . . It delineates in a welter of words, often poetic but always brutal, the horrors that human beings inflict on one another and themselves.” — The Calgary Herald


A world shot through with violent mysticism . . . No fresh-faced idealism here, no platitudes, no tired old saws about liberty or death, but a stinking, festering free-fall into a war that in its own way was just as horrific and mindless as anything happening today in Bosnia.” — The Hamilton Spectator

“A whirlwind worth riding . . . A splendid, harrowing whirlwind of a tale, a book that somehow manages to be horrifying and hilariously grotesque and sumptuous, carnal and pensive — all without ever ceasing to be a great, full-bodied story. The writing is as sharp as nails. The words seem hammered to the page . . . A pell-mell narrative inquiry into the nature of meaning, the decline of faith, and the ascendance of reason. This is a profoundly thoughtful book . . . At once crazy, funny, and wise, this is a book to make you dizzy with horror — and delight.”— Oakland Ross, The Globe and Mail


“Glover tells wonderful, complex stories, and like many post-modern novels, his book continues to expand, resisting closure and completion. For as Oskar muses, one ‘could write a whole book and there would be nothing in it but questions.’” — Andy James, Kingston Whig-Standard Companion
“Glover, with his own potent eye and ear, enables the reader to see and hear and smell and touch the way it was to be alive at our beginning two centuries ago . . . What will keep readers turning the pages is Glover’s mastery of language, the way he has managed not only to furnish his book with pioneer décor, but to infuse it with the lusts and terrors and dreams that filled the North American white mind two centuries ago.” — George Galt, Books in Canada


“An exhilarating challenge to my essential linear sensibilities . . . a very accomplished book . . . I suspect that posterity is going to select The Life and Times of Captain N. as one of the seminal novels of our time, given that Douglas Glover has achieved a stunning synthesis of historical evocation and literary invention.” — Paul Steuwe, Books in Canada


“Without compromising the visceral immediacy of the narrative, Glover skilfully sustains motifs . . . that help elevate his spare prose toward poetry . . . an intense, satisfying book.” — The Vancouver Sun


“An unconventional version of historical voice . . . an astonishing jabber that absorbs you with its intelligence . . . Occasionally scabrous, terrifically funny, intermittently appalling, sometimes frightening. A thoroughly convincing world of its own making, it also leaves you persuaded that here, truly, is how the past was. It’ll give you a pleasurable headache of recognition and wonderment.” — Stephen Smith, The Financial Post


“Immediately compelling . . . Visceral imagery that’s still cool enough to curdle the blood….  Glover’s hallucinatory world exists as it does in the mind’s eye with nary a detail out of context . . . It’s hard to slot this story of early America in the historical novel category. Leave it somewhere in dreamtime, because the best tales transcend their time and place to speak to readers in any age.” — The Edmonton Journal


“Dreamlike . . . confounds as it allures. Glover’s novel hovers between utopian vision and nightmare. His mastery of form and language transforms this historical fiction into a post-modern novel, which manifests the shining face of literary brilliance while it exposes the dark shadow of European presence in North America, and the even darker shadows within us all. . . . Glover’s novel is an event in Canadian publishing, a work of grace and substance.” — Patricia Whitney

“[The Life and Times of Captain N.] is the kind of novel that transcends its own characters and plot, that rises above the historical events on which it is based. It doesn’t so much describe or explain or detail as provide a glimpse into the mystery that surrounds all human life.” — The Halifax Daily News

“An outstanding work of art by a brilliant writer . . . an unforgettable picture of the human side of the conflict.” — The Port Hope Evening Guide

“With The Life and Times of Captain N., [Glover] has crossed the threshold of the linguistic magicians . . . [he] surprises us by making his mysterious characters knowable, at no sacrifice to their appeal as exotics. His book is a none-too-thinly veiled commentary on the Loyalist origins of the English Canadian middle class.” — Douglas Fetherling


“This utterly extraordinary work even mocks the forward-backward quality of history itself . . . an exquisitely written novel, and unforgettable.” — Allan Gould


“What is most striking about this novel is its originality. The strangely erotic and violent passages force the reader to rethink how this country was settled.” — The Simcoe Reformer

“This is the kind of novel that transcends its own characters and plot, that rises above the historical events on which it is based and reaches an enviable universality. It . . . provides a glimpse into the basic mystery that surrounds all human life, the dumb, wordless fear that grips us all. And, in so doing, it manages to turn upside-down our familiar and comfortable notions of war, of family, of progress, and of the people who first inhabited the so-called New World.” — Event
“Glover is unquestionably one of Canada’s finest: an unusually erudite writer whose psychic filtering system seems to have malfunctioned, leaving him with the wide-open perceptions of a seer or madman.” Ann Diamond, Matrix


“Brilliantly captures the chaos of the period . . . Glover’s energetic and strikingly visual prose does harrowing justice to the pervasive but wholly nongratuitous scenes of remorseless violence and torture. What prevents the reader from being smothered by the book’s essential nihilism is the formidable intelligence that underlies every page.” — Canadian Book Review Annual


“A strange and savage history. Dream-like, disturbing, exquisitely written.” — David Macfarlane


“A strange and savage fictional account . . . mysterious, mystical and thoroughly original.” — Owen Sound Sun-Times


This is not only the life and times of Captain Hendrick Nellis, a British soldier in New York during the American Revolution, but also the tale of his son, Oscar, a patriot who yearns to be a hero in the new republic, and Mary Hunsacker, a German immigrant adopted and named One Who Remembers by the Indians who massacred her family. From these three viewpoints, Glover ( The South Will Rise at Noon , Viking, 1989) captures the cruelty of frontier war and the ambivalence of identity as whites become Indians, patriots become Tories--and vice versa. Nellis paints his face and fights like an Indian yet is called the Redeemer for ransoming whites from Indians. Oscar's letters to General Washington demonstrate the gap between revolutionary ideal and reality. And Mary adopts her new life with the practicality of a survivor, providing us with a window into the world of the Iroquois. The narrative is by turns funny, erotic, appalling, and haunting. The language is as dreamlike and brooding as the forest that dominates human action. This vividly imagined novel portrays the American Revolution unforgettably as regional nightmare rather than national epic. Highly recommended. - David B. Mattern




Douglas Glover, The South Will Rise at Noon, Goose Lane Editions; 2 ed., 2013.

Hot on the heels of Douglas Glover’s Governor General’s Award for fiction for his riotous novel, Elle, Goose Lane has brought back into print Glover’s hilarious novel, The South Will Rise at Noon, originally published in 1988. At the centre of this story of a modern-day knight errant is Tully Stamper, a bankrupt, a liar, a tippler of corn juice and a deadbeat husband who has abandoned his wife and child on fraudulent psychiatric grounds. He is also one of the world’s last innocents. The setting for Tully’s adventure is Gomez Gap, Florida, a sliver of the Old South turned into a Hollywood backdrop for the movie recreation of a famous Civil War battle. From the time Tully stumbles out of the swamp and into bed with his sleeping ex-wife and her flamboyant film-director husband Oscar Osterwader to the moment when the enraged citizens of Gomez Gap carry him back to the swamp and leave him chained to a pine tree to die, we are Tully’s co-conspirators, his partners in crime, sharing his pain, his optimism and his wayward wit. A disarmingly intimate and energetic portrait at once hilarious and cautionary, crazy and bittersweet, The South Will Rise at Noon shows off Douglas Glover’s true comic form.


Rogues, rednecks and local characters populate Gomez Gap, Fla., the swampy setting of this unsteady comic novel by the Canadian author of Precious. Just out of jail, devil-may-care drunkard Tully Stamper returns to his hometown seeking his ex-lover (a woman namedor labeledDanger); his mother, an ailing, semi-senile floozy; and his ex-wife, now wed to a flamboyant movie director who plans to re-create the Civil War in an epic that has dozens of Gomez Gappers clamoring for roles. Every villager from the imposing sheriff on down bears a different grudge against Tully;as he wanders from bed to bed and brawl to brawl, oddballs pile up around him, among them a woman who ambushes and then paints birds, a brilliant artist hiding from society and a half-witted lynch mob. They converge in an overheated battle-on-film in which Tully tries to win back his loved ones through gallantryand almost everything goes wrong. Glover's ripe imagination keeps this shaggy-dog story hurtling along, but it has more momentum than direction; Tully and the band of eccentrics around him comprise a town in search of a story. - Publishers Weekly

A fast, furious, and funny read.” (The New York Times Book Review)


“Among the greatest comic novels ever written by a Canadian.” (CBC State of the Arts)


“A rollicking and readable portrait of a most unusual man . . . [a] vastly entertaining book.” (The Globe and Mail)


“Jaunty social commentary in a manic plot . . . Wonderfully choreographed . . . Beneath the relentlessly breezy tone, there is a curious autumnal melancholy.” (The Toronto Star)


“Riotous, rolling, rambunctious, and compulsively readable . . . It’s been a long, long time since a novel has succeeded with the uninhibited vulgarity of The South Will Rise at Noon. This is such a great, toothy grin of a novel, what used to called a tour de force, that I want to quote the whole thing . . . when the end draws near one wants, not a tidy wrap-up, but more.” (Books in Canada)


“Wonderfuly implausible, crazy, hilarious, unexpected — like it’s hero.” (The Kingston Whig-Standard)


“A farce . . . exactly how I plan to behave in my next life.” (San Diego Tribune)


“A hoot and a half . . . a wonderfully engaging fictional voice. The South Will Rise at Noon is a thoroughly enjoyable romp of a book . . . Those good ole boys surely can write — even when they’re from Canada.”  (The Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution)


“Glover’s ripe imagination keeps this shaggy-dog story hurtling along.” (Publishers Weekly)
“Shall we clear away the superlatives and blurt out the bias here, straight out? Whale Music is the best comic novel since Douglas Glover’s The South Will Rise at Noon (1988), which was the best comic novel since Michael Malone’s Handling Sin (1985), which has been called the best since Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. We’re talking not of slapstick or the merely amusing, but of the serious novel that is not sombre, that makes you laugh while confronting reality.” (Jack Macleod in Books in Canada)


“A lively piece of work . . . packed with incident . . . an amiable romp.” (Montreal Gazette)
“Glover shakes windows, rattles walls, and challenges dominant CanLit tropes like few others.”  (The Danforth Review)


Douglas Glover, Precious, Goose Lane Editions, 2013.

Douglas Glover’s raucous first novel was a finalist for the Books in Canada First Novel Award and sold out its first and only print run in just one month. Now mystery fans and readers of literary fiction alike can once again enjoy this witty post-modern detective tale by the author of Elle. The eponymous central character in Precious is a boozy, burned-out reporter with an embarrassing nickname and a penchant for getting into trouble. After three failed marriages and a humiliating stint in a Greek jail, he will do anything for the quiet life. A job as woman’s page editor for the Ockenden Star-Leader seems like just the ticket — that is, until town gossip Rose Oxley winds up dead with a pair of scissors lodged in her chest. Suddenly Precious finds himself embroiled in a hilariously over-the-top murder mystery, brimming with delicious satire about the newspaper business and culminating in a characteristically outrageous Gloverian showdown with firearms, snowmobiles, and booze. Inviting comparisons with the novels of Jasper Fforde and Ross MacDonald, Precious deftly combines an ingenious literary parody with the plot of a richly satisfying mystery.

