The Erotics of Restraint


“Few experiences in life are as great as reading towering writers like Jane Austen and Alice Munro. As a critic, Douglas Glover does something astonishing: he makes that experience even better. By reading Glover you become a better reader, more alive to the nuance, music, and sheer richness of the best writing. He’s a critic who elevates reading itself into an art form.” (Jeet Heer, National Affairs Correspondent, The Nation)

“That’s the value of Glover’s essays. His deep analysis of great works of fiction is more like the study of, say, quantum physics: the details are fascinating, and on the surface they don’t seem to have any purpose in one’s daily life. And yet, comprehending the underpinnings of our existence in relation to the evolution of storytelling creates perspective that leads to mindfulness, an understanding of what resonates in the human psyche—what words, what phrases, what desires. If a writer can assimilate the knowledge within Glover’s essays—to know it without consciously thinking of it while writing—it empowers her to create works of deeper, more effective meaning, works that engage on both conscious and subconscious levels.” (Joe Ponepinto at Orca)

The Erotics of Restraint is a superlative collection—smart, judicious, clear, interesting, sharp, expertly crafted, infectious as the metonymic impulse—an education in and of itself, a brilliant primer on how to understand, and possibly emulate, modern and postmodern literature.” (Brendan Riley at Three Percent)

Why do we read? What do we cherish in a book? What is the nature of a masterpiece? What do Alice Munro, Albert Camus, and the great Polish experimentalist Witold Gombrowicz have in common? In the tradition of Nabokov, Calvino, and Kundera, Douglas Glover’s new essay collection fuses his long experience as an author with his love of philosophy and his passion for form. Call it a new kind of criticism or an operator’s manual for readers and writers, The Erotics of Restraint extends Glover’s long and deeply personal conversation with great books and their authors. With the same dazzling mix of emotion and idea that characterizes his fiction, he dissects narrative and shows us how and why it works, why we love it, and how that makes us human. Erudite and obsessively detailed, inventive, confessional, and cheeky, these essays offer a brilliant clarity, a respite in an age of doubt.


Table of Contents

The Style of Alice Munro — Anatomy of the Short Story — The Art of Necessity: Time Control in Narrative — Building Sentences — Making Friends with a Stranger: Albert Camus’ L’Étranger — The Arsonist’s Revenge — The Erotics of Restraint, or the Angel in the Novel: Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park — The Literature of Extinction — Consciousness & Masturbation: Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos

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