…published as the introduction to Donald Breckenridge’s novel And Then (Black Sparrow Press/David R. Godine, 2017).
From the introduction:
“Donald Breckenridge is a pointillist, constructing scene after scene with precise details of dialogue and gesture, each tiny in itself, possibly mundane, but accumulating astonishing power and bleak complexity. His language is matter of fact, the unsentimental plain style used subtly and flexibly, the only apparent artfulness is in the unconventional punctuation and, sometimes, the way the dialogue breaks up the narrative sentences. His settings are Carverish, bleak and constrained; his characters are the stubborn, alienated authors of their own melancholy fates; they persist in a panoply of failed habits and attitudes, gestures of a wounded self they refuse to give up because it is theirs, a refusal that is by turns defiant, sordid, heroic, grotesque, and tragic.
But this novel’s triumph is in its rich architecture, its surprising splicing of genre and quotation, its skillfully fractured chronology, and the deft juxtaposition of alternating story lines. The result of this combinatorial panache is to create an arena of systemic implication, in which the sum is greater than the parts. Nothing here is what you expect; in fact, some of this text is nearly indescribable in terms of genre and form. What do you call a piece of fiction that is a narrative transcription of a real movie that is itself a fiction? Answer: Don’t even try. It’s a logical wormhole. It will turn your brain inside-out like a sock.”
“The Erotics of Restraint, or the Angel in the Novel: A Note on Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park”
— just published in the March (2017) issue of The Brooklyn Rail.
From the essay:
“This speech reads like a feminist call to arms; those sentiments certainly existed. It asserts Fanny’s right of self-determination, and in the context of the novel, this radical selfhood stands against the ubiquitous dogma of property, propriety, income, estates, inheritance, class, and rank. By extension, it claims for any individual the right of refusal in the face of what the world offers. The basis of self is apophatic: the ability to say, I am not that, and I am not that either. What the world offers is contingent, mired in circumstance, calculation, and history, rated by pre-existing discourses (habits, traditions, forms). The soul proceeds by denial. Its struggle is less a matter of knowing itself as essence than of knowing when it is not itself. Sorting and discarding the trivia of life is the existential duty of the modern.”
January 26 – February 4, at Old Town Hall Theatre
Severn Thompson’s stage adaptation of my novel Elle will prep its winter tour with performances at the Old Town Hall Theatre in Waterford, Ontario, before heading to Vancouver and Winnipeg.
…published in the 2016 Best Canadian Stories (Oberon Press), edited by John Metcalf (first appeared in the July-August, 2015, issue of The Brooklyn Rail).
From the story:
“Drebel bought a third trailer park and began investigating a down-at-heel seniors home sponsored by the Church of the Twelve Mercies. It helped that he was on the church board. He converted the first trailer park into a sex offenders-only operation and jacked the rents up. The sex offenders were perfect tenants, scared to death they’d be evicted and never find another home. The sex offenders arranged Bingo nights and taxi-pooled for groceries. Drebel put a menu board up in front the trailer park with the names of the sex offenders and what they had done. He was elected selectman for the ward on an anti-tax, anti-abortion, anti-muslim, anti-education platform. He was for home-schooling and posse comitatus. He made headlines talking about what he called “zero footprint government.” Most everyone ignored what he said and voted for him because God had clearly blessed him with superior business acumen. He audited online MBA courses from Liberty University. He was caught drawing Food Stamp benefits on seniors who had already died but was able to convince investigators that this was an accounting screwup. He was ordered to make restitution but since it was the government he owed, he let it slide.”
From the essay:
“Derrida said he always saw L’Étranger as an Algerian novel, before all the absurdist claptrap got loaded onto the text. The suppressed plot of the novel is about an Arab whose sister is seduced into prostitution by a white man who lives off her earnings and beats her up. The brother protests, so the white man beats him up, too. The brother and his friends follow the white people to the beach and there’s a fight. Naturally, the white men win; they are used to dealing with coloured people. Then, mysteriously, as if in a dream, the novel dream, Meursault and the Arab meet again at the spring (source). Never mind why Meursault is there (the sun made him do it). Why is the Arab there? Even more mysterious. Waiting to be killed.”
…just out in the Cambridge Companion to Alice Munro, edited by David Staines.
This Companion is a thorough introduction to the writings of the Nobel Prize winner Alice Munro. Uniting the talents of distinguished creative writers and noted academics, David Staines has put together a comprehensive, exploratory account of Munro’s biography, her position as a feminist, her evocation of life in small-town Ontario, her non-fictional writings as well as her short stories, and her artistic achievement. Considering a wide range of topics – including Munro’s style, life writing, her personal development, and her use of Greek myths, Celtic ballads, Norse sagas, and popular songs – this volume will appeal to keen readers of Munro’s fiction as well as students and scholars of literature and Canadian and gender studies.
From the essay:
“We have here to speak of style in a double sense: style as the basket of syntactic moves habitual to an author, but also style as tilt, the characteristic lean or bearing of the author as she represents herself through her writing. Call the latter personality, power, or panache. Alice Munro comes from a part of the world that challenges both eccentricity and ambition (and is not necessarily able to tell the two apart). Who do you think you are? the townspeople of her fictional southwestern Ontario town ask. As if in response to this challenge, Munro forges her style in the furnace of opposition. She plays with expectation and denial of expectation; she insists upon difference. My sense is that she doesn’t compose so much by reference (to a notional reality) as by dramatic antithesis. A statement provokes a counter-statement or a counter-construct, subversion, or complication, and the sentences, paragraphs and stories advance by the accumulation of such contraventions. The initial statement, the facticity of the story, then, by steps and counter-steps, implicates itself in a series of deferrals that render it less unequivocal and more inflected as it progresses. The truth is never the truth but a truth with codicils, conditions, caveats, perorations, and contradictions.”
— on David Helwig’s novella The Stand-in in Canadian Notes & Queries, No. 94. Winter 2016.
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.”
January 14 – 31, 2016
Adapted by Severn Thompson
Directed by Christine Brubaker
Starring Severn Thompson & Jonathan Fisher
Production Design by Jennifer Goodman
Sound Design by Lyon Smith
A Theatre Passe Muraille Production
In the TPM Mainspace
This is an adaptation of a Governor General award-winning novel by Douglas Glover. Based on a true story from the life of Marguerite de Roberval, Elle chronicles the ordeals and adventures of a young French woman marooned on the desolate Isle of Demons in 1542 at the time of France’s ill-fated third attempt to colonize Canada.
The Sieur de Roberval abandons his unruly young niece, her lover, and her nurse on the Isle of Demons. With real bears, spirit bears, and perhaps hallucinated bears, 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. While Marguerite de Roberval’s experience of Canada in 1542 is not as well known as Jacques Cartier’s, her open-minded engagement with that environment and its people was ahead of its time, and is certainly more relevant and inspiring for us today than Cartier’s attempt to colonize and conquer.
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