Ashcroft was getting on my nerves. I know a lot about human relations; they’re like strips of flypaper. He just wanted a little professional advice, a mentor, a pal. And I wanted to be left alone. All three of my marriages had begun with as little provocation. Anne Delos had wanted to borrow a coin so she could use the bathroom. You never know where that sort of thing will end.
Finalist for the 1984 Books in Canada First Novel Award


“A word on the subject of recent Canadian detective fiction: for this reader, the apogee of the genre is still  Douglas Glover’s Precious, a work as elegant as it is intelligent, and which succeeds superbly in the creation of convincing character, setting and moral atmosphere. (Janice Julyk Keefer in Books in Canada)


“Sheer high spirits make it a jolly Canadian extravaganza.” (Globe and Mail)


“Everything one wants in a literary entertainment: pace, verve, snappy dialogue, witty intelligent narration.” (Books in Canada)


Precious is about newspapers, small towns, love, honour and death. The spiritual forebear of Douglas Glover is clearly Ross Macdonald, the original chronicler of ambition and amnesia, and their bastard offspring, murder.” (Clark Blaise, author of  A North American Education and Lunar Attractions)


Savage Love PB cover2 small


Douglas Glover, Savage Love, Goose Lane Editions, 2013.

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Savage Love marks the long-awaited return of one of Canada’s most lauded and stylistically brilliant authors. Glover skewers every conventional notion we’ve ever held about that cultural-emotional institution of love we are instructed to hold dear.
Peopled with forensic archaeologists, horoscope writers, dental hygienists, and even butchers, Glover’s stories are of our time yet timeless; spectacular fables that stand in any era, any civilization. Whether writing about sexually ambiguous librarians or desperadoes most despicable, Glover exposes the humanity lurking behind our masks, the perversities that underlie our actions.
Savage Love heralds the return of a master, with laugh-out-loud stories of the best kind, often completely unexpected, rife with moments of tragedy or horror. This is Douglas Glover country, and we are all willing visitors.


“I, your admiring reader, report myself ever again restored to find in hand the company of your righteous sentences, shout hooray, shout hooray, even splendid, splendid, splendid (borrowing from the great poet Jack Gilbert), like loins, he wrote, like Rome, he wrote . . . .”— Gordon Lish




“What unifies this collection is the characteristic excellence of Douglas Glover’s prose. Otherwise the book is hugely, even shockingly varied in its narrative strategies, its settings, its tones, and its characters, who range from broadly comic figures to a killer so warped by war that he makes the psychotic Judge in Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian look benign. This book is urgent, ardent, obsessive, and remarkable.”— Steven Heighton


“Savage Love provides more evidence: nobody alive constructs more perfect stories than Douglas Glover. His art is exquisite, conclusive, stainless — but also wide-awake and breathing. That is to say, he’s no mere craftsman. In Savage Love, he manages somehow to be both Geppetto and the magic life-giving kiss.”— Darin Strauss


Certain mysteries abide in this world: the Gordian Knot, the Holy Trinity, and the literary obscurity of Douglas Glover. Over the course of a career spanning three and a half decades, Glover has produced some of the most stylish, adventurous fiction this country has ever seen, and yet he seems to be continually passed over for recognition (a 2003 Governor General’s Literary Award for his historical novel Elle notwithstanding). The reason for this oversight is frankly inexplicable, outside of a general nervousness when confronted with technically brilliant fiction.
The stories in Savage Love are vintage Glover: running from five lines to more than 50 pages, and spanning historical periods from the 19th century to the present, each one is a pristine example of the short form. Glover’s sentences pulse and breathe, seethe and spit; his stories avoid prefab emotion in favour of bracing, often brutal honesty. For the courageous, there was no better collection of stories published this year. -

Douglas Glover is a distinguished member of the tribe of Nabokov. Glover is as gifted a writer as Canada has ever produced and the source of his strength is the ferocious quirkiness of his sentences.
Glover’s new story collection, Savage Love, is an astonishing book only partly because of the loopy and incessant inventiveness of his narratives. The 22 stories range daringly in space and time, taking us from a stomach-turning battle scene during the War of 1812 to a contemporary farm family whose sheer wackiness, condensed into 25 pages, puts to shame any eccentric clan one can think of, whether it be J.D. Salinger’s Glass family or Wes Anderson’s Tenenbaums.
These stories are rich in plot, full of love triangles, murders and descents into madness. The appalling events Glover describes might, in the hands of a lesser writer, seem like mere attention-grabbing sensationalism. Yet his stories leave a genuine emotional scar, because the words he uses are sharp enough to claw into us.
In the first story in the book, we’re told of an Idaho farmer in 1869 doing battle with a savage winter: “The snow surprised him. Snow choked the passes, interred the arid creek beds and dry washes under a mortuary sheet, muffled the canyons of the pine tips, buried his traps, buried his hut, his pole barn, his stock. He started killing the lambs, stuffing their skins in the cracks between the sappy logs. Then he kilt the ewes, one by one, then he kilt the rams, then he kilt the ox and the riding mule, which was starving also. Then he kilt his wife. And then his dog, regretting of the dog more than the rest because it was a pure Tennessee Plott hound. Then he resigned himself to death, composed his body beneath a pile of frozen sheepskins in a corner, and waited. He wasn’t defeated, he told himself, only indignant at the sudden wolfishness in the weather, which had descended without warning in the prospectus of his westward dreams.”
As we read these sentences, horrifying as they are, we know we’re in the hands of a master writer, one who can sure-footedly walk us through the most difficult terrain. The ornery murderousness of the main character is quickly established by five monosyllabic words (“then he kilt his wife”), period dialect (“kilt”) is sparingly but effectively deployed, and there is a confident movement from specific details (“frozen sheepskins”) to a more flighty abstract language of desire (“the prospectus of his westward dreams”).
As against the disquieting brutality of this passage, consider Glover’s lighthearted description of two lovebirds, named Laurette and Tamas, who live in vegan organic farming co-op: “They would often embarrass other members of the co-op by making love in the field rows or behind a hay rick or beside an open window on moonlit nights, their cries of joy setting off mysterious vibrations in the listener, inspiring laughter, lust, and the desire for fat babies. But the co-op prospered, cheerful children gambolled in the vegetable patches, the Brussels spouts and cabbages won prizes in the state fair, and tour buses brought doting crowds of vegan initiates to browse in the fields, where sometimes they caught a glimpse of Laurette and Tamas scampering naked or felt the pulse of their seismic lovemaking.”
Glover’s earlier collection 16 Categories of Desire was obsessed with the failure of love, with breakups that caused ardour to turn to hate. This theme recurs in the new collection, but it is counterbalanced by a renewed respect for the robustness of passion, for the way that we continue to search for love even after repeated disappointments.
In telling his stories of the ferocious resilience of love, Glover wisely does not write prose that is like a window pane. Blessedly, he writes the best way possible: fiercely, idiosyncratically and lovingly.
Jeet Heer
§
The “microstories” that form the pivot for Douglas Glover’s latest collection work so well precisely because they are so brief. The shortest of these, “Xo & Annabel, A Psychological Romance,” is a mere five lines long, but its rhetorical punch is all the more potent for its formal restraint. The story that follows, “Wolven,” is almost as concise and equally effective, with a final line that elicits peals of laughter while also opening up the story’s implications in fascinating and provocative ways.
There is much that is provocative about Savage Love. Glover writes about love in various forms — philia, eros, and agape — but each word in the book’s title should be afforded equal weight. The love in these stories is indeed savage — ruthlessly unsentimental and conflicted, quite often violent. In the collection’s astounding opener, the Cormac McCarthy — inflected “Tristiana,” a soldier driven mad by war takes in a mute young woman (“just breasted,” is how she is described) whom he nurses back to health and forms a tenuous connection with. The scenes of unconstrained bloodshed — not least when the man amputates the girl’s diseased feet — are agonizing, yet presented with such grace that the entire piece becomes a virtuoso authorial performance.
Glover is one of Canada’s greatest stylists, and one of the most impressive aspects of Savage Love is the variety and range of registers he allows himself. From the historical fiction of the opening story, Glover shifts to a retrospective tale of a boy whose sexual obsession with his (possibly imaginary) babysitter has lifelong consequences, then changes gears again to tell the story of a man who causes catastrophe for his family when his wife discovers he has been having an affair.
The collection ranges from the tiny microstories of the central section to a pair of longer tales — “Shameless” and “Uncle Boris Up in a Tree” — that employ unbroken paragraphs often running pages in length and engaging in free-flowing, almost stream-of-consciousness narration. “The Lost Language of Ng,” a stupendously funny satire on academic discourse (based around a study of a dead language that can’t be written down, lest the entire world be destroyed), is followed by an almost expressionistic tale of a man chasing what may be a ghost through the streets of Paris.
There is absolutely nothing prosaic about Savage Love. These stories engage in a process of aggressive defamiliarization, wreaking havoc with readerly sensibilities and exploring — deliberately and insistently — the extreme possibilities of language. Glover’s collection is bracing, angry, violent and funny. It is, regardless of genre, one of the best books you will read this year.
Steven Beattie


