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Glover, Douglas (Herschel)

GLOVER, Douglas (Herschel)

Nationality: Canadian. Born: Simloe, Ontario, 14 November 1948. Education: York University, Toronto, 1966-69, B.A. in philosophy; University of Edinburgh, 1969-71, M. Litt. in philosophy; University of Iowa, Iowa City, 1980-82, M.F.A. in creative writing. Family: Married Helen Edelman in 1990; two sons. Career: Lecturer in philosophy, University of New Brunswick, Saint John, 1971; reporter, The Evening Times-Globe, Saint John, New Brunswick, 1972; reporter, The Examiner, Peterborough, Ontario, 1973-75; copy editor, The Montreal Star, 1975; copy editor, The Star-Phoenix, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 1979. Since 1991 lecturer in English, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, and since 1994 faculty, Norwich University, Montpelier, Vermont. Writer-in residence, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, 1987, State University of New York, Albany, 1992-94. Fiction editor, The Iowa Review, 1980-81. Since 1991 editor, with Maggie Helwig, Coming Attractions, Oberon Press, Ottawa. Since 1994 host, The Book Show, National Public Radio, Albany. Awards: Canadian Fiction Magazine annual prize, 1984, and Literary Press Group award, 1986, both for "Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon"; Canadian National Magazine awards gold medal, 1990, for "Story Carved in Stone"; New York Foundation for the Arts Artists' fellowship, 1994. Address: R.R. 1, Waterford, Ontario, Canada N0E 1Y0.

Publications

Novels

Precious. Toronto, Seal, 1984.

The South Will Rise at Noon. Toronto. Viking, 1988; New York, Viking, 1989.

The Life and Times of Captain N. Toronto, McClelland and Stewart, and New York, Knopf, 1993.

Short Stories

The Mad River and Other Stories. Windsor, Black Moss Press, 1981.

Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon. Vancouver, Talonbooks, 1985.

A Guide to Animal Behaviour. Fredericton, Goose Lane, 1991.

Other

Notes Home from a Prodigal Son. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1999.

Editor, with Maggie Helwig, Coming Attractions 91-94, 4 vols. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1991-94.

Editor, with Diane Schoemperlen, Coming Attractions 95. Ottawa, Oberon Press, 1995.

*

Critical Studies:

In Canadian Fiction Magazine, 65, 1989; in Paragraph, 13 (1), 1991; in The New Story Writers edited by John Metcalf, Quarry Press, 1992; in Matrix, 40, Summer 1993.

Douglas Glover comments:

Most of what I write comes from a place so personal, so intimate, and so painful that I cannot write about it except as fiction. Elements of my stylethe obsessive repetitions, the phantasmagoria of images, allusions and comparisons, the mix of comedy and violence, the grotesquerie which is the joke of horrorwere always present, but have been reinforced by reading the novels of the late great French Canadian writer Hubert Aquin, especially Blackout and The Antiphonary. Nabokov lurks somewhere. And back of Nabokov the ghost of Viktor Shklovsky telling us to make things "strange."

I like to write stories that touch the mind and the heart at once, stories that don't necessarily mean but which nonetheless refer to the world's miraculous complexity, its unexpectedness, its divine playfulness. I write about love and memory, the weight of memory and history and the multifarious messages of culture and the past which run through us and, briefly, use us before passing on. What is the self that's being used and what is using it? I ask. And how do lovers love? Why are people cruel? And whither the words, when the wind blows ?

As an individual I find it difficult to separate the rhetorical from the personal. I am a nomad, an expatriate, a wandering Canadian (which is worse than just being a Canadian, I am doubly displaced, a Canadian squared), and I can no longer tell whether that's because I am a writer or why I am a writer. Some mornings I wake up and it's a problem. Some mornings I wake up and it's a dance.

* * *

Since 1981, Douglas Glover has yoked highly cerebral concerns with a witty and passionate style, a steadily growing array of techniques serving an increasingly complex vision. "Life has a way of complicating itself," the narrator says in "The Obituary Writer" (from A Guide to Animal Behavior ). In many Glover stories, as in "Pender's Visions" (The Mad River and Other Stories ) and in the title story of Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon, the writer embraces that complexity in a flexible style that has steadily grown in power and resource. A further example is "A Man in a Box" (A Guide to Animal Behavior ) in which a pandemonic, logorrheic universe swirls within the confines of an obsessed derelict's cardboard shelter.

The same growth can be traced in his novels. Precious is a rococo play on mystery-novel conventions, whose antihero is a much-married newspaper reporter in a small Lake Ontario shoreline community ("It seemed to me that I had spent a lifetime, more or less, in towns just like Ockenden, changing buses to get to other towns"). The South Will Rise at Noon, after a start somewhat straining suspension of disbelief, builds to brilliant comedy in telling of one Tully Stamper's misadventures in Gomez Gap, Florida, scene of a preposterous cinematic re-creation of a Civil War battle.

To some extent Precious and The South Will Rise at Noon amount to a novelist's accomplished apprenticeship. But The Life and Times of Captain N., a story of violent border transactions set in the Niagara frontier, 1779-81, marks a breakthrough, the first thirty pages or so of it among the most engaged and involving Canadian prose in recent years. The novel bodies forth a startlingly vivid historical imagination (in a favorable notice The New Yorker said the book belongs to the "Apocalypse The" school of historical fiction), previously only hinted at in a few stories like "Swain Corliss, Hero of Malcolm's Mills (Now Oakland, Ontario), November 6, 1814" in A Guide to Animal Behavior. ("The Indians skinned and butchered Edwin Barton's body, Ned having no further use for it.") Amid a treacherous landscape of shattered alliances, psychological as much as political, Glover tells of Captain Hendrick Nellis, Tory guerrilla and "redeemer" of Indian-abducted whites; his son, Oskar, whom Hendrick kidnaps to fight the Yankee rebels; and Mary Hunsacker, a German immigrant girl captured and culturally assimilated by the Mississauga tribe. Then there are the Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Onondaga, and SenecaIroquoian shape-shifters viciously caught in a no-holds-barred conflict between Loyalists and "Bostonians." The narrative language, especially that of the psychically riven Oskar, is a virtuoso mix of period-sensitive verisimilitude and the shifting premises of the postmodern.

Glover has thought and written extensively about the art of fiction; more importantly, his stories and novels are not just fivefinger exercises on the theme of extreme situations but work out a deeply felt, still-evolving vision. Complexity is never achieved at the expense of clarity.

Fraser Sutherland

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