Publication of dg’s new essay book The Erotics of Restraint (Biblioasis, 2019) is imminent. The Walrus has excerpted a trimmed down version of one of the essays on its web site. The essay is called “Building Sentences,” and in turn, it is adapted from a series of four columns that appeared in the National Post a while back. Here’s how it begins:
ENGLISH WAS MY worst subject (next to Health) in high school right through to my second year of university, when I stopped taking it. I’d fallen afoul of the empty-rule syndrome. Don’t use the pronoun I in an essay; don’t begin sentences with but or because; write paragraphs in the topic sentence, body text, conclusion pattern (even if it bores you to death to say the same thing three times); vary sentence structure. The trouble with these rules is that no one told me why any of them would be especially useful.
“Vary sentence structure” was a rule I puzzled over for years. No one explained grammar and syntax to me well enough for me to be able to make useful connections. At first, I thought, Well, I can write long and short sentences, something like Hemingway. Then I practiced emphatic placement of important material (at the beginning or the end of the sentence, I was told) and inversion (writing the sentence backwards). None of this got me anywhere, because I could not join the spirit of a sentence—what emotional and factual impact I intended—with the idea of sentence structure.
(July 15, 2019)
The Brooklyn Rail has kindly nominated my novel excerpt “The Cursed Hunter in the Red Lands” for a Pushcart Prize. (See the announcement here.) TBR published the first couple of chapters of Doom in April, 2018. (Click here to read it).
In the mid-1990s I hosted a weekly literary radio interview show at WAMC-Albany (New York). One memorable morning over the studio phone, I interviewed Gordon Lish, whom I knew because he had published stories of mine in The Quarterly as well as my novel The Life and Times of Captain N. (1993) at Knopf. The interview now appears in Conversations With Gordon Lish, edited by the estimable Cambridge (UK) critic David Winters and Jason Lucarelli, who was once a student of mine and contributing editor at Numéro Cinq Magazine. The book was published earlier this year by University Press of Mississippi in their wonderful “Conversations” series.
Here is the publisher’s book description:
Known as “Captain Fiction,” Gordon Lish (b. 1934) is among the most influential–and controversial–figures in modern American letters. As an editor at Esquire (1969-1977), Alfred A. Knopf (1977-1995), and The Quarterly (1987-1995) and as a teacher both in and outside the university system, he has worked closely with many of the most pioneering writers of recent times, including Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo, Barry Hannah, Amy Hempel, Sam Lipsyte, and Ben Marcus. A prolific author of stories and novels, Lish has also won a cult following for his own fiction, earning comparisons with Gertrude Stein and Samuel Beckett.
Conversations with Gordon Lish collects all of Lish’s major interviews, covering the entire span of his extraordinary career. Ranging from 1965 to 2015, these interviews document his pivotal role in the period’s defining developments: the impact of the Californian counterculture, the rise and decline of so-called literary “minimalism,” dramatic transformations in book and magazine publishing, and the ongoing growth of creative writing instruction. Over time, Lish–a self-described “dynamic conversationalist”– forges an evolving conversation not only with his interviewers, but with the central trends of twentieth-century literary history.
This book will be essential reading not only for students and fans of contemporary fiction, but for writers too: included are several interviews in which Lish discusses his legendary writing classes. Indeed, these pieces themselves amount to a masterclass in Lishian literary language–each is a work of art in its own right.
My essay “The Literature of Extinction” has just come out in Experimental Literature: A Collection of Statements, edited by Warren Motte and Jeffrey R. Di Leo. The book is a special revised and expanded edition American Book Review 37.5 (July/August 2016), where the essay originally appeared. It’s published by JEF Books, which is the book publishing wing of The Journal of Experimental Fiction.
From the essay:
We see the world more clearly now (we think). It’s very small, dirty, crowded with people, and heating up. The Anthropocene is the new name given to the period of time (roughly beginning with the Neolithic) human beings have had a significant impact on the environment. Now we know there is no free lunch, and the hubris of our assumption that the earth was an infinite, free resource specially catered for us by the gods is beginning to look like a monumental gaffe.
Nor are we essentially different from the other orders of being (say, trees, rocks, newts); consciousness may be a neural anomaly, or as the A.I. researchers like to say, an emergent property, that is, a side effect of our neural interaction with whatever we are interacting with (just as the colour of an object is not a property of the object but a side effect of the wavelengths of light interacting with eye neurons). Not a self, a soul, a ghost in the machine, but a whisp of smoke, dream-like and temporary.
My essay on David Helwig‘s novella The Stand-in is out in David Helwig: Essays on his Works edited by the inimitable Ingrid Ruthig (pub date is September 1 2018) and published in Guernica Editions’ Essential Writers series. Ingrid invited me to write the essay, which I was happy to do because David Helwig is an old, old friend (also inimitable). Coincidentally (or not), the estimable and inimitable publishing house Biblioasis re-issued a splendid new version of Helwig’s novella The Stand-in, a truly brilliant book. You can buy a copy on the Biblioasis site or Indigo.
From the essay:
It’s a dramatic monologue, three lectures delivered extemporaneously by an unnamed retired humanities professor, a last minute replacement for the famous Denman Tarrington who has mysteriously succumbed the week before on the green-tiled floor of a hotel bathroom in New York. Our narrator has gone over the edge, abandoned circumspection and control; he has the podium, his ancient rival is dead (he and Tarrington were, for years, colleagues at the hosting institution), he will joyfully and maliciously set the record straight. Tarrington goes up in flames, demonstrated to be a plagiarist (he wrote his essays off the narrator’s ideas), a wife-beater, a compulsive and boastful seducer (the narrator’s wife ended up running away with him), and a flawed badminton player.
The Brooklyn Rail published the first couple of chapters of a novel called Doom (April 2018 issue,click here to read it), which is about my childhood infatuation with Davy Crockett, who, it turns out, was a writer. Who knew?
Photographs below were taken by Douglas Glover except for the ones in which he appears, which were taken by Jacob Glover (Nova Scotia beach pictures), Katharine Abbott (father & son photo), and Melissa Fisher (British Columbia beach picture).
“And I thought how Proust teaches us that all love resides
in anticipation and not the beloved,
that love achieved is only on loan,
that we are martyrs to our desires, which are endless.”
Douglas Glover, Savage Love