Instability recurs throughout Douglas Glover’s new short story collection, Savage Love. As the title suggests, love (or at least desire) is the dominant theme, but it is a love so unstable, so rife with conflict, so twisted against itself, that it shakes the confidence of its moorings. This is not love patient and kind, nor slow to anger; it is not a love that leads to calm plains of the soul; it is not the kind of love that will help you achieve satori, young bodhisattva. It is the kind of love that Toni Morrison once described as “one of those deepdown, spooky loves that made him so sad and happy at the same time that he shot her just to keep the feeling going.” In this book, Glover takes us far, far out into a vast sea of imaginative possibilities, shadows, violence, and twisted logic. There is a persistent questioning of the real consistent with his post-modern precursors, but there is also a disappearance into myth and mystery, which isn’t a denial of the world in a swirl of signifiers, but an embracing of its ultimate instability. It is a world that is knowable in fragments; it’s just that the fragments keep falling apart. Glover has always embraced the absurd, but he’s more grounded in facts than Kafka—witness the unlikely and extremely intriguing title of an earlier short story, “Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon.” Glover’s catalogue of opening sentences would nearly make a book on its own. He is a master at setting up the awkward and the curious, often romantic, situation that demands explication. The frisson of desired transcendence lost in repeated failure veers seemingly inevitably toward catastrophe. Carol Shields used to say that Alice Munro’s stories don’t end, they swerve into mystery. Glover’s stories enter mystery early and never leave. Readers are drawn along for the journey on slipstreams of luminescent prose.
Glover’s previous short story collection, 16 Categories of Desire, built into its title the author’s persistent interest in explicating desire as narrative strategy. The push and pull of what we want from each other, and the inevitable conflict (and often humour) that results is a repeating characteristic of Glover’s work. The title also makes obvious the diversity of experiences linked to that emotion. Here’s a line from the title story of that earlier collection: “She say the Lord invented the orgasm so people would make babies but it one of those inventions that got away from Him.” And here we have another persistent Gloverism: the sense of being out of control and existing in a world of the inexplicable and the chaotic. The stories in Savage Love continue in this vein. The stories growl off the page, as if read in the voice of an octogenarian Delta Blues master or one of the more recent Bob Dylan protagonists. As in many Dylan songs, these are stories “after the flood.” These are not stories of millennial angst, fearful of a coming apocalypse. Glover is a writer aware that chaos has long been loose in the world. In Savage Love, Glover takes us where Shakespeare takes us in “The Tempest,” into our imaginations, all the better to understand “we are such stuff / as dreams are made on.” The imagination holds clues to meaning, if only fleetingly.
In the second story, “Crown of Thorns,” we are told about Tobin, eight, who fell in love with his babysitter, an emotional attachment that affects the course of his life. Define his life, in fact. Such an insensible thing, an unplanned thing, could only make sense, become beautiful, in a Douglas Glover story. When he is eight, the babysitter is dismissed after Tobin’s mother catches the boy’s father erotically entwined with the paid caregiver. Tobin imagines the girl is killed, and so begins years of therapy and trauma response. The boy’s hurt is exaggerated beyond the point of being ridiculous, but then again, is it? The disturbance of our attachments can lead to absurd consequences; on that point the story is clear. On the other hand, while it may strain credulity, the logic of the story must make sense to us as readers, if only on an intuitive level, or else we would dismiss it as not worth reading and crazy. Glover’s artistic achievement here is to push us into the grey zone where “told reality” is both more weird and more meaningful than common sense allows. The real is not real; it is a story; but only through story can we know the real. Glover’s stories both affirm our experience (we all had childhood attachments) and undermine them, make them unstable, force our memories to slant into uncertainty. Could a childhood crush on a babysitter turn into a lifelong obsession? We can’t discount it, such is the oddness of life, but the exaggeration entertains, too.
A writer (and teacher) long concerned with the intricacies of form, Glover gave a nod to his writing technique in his essay, “How to Write a Short Story: 
In every story . . . Form creates a structure that seems necessary and logical. The imaginative variation and development of material in the gaps opened up by form make the story seem alive and unplanned. Art is a strange and paradoxical thing. Out of these apparently opposed and antithetical elements, it creates beauty, meaning and the illusion of living characters.
Glover’s well-proven rhetorical complexity is best read, in other words, not for “aboutness” but, as a painting, with an engaged awareness of the medium in motion. Story demands forward movement, but language need not lead to clarity or certainty. In fact, remaining in ambiguity can only lead to more story, and it is the writer’s talent and obligation to make what is fabricated and manipulated “seem alive and unplanned.” In Savage Love, Glover gives us the odd and the awkward, the violent and the hopeless. Dark humour is woven deeply into all of it. He has stretched his oeuvre to a new plateau where it demands comparison to McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner. He challenges readers to enter winding caves of mystery, not in search of answers, but in search of experience, and he challenges writers to question what a story can be, as only the best scribes can. He reminds us that asking is better than knowing, and that asking never ends.
Savage Love begins with a brief Prelude, which is followed by 21 stories divided into three sections: Fugues, Intermezzo Microstories, and The Comedies. The Prelude introduces what follows. In a page-and-a-half of imagistic prose, the narrator describes moonlight, dancers, “the liquid amber gum tree” and tells us “the throw of language is deceptive. It’s much better for describing things that don’t exist than for pinning down reality.” Glover provides all the hints we need here about what is to follow. The real is both real and not real. It is presented to us as language, and language isn’t to be trusted, but it is also the medium of knowledge, and to proceed we must navigate this instable relationship. The first of Glover’s Fugues, “Tristiana,” is the longest story in the collection. A major work, it cultivates chaos for forty-odd pages. It contains more than a nod to Blood Meridian and is clearly demotic. It begins, “1869, Lost River Range, Idaho Territory,” and it recounts one man’s journey of murder and mayhem, beginning with his farm animals, then his wife, then his dog because “the snow surprised him” and “against the winter he had scrupled not to lay in a sufficiency.” He survives the snow and then forages into wilderness and discovers a girl, “just breasted,” legs frozen into the ice. He digs her out, hacks off her diseased feet, carves her new ones. Across land they go, and he murders virtually everyone they meet. Out of these apparently opposed and antithetical elements, the story creates beauty, meaning and the illusion of living characters.
Glover also engages in the notable Canadian literary pastime of historical fiction. Glover’s novel, The Life and Times of Captain N., which takes place at the time of the American Revolution, attempts to recast the founding myths of two nations, and also injects readers deep into the worldview of the contemporaneous Aboriginal peoples. Glover has long been presenting the instability of history and myth, or the instability of the myth of history. The inability of desire to overcome or bind together the gaps, though also the inevitability that people will keep attempting that strategy because it seems to work for a while, and just feels so darned good. Here, the fourth story (“The Sun Lord and the Royal Child”) and the fifth story (“A Flame, a Burst of Light”) take readers through ambiguous and ambitious historical narrative muck. The narrator of “The Sun Lord and the Royal Child” lives (present day) on a southern Ontario farm, land that was once fertile hunting and communal territory for the Iroquois. He is friends with an archaeologist who made his fame on telling stories about the Aboriginal past of the region, particularly about a dead baby and a dynastic succession. The narrator has also been romancing the archaeologist’s wife. Superficially the story about an unstable man, loose with his affections and under considerable existential threat, the story also argues that the narrative of the land is as wobbly as he is. Farmed for generations of descendants of United Empire Loyalists, Royalists who fled Republican America following the Revolution to stay loyal to the British Crown and sensible Presbyterianism, the geography holds mysteries the eighteenth-century geopolitical power play swept cleanly aside. As a historian, Glover is a dissident. He refuses to provide tales of nationalistic uplift. In this instance, the attempt to grapple with the past is reduced to near farce. The archaeologist, who is presented as clearly competent, confronts his error and what had once seemed like enlightenment becomes another small town mix-up.
In “A Flame, a Burst of Light,” we are back in the swampy nineteenth century among soldiers and ultra-violence. We are among bloodied Upper Canadian irregulars engaged to the death with invading Americans. Glover took us there before in “Swain Corliss, Hero of Malcolm’s Mills (now Oakland, Ontario), November 6, 1814” (from A Guide to Animal Behaviour). The newer story is darker, but it retains at its core a note of thumping absurdity. War may be hell, but in Glover’s version there’s a mysterious woman among the dead and dying—and what can a woman mean among all this masculine destruction except the possibility of something else; sex; love; domestic comfort—but then she disappears and no one knows what happens to her. There is no resolution, only reconciliation with the depraved. And it is the depth of the engagement with depravity that astonishes in this collection. Perhaps also its relentless repetition. Articulating chaos has always been part of Glover’s work, but the stories here delight in a darker manner than we’ve seen before. The teenage girl protagonist of Glover’s Governor-General-Award–winning novel, Elle, begins the book sweaty with sex and then dashes into the St. Lawrence River, off a boat, circa 1542, chasing a dog and a tennis ball. Lost in the Canadian wilderness for a year, she not only survives the winter, she shape shifts into a bear, beats back the black flies and makes friends with strangers from a culture she couldn’t have even begun to contemplate, before returning to France. In the stories in Savage Love, there are no such rescues. The narrative mazes here are often terror traps and the telling of the tale a perpetual tightening of the screw.
Glover wrote a book-length essay on Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and the notion of the book being a book about books is second nature to him. So, yes, some of these stories are stories about stories. The first Comedie, for example, “The Lost Language of Ng,” is an anthropological thriller about a mysterious Aboriginal people, or more specifically about the last know speaker of a mysterious Aboriginal language. That is, it warbles with a vibration that can only induce giggles. Another “book world” and “real world” story is “A Paranormal Romance,” which has echoes of Woody Allen’s “The Kugelmass Episode,” wherein the narrator gets injected into Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, with the intent on romancing the title character. Glover’s story is shorter, but the blurring of “book world” and “real world” is clear. In Glover’s fiction, comedy includes mass murder and no wedding feasts. Here is the ending of “Uncle Boris Up in a Tree”: “And, truth be told, except for the catering assistant found with a pitchfork in her throat behind the barn after the reception, everyone lives happily ever after. For a while.” That’s about as good as we might reasonably expect in our early-twenty-first-century world of weakened expectations. Love will not release you from despair. It’s more likely to draw you into intricate absurdities from which you will never escape. Glover has been hitting these related notes throughout his career. Savage Love takes us down these paths to deeper and darker mysteries. These stories resonate along complex frequencies that reward our best reading efforts. - Michael Bryson

