The Globe Books 100: Best Canadian fiction
“…the most stylish, adventurous fiction this country has ever seen.” A Book of the Year Quill & Quire
Savage Love one of the Amazon.ca Best Books of 2013: Top 100 Editors’ Picks
“The best book of 2013 you probably never heard of. How such a terrific collection of short fiction, perhaps the liveliest and most exciting yet from this master of the form, slipped under the big prize radar is a mystery.” The Toronto Star
“One of the best books you will read this year.” National Post
“…this is love as you have never seen it before.” Chatelaine Book Club: Best Books of 2013
“What’s the matter, jurors, too much to handle?” Susan G. Coles Top Ten Books at Now Magazine
“Glover writes the best way possible: fiercely, idiosyncratically and lovingly.” The Globe and Mail
“…stories as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature.” Los Angeles Review of Books
“…an exciting, unpredictable collection by a true virtuoso.” The Toronto Star
“…one of the best Canadian books published this year.” Quill & Quire
“…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
“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, author of What I Know So Far
“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, author of The Dead Are More Visible
“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, author of Half a Life
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, Globe and Mail
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 (Goose Lane Editions, 264 pp; $29.95). 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, National Post
Savage Love is an accomplished, funny, and inventive book that readers should rejoice in…By any measure, Savage Love deserves to be recognized as one of the best Canadian books published this year.
—Starred review at Quill & Quire
Table of Contents
PRELUDE — Dancers at the Dawn — FUGUES — Tristiana — Crown of Thorns — Light Trending to Dark — The Sun Lord and the Royal Child — A Flame, a Burst of Light — INTERMEZZO MICROSTORIES — The Ice Age — The Poet Fishbein — The Night Glenn Gould Played Chopsticks — Buddy — Hôtel des Suicides — Twins — Splash — Xo & Annabel, A Psychological Romance — Wolven — Little Things — THE COMEDIES — The Lost Language of Ng — A Paranormal Romance — Shameless — Uncle Boris Up in a Tree — Savage Love — Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night.
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