Romancing the “Mysterious Bonds of Syntax”: Allegory and the Ethics of Desire in Douglas Glover’s “My Romance” and “Iglaf and Swan” —Adam Beardsworth | Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne
This is a scholarly essay about two short stories of mine that I only just now noticed is available online. (Many academic journals, lately, seem to be adopting a new openness to readership that can’t help but be a good thing.) It appears in a journal called Studies in Canadian Literature (one of the editors, John Ball, has an office just down the hall from my Writer-in-Residence office at the University of New Brunswick). The stories are “My Romance” (about the baby dying and the husband having an affair with his wife’s OB/GYN and then trying to kill the monkey) and “Iglaf and Swan” (about a pair of artsy writers who manage, via self-obsession, to drive their daughter to tattoos and suicide). The stories are in my books 16 Categories of Desire and the U.S. collection Bad News of the Heart. The author, Adam Beardsworth, is an astute and intuitive reader of my work, none better. He is especially good at parsing the philosophical ideas that underpin my very strange plots.
THEORIZING THE AMBIGUOUS RELATIONSHIP between desire and experience, Jean-Paul Sartre realized desire’s precarious, if not paradoxical dependence upon the tension between presence and absence: desire’s very insatiability testifies to its origins beyond objective conciliation. It is upon this philosophical premise that Douglas Glover hinges his short stories “My Romance” and “Iglaf and Swan.” In both stories, Glover explores the epistemological problems that arise when those objects that we desire most are traumatically displaced only to reveal the lack that lies at the core of being. Reluctant to revel in post-modern incertitude, Glover’s stories demonstrate a compelling movement from a confrontation with desire and nothingness, to a realization that the only redeeming desire, however ephemeral, is that which one finds in an “other,” or in the recognition of a mutually intrinsic desire for the infinite in one’s object of love. Demonstrating a concern with the proximity between the compulsion to satisfy sensual appetite and the inclination towards linguistic expression, Glover allows his exploration of longing to extend beyond the parameters of his narrative and into the realm of allegory. From the self-reflexive title “My Romance,” with its coy allusion to both narrator and author, to Iglaf and Swan’s tragic conflation of the desire for the other with the will for literary acumen, Glover’s stories foreground an ostensible preoccupation with the link between desire, art, and death. Recognizing language as central to all experience, Glover, in “My Romance” and “Iglaf and Swan,” allegorically invokes writing as a medium compelled by insatiable desire, a manifestation of our human impulse to objectively inscribe our fascination with the pure loss, death, trauma, and love at the limits of human experience.
Read the rest at Romancing the “Mysterious Bonds of Syntax”: Allegory and the Ethics of Desire in Douglas Glover’s “My Romance” and “Iglaf and Swan” | Adam Beardsworth | Studies in Canadian Literature / Études en littérature canadienne.