SAVAGE LOVE (Goose Lane), the new story collection from expat Canadian Douglas Glover, is a compact gallery, flint-eyed and snaggle-toothed, of wolfish behavior; it’s also a casebook study in narrative design. From these artistic cross-currents of cut-glass form and lurid content, the book achieves a distinctive balance: the stories smolder and luminesce with vitiated heat, modulated light. The new title arrives almost 10 years to the month since Glover’s novel Elle (Goose Lane) won the Governor General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary honor, in 2003. In the interval, Glover hasn’t been idle. After letting the field lie fallow for a while, he has sporadically leaked the odd craft essay, the stray story, to top-shelf North American journals, appearing twice in the Best Canadian Stories series (2009, 2012). While he keeps his day job on the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts, he also anchors the masthead for the online magazine and literary collective Numéro Cinq (to which I contribute occasionally). In 2012, he published a collection of essays old and new, Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis), which features scalpel-sharp criticism, divulges literary trade secrets and waxes splenetic on the state of the art in the “post-literate age.” But only now, when the time is round, has he released his follow-up performance to the prize-winning Elle. For all its antic form and interpersonal dysfunction, Savage Love remains somehow low key: a quietly virtuosic, artistically backward-looking story collection. Both eclectic and obsessive, abrasive and majestic, it might also be the best novel written anywhere this year.
Savage Love is Glover’s fifth collection of short stories, and it confirms his longstanding mastery of the genre. As the title indicates, Eros and Thanatos are the proprietary gods of this textual cosmos, the psychic demons flagellating the characters, and the stories veer between these extremes, chronicling homicidal rampages, ravaging libidinal entanglements or, by far the worst possibility, some mutant hybrid of both pathologies (at least one story could be accurately described as an orgy of death). In concrete terms, this book contains both the most gruesome encounter with deliquescing corpses and the most exquisitely literary orgasm (male) likely to be experienced for the foreseeable future. Such a menagerie will come as no surprise to readers familiar with Glover’s fiction, because this is vintage Glover, and if you haven’t yet tuned in, Savage Love affords an excellent chance to get up to speed and find out what you’ve been missing.
Desire has long been the touchstone of Glover’s work — as one story in Savage Love frames it, “the inhuman endlessness of desire, our inability to contain it, the dark tide on which we ride unwitting and unprepared” — and in the new book, infidelity is the signature calamity befalling the protagonists. One narrator invites us to pin this artistic fixation on the national character, citing “the documented Canadian penchant for secretive, hypocritical, adulterous, compulsively polymorphous sex congress”; Glover’s aim, however, is to root out, philosophically, the “subterranean essence of love,” a state in which the terms perversion and affection seem to trade polarities. In the book’s steady procession of love’s travesties and miscarriages, there might be something salutary and a potential to grow to full term. What’s more, despite all the obsessive repetition of the characters’ predicaments, this collection flaunts a wild array of narrative voices and compositional modes that reflect the prodigious range of Glover’s craftsmanship.
“Tristiana,” one of two stories with a historical bent, begins as a spirited homage to Cormac McCarthy and his Blood Meridian: an ex-Confederate sharpshooter and his unlikely companion — a mute girl maimed by frostbite — survive a murderous winter on the Idaho frontier and embark on a killing spree of their own, dispatching without clear purpose or evident malice almost everyone they encounter. The sentences in this section are all coordinate action and crackling verbs; the very landscape seethes with destructive energy: “Upriver, the land was scabbed and scotched with abandoned hydraulic mining works, dammed creeks, banks and hillsides scoured of trees and water-blasted, with gullies and fans of silt destroying the graceful curves of the old channel.”
From this raw encounter with existential fundamentals, the couple progresses toward the creature comforts of domesticity, an arc that reads like an allegory, as if the former carnage lies, chillingly, at the heart of the latter civility. To cinch the transition between worlds, the story abruptly shifts styles for its ending, in which we find the pair running a boarding house in industrializing (and tartly named) Sellwood, Oregon. After the fever-dream pitch of events on the frontier, this last section adopts an expository voice, cluttered with homely clauses, and more distant from the protagonist’s consciousness: “They lived now in a two-storey clapboard house on Umatilla Street within sight of the Willamette River, rented two rooms on the second floor to lodgers, kept a garden, laying hens and a cow, and were known for their exceptional aloofness.” The style itself conveys the inertia and urbanity, the characters’ fall from a hellish grace and their immersion into civil society, the world of language, not action. But their residence here is short-lived as the story ends in flames — a scene of pointedly pointless death — with the prose recovering its macho swagger.
The metaphysical western is only one of Glover’s many aesthetic modes, but the harsh, discordant shift in vocal signatures is typical of his stylistic ambition. To keep the narrative house in order, the stories in Savage Love are grouped into subsections: the book opens with a brittle prelude called “Dancers at the Dawn,” followed by five “Fugues” (stories that feature ludic repetitions of motifs), 10 “Intermezzo Microstories” (experiments in the elasticity of the form), and finally six pyrotechnic “Comedies,” most of which parody the marriage-ending typical of the genre. Viewed as discrete works, the collected stories are at times ungainly, even willfully abrasive (the word is rebarbative). Yet Savage Love contains a handful of stories as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature.
Story 101
Where the collection falters, it does so from an excess, perhaps, of expertise. In Attack of the Copula Spiders, Glover includes two essays titled audaciously “How to Write a Novel” and “How to Write a Short Story.” The essays itemize many of the very techniques that we see Glover plying in Savage Love — its orchestration of plot conflicts and image patterns, the interpolation of “thematic passages,” the role of memories and dreams, aerobic tips for dialogue. The essay on the short story even ends with an exercise in seven steps, like a recipe for modern literary fiction: “4) Write a thematic passage (3-5 sentences) in which your main character … speculates on what is happening in the story, the nature of the conflict between the two characters… Try using the device of the rhetorical question to get this revery going. Literally, you can ask the question ‘What is this story about?’ Include the words ‘love’ and ‘blood.’” Glover devised this exercise as a corrective to the narrative missteps and stylistic passive-aggression that he regularly observes in student writing, and he acknowledges that the script is a reductive simplification, the barest skeleton of the genre’s possibilities. Yet his own stories are least affecting when they hew most closely to the manual.
Take the fugal “Crown of Thorns,” for example. In the story, a young boy, Tobin Thorn, catches his father fondling the lunar breast of his beloved babysitter, pisses himself as his mother stands over him, and thus incurs an enduring psychic fracture that makes him persistently wet the bed, dig up the rose garden (scene of the tryst), alienate his parents and pursue bizarre erotic attachments, all of which obsessively recapitulates motifs derived from the primal voyeuristic scene (roses, thorns, breasts, and, by dint of metaphor, a kite on a string). Toward the end, the third-person narration spells out the compositional method, invoking “the absolute density of the moment from which all meaning emanated.” Elsewhere, we read, “Everything reminded Tobin of everything else, as if the world were made up of signs and omens that only referred to other signs and omens. He understood that his life was ruled by a principle of recursion.” In the passage, readers might recognize the nod to Nabokov’s famous “Signs and Symbols” and its psychotic character’s referential mania, but more broadly, “Crown” feels technically overdetermined, as if it’s a story turned inside out. We marvel at the seams and the stitching of the artifice, but miss the lovable exterior.
If an urge to curate sometimes eclipses Glover’s power to narrate these stories, this might, in fact, be the point: works like “Crown of Thorns” supply a dash of atonality within the symphony of the collection, showcasing the varied effects of the genre. The “Microstories,” too, serve a similar purpose, and they contain some nice moments: in “Wolven,” a woman appears to be aroused by her bedmate’s lycanthropy. “Splash” conceals hidden depths while lightly fanning the “Internet rumour” that a mermaid corpse, preserved in a glass jar, can be found in the Royal Ontario Museum basement (I heard it was a minotaur fetus). In “Buddy,” a female narrator offers a rapid expository sketch of her stymied existence as a single-mother, the banal style mirroring the death-in-life of her conventional predicament. Yet the impact of each is low-yield. If literature is an “axe for the frozen sea within,” as Kafka has it, these are the curling stones rasping across the surface: fun, but little friction.
Even the collection’s finest stories can read like solutions to self-imposed compositional problems. “Uncle Boris Up in a Tree” features a family of eight children caught up in a game of erotic telephone (A loves B, but B loves C), their lives subject, moreover, to wild swings in fortune and fame; with this frenetic material, Glover appears to be testing the outer limits of the genre and its ability to accommodate multiple subplots (one child is a budding serial killer). For this reason, Savage Love is best viewed not just as an anatomy of desire, which festers ubiquitously in the text, but as an anatomy of story: an amalgam of masterful experiments in the genre. It’s a cerebral, artisanal compilation, to be sure, with metafictional flourishes: one character observes, “Now I know what it’s like to be a fictitious character in a story, that sense of chockablock crisis and fate, of another hand stoking the drama to see how I might perform.” Even so, these best stories of the collection confirm the affective power and sublime reach of Glover’s stylistic arsenal.
“Shameless,” for example, a peerless gem, is, like “Crown of Thorns,” pregnant with its own inception: the desires of the central characters begin at cross-purposes, sparking an outrage (an infatuated girl is made to bark like a dog) that drives everyone apart, immersing them in suffering, but continues to pull magnetically on their destinies. And like “Crown,” this story telescopes in time, spanning years, narrated from a distanced third-person perspective that’s heavy on musical exposition and light on scene setting. Somewhere near the center of the tale is Rachlin Roohan, a butcher’s daughter whose unrequited love drives her to a kind of unremunerative prostitution, by which she becomes a Web sensation:
Lonely men in Mumbai and San Diego, smitten with the sad beauty, naked except for her hunting boots, besmirched with semen, smiling enigmatically, wore themselves to nubbins in masturbatory frenzies…. One by one they found her, knocking timidly or pugnaciously at her motel door at all hours…. She slept with them all, hungry for something, she thought, something that not one of them could supply.
The premise seems to channel Márquez’s “Innocent Eréndira,” with its equally legendary and irresistible sex worker, and the scope of the plot evokes the extravagance of magic realism, but at the same time, the artifice here reprises techniques that Glover himself forged in his previous story collection 16 Categories of Desire. What’s more, this story evinces Glover’s skill at capturing emotional extremes — of despair and tenderness — through deft pointillistic details redolent of a living and lived-in world.
Stressed Form and Déjà Vu
Perhaps the quintessential Glover fiction is “The Sun Lord and the Royal Child,” with its  fussily articulate, syntactically sinuous and zanily repetitive voice, no less bruising in the end. The story recounts the meteoric rise and precipitous decline of, yes, a forensic archaeologist, Armand Nedlinger; after Nedlinger’s work on native peoples catapults him to fame (Nick Nolte stars in the optioned film), he becomes a reclusive crank and ultimately determines that his life’s work is flawed. Narrating the story is Nedlinger’s colleague and underling, Lennart Wolven, who attempts to usurp Nedlinger’s identity, partly by lusting after his archeological research and partly by bedding his wife, Melusina. In many Glover fictions, identity proves to be malleable in exactly this way; it’s often a site of contest, fluid and unstable, not a fixed construct, and fittingly then, the “Sun Lord” plot pivots on the identification of an infant skeleton preserved under glass on the narrator’s parents’dining table (though Nedlinger believes it to be the royal offspring of an ancient Indian tribe, the narrator’s mother dumps it in the trash).
Moreover, the story reveals a precisely articulated form, meticulously coiled, warping the narrative profluence in a series of recursive loops: that is, the present-action concentrates on a single visit to Nedlinger’s house, in the wake of Melusina’s suicide, but that visit, repeatedly announced, is constantly postponed while the narrator fills in the backstory, those highlights of his, Nedlinger’s and Melusina’s intersecting pasts. When the moment for the showdown finally arrives, the narrator prepares to torture Nedlinger with the particulars of Melusina’s infidelity, but things don’t go according to plan, and the story closes with a promise of redemption through nose-in-the-ground archeology. This unsuspected happy end tends to be the rule, rather than the exception in Glover’s torturous universe, and in other ways, too, this story hosts many of Glover’s trademark maneuvers and concerns: his interest in indigenous cultures and erotomania, his arresting formal exactitude, as well as his flair for abusing his homeland. Here’s a passage dense with most of the above:
As far as I know, Melusina was unfaithful to Nedlinger with only one other man, despite all the innuendo and gossip. When she died (the word die, in this context, is nothing but a euphemism for that horrid, public act of self-cancelling), they had no children, due, I believe, to a tragic injury Nedlinger suffered in a tractor accident as a boy on the family dairy farm near Burford, Ontario; the place is now preserved as a not-for-profit organic vegetable operation in his honour even though Nedlinger himself remembered it only as a typical Ontario family farm, a locus of sorrow, frustration, inhibition, philistinism, narrow-minded judgment, stupidity, race-baiting, poverty, animal abuse, overwork, incest, and casual, daily violence.
If anything dims the luster of such a story, it’s that, as in “Shameless,” the narrative reprises the very same maneuvers that Glover hatched in 16 Categories of Desire, where they seemed sui generis, so lovingly mannered as to defy recycling (I urge you, please, at once, to read “Lunar Sensitivities”). Yet, these design principles—the carousel of identity, the corrosive love triangles, the ludic motifs—resurface persistently in the stories of Savage Love, with an eerie urgency, burning through the local permutations. This narrative repetition compulsion is particularly evident in the title story, and here, we see ever more sharply what gives the collection its retrospective flavor.
Probably the most difficult story in the collection, “Savage Love” reads like a case study in the triangulation of desire, René Girard’s theory that desire is always inherited, borrowed or stolen, from a third party, who might be the true object of desire — or as Glover describes it in a blog post on Numéro Cinq, “the idea that the self is created when it identifies with the desire of the other.” The protagonist, Ona Frame, a struggling writer of horoscopes, finds himself forever competing with his friend, Shelby, a famed and posh poet, for the attentions of their mutual inamorata. Every time Ona meets a new girl who promises to be different — reliable, conventional, small-breasted, monogamous — she inevitably becomes identical to her predecessors, Shelby’s type: buxom, cruel sexual exhibitionists who shag Shelby behind Ona’s back. It’s a disorienting experience for Ona and the reader, made palatable and compelling by Glover’s finely pared sentences: measured, lucid, elegant, more restrained than manic. To compound the story’s degree of difficulty, as the title indicates, it’s also powered by an engine of conceptual paradox; central assertions about the characters and their reality are routinely subverted by their opposite. One moment, a lover will hold forth on her fetishistic sexcapades, and in the next she will insist that she prefers the humble missionary position and can only orgasm in private. The story playfully advertises this formal mechanism, its “infinite regress of assertion and contradiction,” when Ona scores big with oxymoron in a game of Scrabble.
In Attack of the Copula Spiders, Glover reveals the literary provenance of these maneuvers, which he has cribbed from Thomas Bernhard, who casts his shadow over several stories in the collection. In his appraisal of Bernhard’s The Loser, Glover describes the novel’s “stressed form,” which supplies an accurate snapshot of his own artistic methods:
The three principles [sic] — Gould, Wertheimer, and the narrator — are all graded variations of the same character… This grid of receding narrators and repeating character traits and plot motifs supplies a matrix over which the author drapes his phantasmagoric riot of rhetorical substructures — repetition, antithesis, rant, digression, word play — all of which add drama, interest, and comedy to his text.
Further, in that same blog post on Numéro Cinq, he cites another precursor who employs similar devices (triangulation, contradiction), the Polish absurdist Witold Gombrowicz, particularly in his story “Lawyer Kraykowski’s Dancer.” (In “Uncle Boris,” one character receives a casino pay-out in zlotys, the Polish currency).
The number of literary allusions systematically grows, as do the throwbacks to Glover’s own works. In “Savage Love,” the conflict reaches a tipping point in which Ona and Shelby appear to exchange identities (are they one person?), and in a supermarket aisle, the neurotic duo somehow incites a mock wedding, a ludicrous and cheery spectacle that throws a wrench in the ruinous cycle of the plot. In Glover’s second novel, The South Will Rise at Noon, a reenactment of a Civil War battle works a similar magic, overspilling its artificial boundaries, piercing the fourth wall and effecting real consequences for the characters.
Savage Love is rich, even saturated, with this kind of artistic déjà vu. From the callbacks to his past works (and the uncanny recurrence of design principles in the collection), we might simply conclude that, after decades of innovation and stylistic ventriloquism, Glover has found, for now, his favored métier. And the literary allusions might merely reflect Glover’s postmodern taste for the textual remix, an impulsive sampling, which would be consistent with his enthusiasm for hybridity and mongrel forms (a notional lycanthropy haunts Savage Love, as various characters act like dogs: “Arf, woof,” goes little Megan Strehle in “Shameless.”) But something more profound might underlie these aesthetic backward glances: by such measures, Glover’s stories cross into the territory of both textual autobiography and literary criticism, another form of generic hybridity. As he assimilates those artistic landmarks, impressing them with the stamp of his new-forged Canadian cool, he exposes some latent meaning that they all hold in common.
Bay the Moon
At this point, even the collection’s weaker stories begin to clamor for a closer look. Take the flimsy “Prelude,” for example, in which a man suffers chronic insomnia due to his inordinate fear of death, and thus hallucinates the presence of lewd and beastly dancers on his lawn. The story is so slight that it doesn’t quite convince readers of the man’s delusions; it’s like foreplay that progresses abruptly from a nuzzle to a grope. Yet on closer inspection, we find that the tale depends for its power on a single word: the narrator describes, Phoenix Prill, “the girl from hospice” who attends him, and in the icy terminus of that last noun, we hear the vast unwritten of the text. For this narrator death is, in fact, an imminent reality: call it a depth charge in the shallows of this truncated narrative. Likewise, the fuller story “A Paranormal Romance” is creaky with literary clichés — a decrepit Parisian bookstore proprietor foists on the narrator a tome of old poems that contains a romantic note, which engenders a spectral encounter (or a wrinkle in time) — but it, too, might yield a parable, eerily ambivalent, about the birth of the writer and the power of literature.  
Strange is the book that invites you to quibble with its triumphs and vindicate its miscues: perhaps this response derives from prolonged exposure to the text’s paradoxical climate. However, in the collection’s last story, “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night,” Glover lays aside all of his dazzling stylistic mannerisms, all of the brilliant, mad-scientist-in-the-laboratory-of-narrative excesses, and he elects to tell the story straight, muting the ludic repetitions, turning down the volume on the artifice until only a few quiet refrains survive, most resonantly the title phrase itself. (May it go viral, become a meme, a cultural shibboleth for like-minded pilgrims.) Another narrator, this one an ABD Proust scholar, embarks on an adulterous affair with his bohemian neighbor Geills, blue-haired and tattooed, the owner of the dog whose nightly barking disrupts the narrator’s work routine; at one point, she deadpans hilariously, “Is there a French word for ‘Lick my butthole and I’ll be yours for life’?” When the narrator’s wife kicks him out of the house, he moves into his rental unit at a storage facility, which he discovers to be a shantytown for the displaced and the dispossessed (see, if not now, then very soon, Glover’s “A Man in a Box,” from A Guide to Animal Behaviour).
Glover keeps the prose in this story on a short leash; the voice scans as a subdued lyricism or unaffected melancholy from which the narrator meditates on the doubtful pleasures and certain pains of desire. In the wake of their first tryst, Geills attempts suicide (almost cheerfully), and the narrator visits her in the hospital, fondles her posterior through her open-at-the-back gown, but eventually effects her release from the ward. On the cab ride home, the two have sex in the backseat, which prompts the narrator to observe:
She wore an expression that was both sad and beautiful, lorn from absence, from the knowledge that whatever happened between us, it would end badly, that all love ended badly, that we would one day part out of boredom or disgust, or that we would grow old and not be the people we were this minute, or that one or both of us would die and the electric liquid thing that was passing between us would dissipate in the ether. I caught her mood; the moment was worth any loss, any excess.
The narrator’s predicament bears all the signs of a downward spiral. But then, inexplicably, the wheels of fortune turn again, and the story slides to its conclusion, a dinner party in Geills’s tiny apartment, where the whole cast reunites: the narrator’s college students, his boss, the guys from the storage facility, the estranged wife, even the cab driver who ferried Geills and the narrator home from the hospital. Everyone except Geills, that is; only her dog, collared at last, stands in for her as a substitute. This final scene appears to eventuate more from the need for artistic cohesion than from any causal impetus in the plot; it’s like an access of joy in the artifice of narrative, and an overflow of love as old antagonisms are buried in a spirit of charity and grace. This mood is contagious, too. The collection comes to its close with a tranquil echo of Joyce’s Molly Bloom, as the narrator, facing the future beyond the text, offers the concluding benediction, these last words: “I thought, Okay. I thought, Affirmative. I thought, Yes. And then I thought again, Yes. Yes.”
This story distills most clearly the conflict that reverberates throughout the book. It’s a Shklovskian quest to recover the sensation of life, to experience some contact with the Real, instead of the debased epiphenomena of the social construct. As the narrator in “Pointless” puts it, speaking for most of the book’s frazzled residents, “habit is the death of the heart,” the antithesis of metaphysical truth. In yet another trenchant essay from Attack of the Copula Spiders, called “Don Quixote, Rosemary’s Baby, Alien, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” Glover summarizes by indirection the essence of Savage Love: “each of these works is about a discourse of normality, of social tranquility, smashed by the eruption of an alien force.” This “eruption of the Real” often takes the form of “uncontrolled sexual desire,” especially in women who are frequently cast as those “monster[s] of outlaw desire on the loose.” Viewed in this context, Glover’s stories might court successfully the feminist audience that he risks alienating with his almost cartoonishly randy female characters (lovers masturbate each other in public parks, one wife has sex with her brothers-in-law at family functions, etc.). Moreover, when Glover writes, “humdrum reality is actually an illness and things we normally think of as illness are perhaps hints of something more healthy going on,” the line speaks directly to the crisis in “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night,” where the dog’s aggravating behavior triggers the narrator’s metaphysical redemption. The very pointlessness of the barking—a sign of, if not illness, then aberration—is precisely what recommends it, precisely why the narrator, in a drug-addled bacchanalia, himself takes up the song, baying irrationally in the night. It’s the antidote to a routinized existence.
In this light, Savage Love seems increasingly to be both an exceptionally masterful story collection and a heterodox kind of novel. In the end, the assembled texts might not offer any coherent strategy, some simple, rationally progressing how-to for the attainment of this beleaguered nirvana. While extremes of sex and violence serve most often as the portal, it would be unwise to define these terms too narrowly. For example, that the catalyst in “Pointless” is Geills and her transgressive sexuality (an analogue of the dog’s barking: two signs for the same referrent) doesn’t mean that Glover is idealizing this particular counter-cultural posture. Rather, the stories seem to choose from what’s available, to compose existential juxtapositions that are the only means of articulating or approximating this contact with the ineffable. And each story then examines this metaphysical problem from different angles, in texts of various cut, with shifting dimensions and temporal frames, reconfiguring the archetypal quest again and again.
The genealogy for this aesthetic vision also traces back to Arthur Schopenhauer, as Glover points out in his essay on Bernhard, “A Scrupulous Fidelity”: he cites “Schopenhauer’s notion that art itself is the intermediary between the supra-sensory and the merely human, that in creating or correctly appreciating great art we enter an eternal realm of Platonic Ideas (Beauty, God, or even Being in Heidegger’s sense) and leave the tawdry realm of existence behind.” Again, I’m not sure that Glover would prosecute narrowly that emphasis on the “correct appreciation of art”; however, given that the title of “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night” is itself identical to the dog’s aberrant behavior, Glover does suggest that literature, like kinky sex and graphic violence (or forensic archeology or fatherhood), might also be a conduit for that experience of the other, the true, the Real. It does a reader good to think so, anyway.
Daedalian Artifice
Surely, all of this — the technical mastery, the poignantly infarcted lives, the quiet music of the prose, the thematic heft — should suffice to compel the attention of any North American reader. Lumps and all, Savage Love is a virtuoso performance, an apt successor to the prize-winning Elle, further proof of Glover’s spoon-bending formal genius, as well as his almost clinical facility with our emotional G-spots, which he targets in surprising, off-kilter ways. But there is, as it happens, even more going on in Savage Love, because ALL of the stories are laced, charged, almost subliminally, with cross-references, echoes and reflections of images and motifs. What do we make of the fact that the poet Fishbein, in the Microstory that bears his name, gashes his head in a bathroom just like a young girl in “Light Trending to Dark”? That the child skeleton in “The Sun Lord” reminds us of the mermaid preserved under glass in “Splash”? That both the narrator in “Pointless” and Megan Strehle in “Shameless” bark like dogs, one apparently humiliated by the act, the other exalted? That another character in “Pointless” professes her love in the same self-abasing terms as the time-slipping inamorata of “A Paranormal Romance”? That dogs run amok across the collection’s pages?
The instances multiply, never so obtrusive as to derail the local narrative but recurring relentlessly in the margins of every tale. They start to peak at the collection’s midpoint, in “A Flame, a Burst of Light,” the other historical fiction on hand. As a party of 1812 Canadian-Briton soldiers tends its wounded, the characters find themselves stalled out in the borderland between life and death; it’s a hazy, mostly arc-less, decentered story, which features amputations, like “Tristiana,” Indian mounds, like “The Sun Lord,” and one reference to a “whore on a basement cot” that points forward to “Shameless.” Then, after we venture through the forking paths of the “Microstories,” we find the patterns, the images and motifs, resurfacing again in denser constellations in the “Comedies,” until at last, in “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night,” we discover that the entire collection is, like “Crown of Thorns” and “Shameless,” pregnant with its own inception: most strikingly, Geills’ accommodating derrière in the hospital gown evokes the beastly dancer at the dawn, in a “white Communion frock burst at the seams,” who “[offers] her backside to the males.” The book’s cover art, with its lycanthropic metastasis of wolf and human anatomies, appears to offer, generously, beautifully, the skeleton key to the text’s involuted design. Call it a “vertiginous experience,” to borrow a phrase from Ona Frame.
Other story collections from Winesburg, Ohio to The Book of Laughter and Forgetting have sought, in one way or another, to achieve an artistic unity, but the closest antecedent to Glover’s achievement is Joyce’s Dubliners, which is similarly crosshatched with images and motifs in a Daedalian labyrinth of references. This is more than aesthetic frippery. In some cases, such interconnections invite us to rethink our responses to individual texts (in Joyce’s book, I submit, the artifice punctures the famous epiphany at the close of “The Dead”). Consider that in “A Flame, a Burst of Light,” the narrator references the whore in the basement as a metaphor for death itself; by implication (or association), the corollary experience of Rachlin Roohan’s embrace becomes laced with necrophilia. Eros intertwines with Thanatos by the back door, too.
Yet even if such patterning were merely cosmetic, it would still detonate an experience of the sublime — a scalding vision, breathtaking, this lateral smearing of consciousness across the varied space-times of the narratives (technically, the word for this is ecstasy). Why should this be so exhilarating? Does it merely flatter the reader’s intelligence, tendering a delayed reward in the cutthroat economics of attention? Is it possibly a punishment, visiting upon readers the self-destructive predicament of Tobin Thorn? Or is there some grace inhering in this literary pattern-recognition, with Tobin counting among the blessed? Here’s my theory, call it an intimation: in such densely reticulated texts, such richly patterned lives, we might find tangible evidence, some palpable assurance, that everything counts — that every particle of experience has the potential to resonate, some immanent staying power that keeps it from vanishing out the window of consciousness and being. In this light, the technique would supply a Proustian antidote to temporality, arguing for a kind of phenomenological object-permanence, the only immortality that human beings can know. Suffice it to say that the spirit of the artistry in Savage Love is ultimately infused with the same charity and affection that obtains in the dinner party at the conclusion of “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night.” Maybe it doesn’t quite make sense, but it still feels like home. In this oblique way, too, art appears to offer possibilities of transcendence, an experience of alterity that redeems us, however fleetingly, from the deadening scripts of human nature and culture.
While the unity of Savage Love is its crowning glory, I reserve a special affection for just one small piece, the story that seems most like an outlier in the collection’s shimmering matrix. In “The Lost Language of Ng,” Glover engages in genre dissimulation (shades of Borges?); the text reads as a parody of an academic article, complete with jokey parenthetical citations, about the death of Trqba, the last speaker of Ng, an atavistic language “Whose every word is poetry,” and which, if spoken, would put an immediate end to the universe. Trqba’s life progresses much like those of the other questing philanderers (or horndogs) in Savage Love, and the story concludes with the revelation that, on his deathbed, he began speaking in an unrecognizable language. A botched recording survives on YouTube. While the universe hasn’t ostensibly collapsed, the story suggests in its style that maybe, in fact, it has — maybe that rawer, phallocentric and ludicrous world of the Ng Real has retreated irrecoverably, and all that remains is the impoverished linguistic world of the text: a chilly place of reason and humor and exposition, but bereft of poetry. The story is at once absurd and profound, a heady combination, and it holds out the promise of new horizons in Glover’s fiction, suggesting that, from such back-tilted material, further treasures can be wrought. Maybe best of all, Trqba’s last words offer a fit vantage point from which to contemplate the whole of Savage Love: the book contains abundant evidence to belie the Ng apocalypse. For those with ears to hear them, the dogs are barking still. - Bruce Stone


It might seem like a fool’s errand to pick a fight with George Orwell. In his famous essay Why I Write, Orwell argued that the best prose comes from the strenuous work of effacing personality so that it seems transparent. “Good prose is like a window pane,” was Orwell’s pithy summary of his ideal.
Orwell’s slogan has a deceptive plausibility, but is actually more fitting for journalism, the field where he did his best work, than for imaginative literature. The most intense fiction and poetry is rarely transparent. Rather, the liveliest writing tends to resemble paintings or stained-glass windows or even circus posters. Powerful prose has colour, style, personality and panache. Against Orwell’s goal of lucid plainness stand countless great writers, perhaps chief among them Vladimir Nabokov, whose sentences emulated the vividness of a butterfly’s wing.
Douglas Glover is a distinguished member of the tribe of Nabokov. Glover is as gifted a writer as Canada has ever produced and the source of his strength is the ferocious quirkiness of his sentences.
Glover’s new story collection, Savage Love, is an astonishing book only partly because of the loopy and incessant inventiveness of his narratives. The 22 stories range daringly in space and time, taking us from a stomach-turning battle scene during the War of 1812 to a contemporary farm family whose sheer wackiness, condensed into 25 pages, puts to shame any eccentric clan one can think of, whether it be J.D. Salinger’s Glass family or Wes Anderson’s Tenenbaums.
These stories are rich in plot, full of love triangles, murders and descents into madness. The appalling events Glover describes might, in the hands of a lesser writer, seem like mere attention-grabbing sensationalism. Yet his stories leave a genuine emotional scar, because the words he uses are sharp enough to claw into us.
In the first story in the book, we’re told of an Idaho farmer in 1869 doing battle with a savage winter: “The snow surprised him. Snow choked the passes, interred the arid creek beds and dry washes under a mortuary sheet, muffled the canyons of the pine tips, buried his traps, buried his hut, his pole barn, his stock. He started killing the lambs, stuffing their skins in the cracks between the sappy logs. Then he kilt the ewes, one by one, then he kilt the rams, then he kilt the ox and the riding mule, which was starving also. Then he kilt his wife. And then his dog, regretting of the dog more than the rest because it was a pure Tennessee Plott hound. Then he resigned himself to death, composed his body beneath a pile of frozen sheepskins in a corner, and waited. He wasn’t defeated, he told himself, only indignant at the sudden wolfishness in the weather, which had descended without warning in the prospectus of his westward dreams.”
As we read these sentences, horrifying as they are, we know we’re in the hands of a master writer, one who can sure-footedly walk us through the most difficult terrain. The ornery murderousness of the main character is quickly established by five monosyllabic words (“then he kilt his wife”), period dialect (“kilt”) is sparingly but effectively deployed, and there is a confident movement from specific details (“frozen sheepskins”) to a more flighty abstract language of desire (“the prospectus of his westward dreams”).
As against the disquieting brutality of this passage, consider Glover’s lighthearted description of two lovebirds, named Laurette and Tamas, who live in vegan organic farming co-op: “They would often embarrass other members of the co-op by making love in the field rows or behind a hay rick or beside an open window on moonlit nights, their cries of joy setting off mysterious vibrations in the listener, inspiring laughter, lust, and the desire for fat babies. But the co-op prospered, cheerful children gambolled in the vegetable patches, the Brussels spouts and cabbages won prizes in the state fair, and tour buses brought doting crowds of vegan initiates to browse in the fields, where sometimes they caught a glimpse of Laurette and Tamas scampering naked or felt the pulse of their seismic lovemaking.”
Glover’s earlier collection 16 Categories of Desire was obsessed with the failure of love, with breakups that caused ardour to turn to hate. This theme recurs in the new collection, but it is counterbalanced by a renewed respect for the robustness of passion, for the way that we continue to search for love even after repeated disappointments.
In telling his stories of the ferocious resilience of love, Glover wisely does not write prose that is like a window pane. Blessedly, he writes the best way possible: fiercely, idiosyncratically and lovingly.
- Jeet Heer

“…demands comparison to McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner.” Music and Literature

Savage Love remains one of the strongest, most refreshing short fiction collections of 2013″ backlisted

“This is the kind of audacious work our literary juries should be acknowledging. Where were they on this one?” Now Magazine




Douglas Glover, Bad News of the Heart, Dalkey Archive Press, 2003


A seeing-eye dog leads a blind man into a frozen river, a southern Baptist loses his memory and finds true love in Bel Air, an obese dot.com executive has "anorgasmic" latex sex with her CEO, and a homeless man in New York creates an intellectual universe based on Post-it notes stuck to the inside of his cardboard box shelter--Douglas Glover's stories are wildly inventive, deadpan comedies of our universal human catastrophe. They are sly, demanding and wise--stories about language, desire and love (in a very dark place). The humor veers from the wry and sardonic to the salacious, mordant and playful. And always there are moments of such stark emotional intimacy that the reader slides, almost without noticing, from laughter to lament.


“Sad, sexy, and significant.” (starred review, Kirkus Reviews)


“The twelve stories in this uncompromising and superbly artful collection are so varied that it’s sometimes difficult to believe they were written by the same author. One story, for example, begins with a first line of “A woman followed me home to my box today, claiming to be my wife,” and another ends with “At our backs, I still heard the ghostly hiss of money like the beating of a billion unseen wings, but Harley insisted it was just the wind in the pines.” I’ve read few story collections that are as thematically and structurally diverse. The emotional world the stories in Bad News of the Heart unveil, however, is similar: It’s a haunted place full of dark moral ambiguities. Douglas Glover’s remarkable ear and his gift for the vivifying detail are what make the stories in this collection so resonant; his character details are exceptionally well chosen, in fact, that I don’t really know where to begin. (“To keep in shape, I do daily workouts with an S & W .357″ from the bellicose little “A Guide to Animal Behavior” is probably my favorite.) A story like the brilliant, forbidding “Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon” possesses so much intelligence and contains so many layers that it pierces the heart. A book to be read, and reread, and savored.” (Adrienne Miller in Esquire)


“These stories operate on a level language can’t touch, which is perhaps why Glover’s narrators are doomed to bemoan the impossibility of squaring the written story with the known story, the heart’s story.” (Katherine Preusser in The Stranger)


“Glover has a delightful epigrammatic flair (“Hell, our army won’t even consider fighting a country where the people can afford shoes anymore”; “My wife and I decide to separate, and then suddenly we are almost happy together”) and a startlingly prescient take on affairs of the heart.” (Publishers Weekly)


“His language is crisp, taut, and true, and he ought to be read in the context of Beckett and Cortázar.” (Frederick Busch)

“These inventive, darkly funny stories move between the poles of sex and death” (Andrea Barrett)
I tell her about the man who held me in a closet for eight years against my will, the time in the hospital, the girl I loved who died of anthrax, the accident with the car when I had no insurance and had to pay off the kid’s medical bills holding down three jobs and how he used to come around in that custom wheelchair and taunt me, about my time in ‘Nam, my self-esteem problems, the hole in my nose from drugs, my bladder spasms. . . . (State of the Nation)

….candles all around, the two werewolf women, melancholy with their desires, giving me the eye, horses everywhere I looked, some of them with the little numbers showing through the paint; it seemed utterly dark and human, a story of love, bad news of the heart. And I knew I was going to be the one to go back to the ward for this because inside the machine called Hugo Tangent there was an ON/OFF switch which went click when things got too painful or confusing. I wasn’t worried about this. I was just waiting for the click. (Bad News of the Heart)


16 Categories of Desire
Douglas Glover, 16 Categories of Desire, Goose Lane Editions, 2000.


Douglas Glover's collection of stories mezmerizes like no other. A sheer tour-de-force, the collection features eleven new stories that demonstrate that Glover is capable of writing like no other writer. Like a good Beatles album, the collection includes Glover's best new stories, linked only by the quality of the writing. The stories are wide ranging examples of fine, often comic, writing.
"The Left Ladies Club" is about a man who leaves teaching to become a writer, giving himself licence to live the bohemian life. In Glover's merciless portrayal, the Ragged Point literary scene consists of the sorriest bunch of excuse-mongering losers you'll ever encounter.
In "La Corriveau" (;ref: the Siren of Quebec who murdered her husband and was later hanged in an iron cage above a crossroads);, an Anglo woman awakens to find a dead man (;presumably a francophone); in her bed. In a hilarious turn-of-events, the female narrator, who cannot at first even remember the man's name nor how they happened to share the same bed, conceives of ways to hide the body in plain sight, while narrating the political implications of her circumstances interplayed with details from popular culture and Quebec history. In "Lunar Sensitivities," a mathematician and a scientist compete for the attention of a beautiful woman; in "Abrupt Extinctions at the End of the Cretaceous," dinosaurs compete for love and life. In both stories, love does everything but triumph. Ranging over time from pre-history to the present, from the American South to the Canadian North, Douglas Glover maps the heart in all its passion, valour, ineptitude, and vulnerability. Occasionally scabrous, horrifically funny, intermittently appalling, and wildly erotic, the stories in this collection bring to life a world in time, irony and desire prevail.


“Every sentence and every paragraph pulse with energy . . . We can read and re-read the stories with pleasure because of that verbal energy, that sense of humour, that sharpness of style and observation — and the occasional moment of genuine pathos.” (The Toronto Star)


“Language dancing to a sardonic tune . . . [The characters’] world has a ghostly, insubstantial feel to it — a tribute to Glover’s ability to capture the feel of our current environment, one in which Marshall McLuhan’s ‘discarnate man’ flourishes with sad abandon.” (Philip Marchand)

“Saturated in irony, humour, and philosophical ripostes, 16 Categories of Desire is an affectionate slap in the face, a kiss that draws blood . . . There is not a weak story among them, and each has its own rambunctious internal logic . . . One of our most original and challenging writers. He has the linguistic and philosophical scaffolding to create stories that are truly raucous wonders. They manage to keep the reader thinking and laughing and lamenting, sometimes all simultaneously.” (Globe and Mail)


“A delightful and entertaining book about the pain of lost love . . . Glover’s disconcerting power as a writer comes from the fact that he can quickly and effortlessly shift from cartoon comedy to emotional intimacy . . . Pain and love are the twin gods that rule Glover’s universe.” (The National Post)


“We are left with the mystery that the same impulses that draw people together can also pull them apart. Yet the myriad characters that act out these impulses remain in our minds since they are so wonderfully energized by Glover’s lively prose and ever surprising storytelling.” (The National Post)


“With his much-praised novel, The Life and Times of Captain N. (1993), Glover emerged as an important Canadian writer. These stories only add to his stature.” (The National Post)

“So rich are Glover’s talent and compassion that the conflicts intersect and multiply. Sex and death — their promise and threat — tangle and release in equal, debauched measure . . . Glover explores via intellect and flaunts his profound understanding and acceptance of all human desires. Glover proves what can happen when an artist cares and then takes time: hefty stories, awfully good.” (Quill & Quire, starred review)


“Douglas Glover’s characters range from the flailingly psychotic to the flatly honest, the desperately sad to the gleefully repressed . . . 16 Categories of Desire offers so much in the way of inventiveness and outright skill, I’d recommend not only this latest collection, but a look at his other work as well.” (Review of Contemporary Fiction)


“A deeply meditative book that dares to shine a light under the sheets of desire — by turns disturbing and exciting. Glover has marked out his turf among his contemporaries as a writer who bravely transforms the stuff of lurid headlines, therapists’ couches, and court dockets into high art.” (The Kitchener-Waterloo Record)


“This collection of 11 stories is uniformly strong, each deftly written and laced with withering insights into the unremitting strangeness of human desire . . . 11 portions to be savoured . . . tough and honest stories, stories that posit that we all have a heart made up of equal parts darkness and light.” (The Daily Gleaner)

“You will laugh, you will squirm, you will probably nod your head, and at the conclusion you may just have to agree with Sister Mary in the title story: “there ain’t no end to desire.” (Pottersfield Portfolio)


“The author of these 11 stories writes with great passion. He locks the reader into a shameless voyeuristic gaze, compelling us to look upon the lives of the bitterly destroyed . . . Glover has an enviable talent. His intellectually complex stories invite rereading.” (Canadian Book Review Annual)


“Desire leaps off the page — it’s not uncomplicated, but there is no mistaking it.” (Claire Wilkshire, Canadian Literature)


on “The Left Ladies Club” — “Hilarious yet sobering . . . Ratfinking on the literary mystique, Glover has produced a literary gem.” (Val Ross, Globe and Mail)



Douglas Glover, A Guide to Animal Behaviour, Goose Lane Editions, 2013.

A Guide to Animal Behaviour is a stunning collection of stories by an author who is fast becoming one of the great, innovative story writers of his generation. Following on the heels of his widely acclaimed comic novel, The South Will Rise at Noon, Douglas Glover’s new collection smashes all the fictional moulds. Urbane, stylish, and off-beat, the stories in this collection touch the lives of an astonishing array of characters whose common experience is of a world that is wayward yet full of marvels: a born-again Christian from Kentucky who loses his memory and ends up finding true love in glitzy Bel Air; two women who fall in love only to be parted when one dies of cancer; a man who goes to live in a cardboard box when his wife leaves him for the manager of a Toys R Us store; an eighteenth-century Canadian pioneer who believes he is being persecuted by witches. This is sophisticated fiction at its best. A maximalist writer of ideas, he packs his sentences with energy, exuberant imagery and amazing turns of thought.


“Defines the word ‘mercurial’ in its finest sense — fast, eloquent, shrewd, and impish, like the Roman messenger of the gods.” (Globe & Mail)


“There is an admirable breadth of imagination here . . . without any wavering of Glover’s sure touch, and each character and situation is examined with an intelligence that borders on brilliance.” (Books in Canada)


“One of the most consistently inventive collections to appear in a long time.” (Montreal Gazette)


“Glover’s style is crisp and precise, his observations chillingly perceptive and satirically biting.” (Vancouver Sun)

“A very good writer, one of Canada’s best, because of his ability to round up humour, voice, poetic insight, and bombastic imagination, and corral them harmoniously in one story.” (Halifax Daily News)


“Glover’s penetrating insight, inventiveness, and quick mood changes explore the ephemeral nature of the self, often in danger of disintegrating in the reality of human suffering.” (Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature)


“Nothing can prepare a reader for the range and depth of the talent that is revealed in the collection . . . Glover makes that mystery [of existence] even more mysterious, and he does so with wit and amazing leaps of imagination . . . A kind of alternative universe, or at least the same universe from unusual perspectives.” (Event)


“Breathtaking diversity . . . masterly delineation of character . . . full of enduring and honest insight. You never know where you are with Douglas Glover. As soon as you think you’re on safe ground, he undermines your sense of complacency and security — the mark of a fine writer.” (Canadian Book Review Annual)


“Incredible versatility and range . . . A wonderfully dry humour . . . a very good book.  (Bill Gaston, Fiddlehead)


“Glover’s carefully constructed and cleanly written stories are a pleasure to read, and evidence of an awareness of the human condition, with all its dissolution and despair, that is ultimately hopeful.” (Canadian Forum)


“As hilarious and as original as it [is] entertaining to read . . . [Glover] is surely one of the most exciting young talents in this country today.”  (The Western Star, Cornerbrook NF)




Douglas Glover, Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon, Talonbooks, 1985.


Douglas Glover is at his versatile best in this new collection of short stories. Urbane, stylish and slightly off-beat, the stories touch on the lives of a wide variety of human beings, whose only shared experience is the age in which they happen to meet: an abbot and a tramp sharing a seat on a Mexican train, a retarded farm boy and his incontinent dog, alienated singles in the American southwest, North Americans living—and dying—in an Indian ashram.


“A story like the brilliant, forbidding ‘Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon’ possesses so much intelligence and contains so many layers that it pierces the heart.” (Adrienne Miller at Esquire)


“A writer of some of the most extraordinary short stories in English Canada today.” (CBC State of the Arts)


“Glover is preoccupied with the complicated interweavings of good and evil, and he juggles language superbly.” (Globe and Mail)


“He is a very nervy writer, the kind who does not play safe and shoots at whatever moon he allows himself to aim it.” (The Toronto Star)


“Glover…seeks to combine a metaphysical approach and style with the nitty-gritty details of daily life. It works.” (Books in Canada)

“…it seems best to highlight the story (“There Might Be Angels”) written by Ontario-born Douglas Glover, who takes his CanLit background abroad both literally and figuratively to study and challenge the traditions of classical literature. His contribution begins as a railway encounter between an aging, comfortable abbot and a tramp, a set piece that exceeds the expectations inherited from both canon and context several times over – providing a brief but convincing case for the value of homegrown talent in a context of longer ages and wider places.” (Marc  Christensen at The Malahat Review)


Literary Press Group Writer’s Choice Award.



Douglas Glover, Mad River, Black Moss Press, 1990.             


First story collection, currently Out of Print.
“Douglas Glover has produced a stunner.” (Joan Barfoot in The London Free Press)






Douglas Glover, Attack of the Copula Spiders: Essays on Writing, Biblioasis, 2012.


“Glover is a master of narrative structure.”—Wall Street Journal

In the tradition of E.M. Forster, John Gardner, and James Wood, Douglas Glover has produced a book on writing at once erudite, anecdotal, instructive, and amusing. Attack of the Copula Spiders represents the accumulated wisdom of a remarkable literary career: novelist, short story writer, essayist, teacher and mentor, Glover has for decades been asking the vital questions. How does the way we read influence the way we write? What do craft books fail to teach aspiring writers about theme, about plot and subplot, about constructing point of view? How can we maintain drama on the level of the sentence—and explain drama in the sentences of others? What is the relationship of form and art? How do you make words live?
Whether his subject is Alice Munro, Cervantes, or the creative writing classroom, Glover’s take is frank and fresh, demonstrating again and again that graceful writers must first be strong readers. This collection is a call-to-arms for all lovers of English, and Attack of the Copula Spiders our best defense against the assaults of a post-literate age.

 
“…every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.” (Globe and Mail)


“This is not literary craft reduced to statistical formulae and write-by-the-numbers word-bytes. Glover’s admirable ability and patient willingness to cast a careful—not cold—eye on what makes sentences hum and flow is fueled by a vital, infectious fascination with words, enabling him to reveal the inspired, alchemical, verbal concatenation at work in the most alluring and memorable fiction writing.” (Review of Contemporary Fiction)

 
“Close reading doesn’t get much better than this.” (Chapman/Chapman’s Favorite Longreads of 2012)

 
“…Glover, like a physicist dissecting atoms, breaks down the prose of several great writers of the past few decades. A successful fiction writer in his own right, he wants not only to identify the techniques of stylists such as Alice Munro, Mark Anthony Jarman, and Thomas Bernhard, but to understand the grand logic behind the structures, the God-like plans that such geniuses hatch to produce their greatest works.” (The Los Angeles Review)

 
Attack of the Copula Spiders is a practical guide for anyone interested in writing. Glover’s first chapter, “How To Write A Novel,” alone is worth the price of the book.  (Telegraph Journal SalonBooks)

 
“These essays are not just for writing students, however. Whatever heightens student awareness of craft also sharpens the awareness of the general reader who has no desire to try his or her hand at writing but would like better to understand literature. Glover has an essay on Alice Munro that is of value to any short story writer but also should be required reading for anyone interested in Canadian fiction.” (Philip Marchand in the National Post)

 
“You should have a look at Douglas Glover on what may be the Mexican classic, Pedro Paramo, which was once described to me as “Mexico’s Joyce.” (The essay appears in Glover’s recent Attack of the Copula Spiders, which looks to be a great book of literary essays.)”  (Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading)

 

“Thoughtful and erudite books such as Attack of the Copula Spiders are always useful as roadmaps for developing better readers and writers. Now if we could only get the world to read them carefully.” (George Fetherling in Quill and Quire)


Douglas Glover, The Enamoured Knight, Oberon Press, 2004.


This book is filled with passion and love for the art of writing and is a celebration of reading. Through the prism of the great Russian Formalist Viktor Shklovsky, Douglas Glover provides a scrupulous reading of Cervantes's Don Quixote, opening this 400-year-old Spanish masterpiece to a new generation of readers, showing how Cervantes made his novel, and, finally, revealing how we as readers participate in his magic creation. Glover's brilliant accomplishment resides in his ability to seduce the reader with his own stunning prose and penetrating insight, while also creating the means for anyone to see into Cervantes's genius.

“Writing of Don Quixote as a template for the ambitious novelist, Glover emphasizes that the novel has followed not one but a number of trajectories; that while one kind of novel has trudged along the path of conventional realism, an alternate tradition has gone skipping merrily up the path of self-consciousness, complexity, elaboration, and playfulness — seating himself firmly on that side of the aisle.
“Much of what he has to say about Cervantes’s novel quite naturally reflects Glover’s questioning and growing awareness of the thrust of his own writing, writing ’tilted toward the foregrounding of repetitive structures’ in which ‘nothing is taken for granted and all thought is conjectural rather than descriptive.’ He came into his own as a writer, he says, with the realization that literature’s goal was not some reductive truth but ‘a vision of complexity, an endless forging of connections which opens outward into mystery.’



Cervantes's great novel, Don Quixote, has drawn the attention of writers such as Nabokov (who called it cruel) and Dostoyevski (who famously declared it "the saddest book ever written"). In this testament to his love of Cervantes's work, Glover, a novelist and short story writer (Elle), offers an entirely sympathetic reading, in which no criticism (even Nabokov's) can withstand the claim of Cervantes's genius. The book's weakness lies in its structure: Glover can't seem to decide whether he wanted to write a book about literature and reading in which Don Quixote is the exemplar, or a treatment of Don Quixote that glances at literary theory along the way. As a result, his thesis never really coheres, and the reader is bombarded with extraneous descriptions of the many forms of humor available to a writer and the different ways to identify the novel form itself, from realist to romantic to "easy going." Still, the book contains beautiful insights into the characters and methods that animate both Don Quixote and the writing (and reading) experience, from the claim that Cervantes challenged the very notion of realism in fiction to observations about the ways in which desire functions in the production of all novels. - Publishers Weekly

 “Little wonder that Douglas Glover, with his love of mystery, artifice, and complexity — with his tales of people in whose lives at one and the same time nothing, and everything, seem to happen — should find himself drawn to chaotic, half-crazed, cruel, comic Don Quixote. The wonder is that we have, as a result, this amazing book.” (James Sallis at The Boston Globe)

“…Glover invents his own contemporary formalist mode, one that is informed by Lacan, Zizek, and Foucault, draws heavily on Anne Carson and Viktor Shklovsky, spars with Nabokov, revisits Northrop Frye, and seems more interested in the Bakhtin of Rabelais and his World than of The Dialogic Imagination. The Enchanted Knight is not a strict New Critical ‘close reading,’ but a self-conscious assembly of critical approaches and theories that nonetheless places formalist analysis at the center of its project. It results in a reading of Cervantes that is eclectic, personal, scholarly, and smart, and that suggests, I think, a direction for future literary criticism to take.” (Martin Ryker at The Denver Quarterly)



“Douglas Glover’s extended meditation on Don Quixote, The Enamoured Knight, is simply packed to the brim with marvellous stuff. Not only does he lovingly and with great thoughtfulness delve into the richness of Cervantes’ masterwork, which is celebrating its 400th birthday this year, but he takes readers on a wonderful tour of critical perspectives on Don Quixote.


“Glover also appraises the form of the novel itself, with a little help from Ian Watt, Mikhail Bakhtin, Milan Kundera, and Northrop Frye, amongst others. He then studies the nature of Cervantes’ brilliant uses of humour (with great humour himself, finding seven types including verbal dialogic, reverse-trend, situational, slapstick, Rabelaisian, and parodic), ponders the question of what it means to be a reader and how readers interact with written texts, and contemplates the effects Don Quixote has had on world literature.
“Glover approaches his subject with such care, investigating the book’s complex Chinese box structure, and the development of the character of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho Panza. He finds interesting parallels between the novel and Alice Munro’s short story ‘Meneseteung,’ as well as other novels as diverse as Mansfield Park, Heart of Darkness, Anna Karenina, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and The Accidental Tourist.
“In doing so, Glover asks us to ask ourselves questions about how we read Don Quixote and why. Is this a work of comic genius? Is it about the defeat of fantasy by realism or the human spirit persevering in the face of harsh reality? What is most satisfying about The Enamoured Knight is its ability to convey Glover’s utter fascination for Don Quixote. His love for the novel comes across with a freshness and liveliness that makes for riveting reading.” (Jeffrey Canton at Quill and Quire)


“Even though my initial reading of Don Quixote is past, I find myself with the Ingenious Gentleman as part of my consciousness and besides returning for re-reading pilgrimages into the text, à la Faulkner, there are a few books, this one as well as Meditations on Quixote, by José Ortega Y Gassett, that I think are wholly worthwhile and enjoyable reads, both for their subject and the fact that their application transcends the topic at hand. The Enamoured Knight is brief, accessible, and an excellent introduction to and consideration of Don Quixote.” (Bud Parr on his website Chekhov’s Mistress, now sadly defunct)



Douglas Glover, Notes Home from a Prodigal Son, Oberon Press, 1999.

In this new book Douglas Glover includes essays on Christa Wolf, Margaret Atwood, Leonard Cohen, and Hubert Aquin; three interviews and a memoir; and three considerations of the nature of fiction and one on comedy. In them, he establishes paternity, explanations and justification for the non-narrative novel, what Glover refers to in one essay title as the novel as poem. Again and again he cites John Hawkes’s much-quoted remark that the enemies of the novel are “plot, character, setting, and theme.” And he rounds up the usual suspects in marshalling his arguments: Nabokov, Paul Valery, Samuel Beckett, Victor Shklovsky. This kind of writer, Glover argues, chooses less than he is chosen. Writing becomes an act of survival, if it is even, ever, that: “Christa Wolf is hiding in California, living the life of one of her own characters, hounded out of Germany for being politically incorrect. Leonard Cohen stopped writing novels after Beautiful Losers. And Hubert Aquin killed himself. Exile, silence and death, which are optional modes in a piece of fiction, seem, in the lives of certain writers, to take on a kind of necessity–there is only this and writing, or, perhaps, this or writing. For this kind of writer, there are no safe havens, no fire exits, and the patient never recovers.” It is a particular strength of this collection that Glover not only demonstrates how much Canadian fiction is part of the avant-garde non-narrative novel but also that the circumstances of Canada invite just such writing: “These are writers and artists … who see marginality (Canadianness) as a metaphor for the self in the modern age–that self which everywhere feels somehow exterior and irrelevant to its own destiny.” To understand it this way is to see Canadian writing in a new way. (Review of Contemporary Fiction)





 Douglas Glover, Woman Gored by Bison Lives, Goose Lane Editions, 2011.

Who would have guessed that a small province could hold so many falls? Overall, New Brunswick is home to more than 1,000 waterfalls -- some remote, and some surprisingly accessible. Spilling over an incredible range of ancient geological terrain, each of the fifty-five waterfalls photographed for this richly illustrated volume is complemented by descriptoins, directions, and background information on each site. Guitard's photographs are composed with an eye to the diversity and particular beauty and geological situation of each watercourse. A map locates each waterfall. Spanning all five regions of New Brunswick (Acadian Coastal, Appalachian Range, River Valley Scenic, Fundy Coastal, and Miramichi River), there's something for everyone -- you may even want to strap on your backpack and head out to experience them yourself.


My beloved and loyal fiction publisher, Goose Lane Editions, had its 60th birthday in September (2014). Part of the celebration was the publication of a little boxed set of similarly designed small books, six@sixty, one short story each by esteemed Goose Lane authors over the years: Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady, Mark Anthony Jarman, Alden Nowlan (whose house I used to visit when he was alive, back when I was a reporter at the Evening Times-Globe in Saint John, New Brunswick), Shauna Singh Baldwin, and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, as well as me. All the books look like mine but in different colours. It’s a lovely gesture, a limited edition, simple and elegant. Also mine is very cute, like a book you can keep as a pet.
My story, “Woman Gored by Bison Lives,” is from my book A Guide to Animal Behaviour, which Goose Lane published in 1991. It was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction that year.
It’s a melancholy love story about a lesbian couple in Saskatoon. They watch an English tourist gored by a bison, and subsequently one of the lovers dies of cancer. I was learning to write aphorisms in those days. The story ends with a little run. This is the surviving lover talking to a three-year-old child: “There are certain things you have to know. Suicide is not an option. Life is always better under the influence of mild intoxicants. Masturbation is healthy, the sooner started the better. It’s a sin not to take love where you find it. That is the only sin.”
The story as a whole begins like this:
Days, while my husband is at work, Susan and I make love on the couch in her parents’ basement. It is a desperate thing to do, and we are both a little stunned by it. But something has pushed us to the edge of caring.
Gabriela, the baby, is upstairs sleeping, while Susan’s mother does housework or watches soap operas. We keep our clothes on, manacled at the ankles by a tangle of underwear, jeans and belts. And when Susan comes, I press my palm across her lips to keep her from shouting out her joy.
I don’t know if we are in love. But we are both in need of solace, and our sex is a composition of melancholy and violence, as though we are seeking to escape and punish ourselves in the same act.


Douglas Glover’s obscurity is legendary; he is mostly known for being unknown. He has been called “the most eminent unknown Canadian writer alive” (Maclean’s Magazine, The National Post). But for sheer over-the-top hyperbole, nothing beats the opening of a recent piece about him in Quill and Quire in Toronto, which elevates his lack of celebrity to the epic: “Certain mysteries abide in this world: the Gordian Knot, the Holy Trinity, and the literary obscurity of Douglas Glover.” Luckily, he owns a dog and is not completely alone in the world. And occasionally someone actually reads what he writes: He has also been called “a master of narrative structure” (Wall Street Journal) and “the mad genius of Can Lit” (Globe and Mail) whose stories are “as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature” (Los Angeles Review of Books) and whose work “demands comparison to [Cormac] McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner” (Music & Literature). A new story collection, Savage Love, was published last fall.
Glover is the author of five story collections, four novels, two books of essays, Notes Home from a Prodigal Son and Attack of the Copula Spiders, and The Enamoured Knight, a book about Don Quixote and novel form. His novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was optioned by Isuma Igloolik Productions, makers of Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner. His story book A Guide to Animal Behaviour was a finalist for the 1991 Governor-General’s Award. His stories have been frequently anthologized, notably in The Best American Short Stories, Best Canadian Stories, and The New Oxford Book of Canadian Stories. He was the subject of a TV documentary in a series called The Writing Life and a collection of critical essays, The Art of Desire, The Fiction of Douglas Glover, edited by Bruce Stone.
Since he washed up in the hinterlands of upstate New York in the early 1990s, Glover has taught at Skidmore College, Colgate University, Davidson College, the University at Albany-SUNY and the Vermont College of Fine Arts. He has been writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, the University of Lethbridge, St. Thomas University and Utah State University. For two years he produced and hosted The Book Show, a weekly half-hour literary interview program which originated at WAMC in Albany and was syndicated on various public radio stations and around the world on Voice of America and the Armed Forces Network. He edited the annual Best Canadian Stories from 1996 to 2006. He has two sons, Jacob and Jonah, who will doubtless turn out better than he did.

See also “Consciousness & Masturbation: A Note on Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos,” an essay in 3:AM Magazine; “Pedro the Uncanny: A Note on Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo,” an essay in Biblioasis International Translation Series Online;A Scrupulous Fidelity: Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser,” an essay in The Brooklyn Rail;Mappa Mundi: The Structure of Western Thought,” an essay on the history of ideas also in The Brooklyn Rail;The Mind of Alice Munro,” an essay in Canadian Notes & Queries; and a dozen extremely wise epigrams at Global Brief. - numerocinqmagazine.com/front-page/the-masthead/

The Novel as a Poem | Essay — Douglas Glover


Interviewed by Jane Campbell
Douglas Glover: Building sentences


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