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Apr 012014
 

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Herewith a superb interview with Victoria Redel, the brilliant and prolific author of stories, novels and poems, also a former initiate of Captain Fiction himself, the irrepressible and undaunted Gordon Lish. Redel’s most recent books include Woman Without Umbrella (poems) and a story collection Make Me Do Things, both reviewed in NC. Conducting the interview is Jason Lucarelli, our resident Lish expert, conversant in all things Lishian, author of the foundational essays “The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence” and “Using Everything: Pattern Making in Gertrude Stein’s ‘Melanctha,’ Robert Walser’s ‘Nothing at All,’ and Sam Lipsyte’s ‘The Wrong Arm’.”

 

What is “story”? What is “necessary fiction”? What’s the difference?

It’s funny, really, that it should seem at all a daunting question—what is story?—when each day, many times a day, we hear stories, we tell stories. We make artifice of our lives almost immediately—You can’t believe what happened at work today…I heard the most amazing exchange in line at the supermarket…You’re not going to believe this but…We shape narratives inventing bits of dialogue, implying motives though describing gestures—what someone did or didn’t do, what was or wasn’t said. We shape narrative—eclipsing, conflating, inflating events, facts, and characters—because, instinctually, we know when to speed up or hold back. We want our listeners to listen with urgency and so we engage engagingly.

What we know everyday is this human urgency to express the uncanny. And we really all appreciate that family member, that friend, that stranger at the next table who pays a story out slowly, circling back through strange phrases, observations, the teller who takes us down a weird circuitous path and we go along—wary, excited—because we can’t figure out where it leads and yet the teller has made it essential that we follow. The story can be ragingly funny or plain spoken, quiet or raucous. Oddly every method of telling works if it feels authentic. Authentic—seems like an abstraction but it’s not. We are authenticity hounds, sniffing for fraudulence all day, everyday.

We know the difference between the story that never stirs us—through shape or language—and the story that jolts us further awake and alive. Somehow the witness, the telling, the engagement of the speaker feels original. By original I don’t mean that they’ve used a new-fangled anything. I don’t mean they’ve worn a clown’s nose or written in Pig Latin. By original I mean that the speaker has allowed herself to look and speak without yielding to received vision or language. It is being told then exactly as it must be told. And we listen; we can’t stop listening because we feel that we stand the chance of living better of being changed. You’re not going to believe this but…and just sometimes, right away, we feel something stunningly possible in that simple even over-used phrase. Despite skepticism, resistance to being changed, fear of being hood-winked or manipulated—right away, we inch closer to the speaker, we hold our fork to our lips, we grip the book closer to allow something new to happen to us.

I’ve told this teaching story before to students but I’ll try to tell it again. I was invited to teach a weeklong workshop at a university in the Midwest. I had students write every night and each day we’d read in class. I kept trying to get them to identify sentences in each other’s work that were essential and that were necessary. They could do it. Ears were well tuned. But they found it harder to identify a true sentence in their own writing. I sent the group home every night saying, “How did it sound in your kitchen? What is a necessary object for you?” One woman, a Spanish Literature Professor, dauntingly the most learned in the room, came in day after day with sentences, with paragraphs of prose that were so god-awful, so full of bullshit, phony, fancy-assed sentences. And I kept saying, “Nope, nope, not this.” On the fourth day the Professor of Spanish Literature came in clearly agitated. I thought, “Yikes, I’ve gone too far and really pissed this woman off.”

Then what happened was extraordinary. She began to read a piece about a blue bowl in her mother’s kitchen. The language was syntactically like nothing I’d heard before. Was it actually even English? Who cares, it was beyond gorgeous. When she finished, when we could finally breathe, one of us said, “Read that again.” After her second—or was it her third reading—I asked, “What happened? What was that?” She said, “I almost did not come to class today.” I said, “But you knew, you knew.” And she didn’t answer. “Where did that language come from?” I asked. She was quiet, looking more agitated than ever. It turned out that she came from a crevice in the ArkansasMountains where the language seemed at once to have twists of Elizabethan English and French. She was the first in her family to leave the area, to go to college, to learn to speak “proper” English. Well, she’d actually gone further, now was a Spanish Professor. She told us that after she wrote the piece, she felt certain that her PhD would be stripped away, her tenure taken away. It made her actually feel ill. That gorgeous, original paragraph of literature felt more dangerous than she could manage. She felt exposed, betrayed.

The press of a human heart up against the page. Language in necessary disequilibrium, in jeopardy, most of all with itself. That blue bowl, her mother’s bowl. The collision of event and character and language. The possibility of seeing into another human heart. “Well that’s just what some folks will do,” a neighbor said to Flannery O’Conner after reading some of her stories. That is a necessary fiction.

 

In a BOMB interview with Honor Moore, you talk about how “collage is the only way that [you’ve] figured out how to write something long in fiction.” But I also see this strategy at play in your short fiction too. The elliptical movement that was your vehicle in your early stories, specifically in Where The Road Bottoms Out, seems dialed down, or, at least, more subtly employed in Make Me Do Things. How do you see yourself—as of late, and in your new collection—exploring new narrative techniques?

Maybe it’s something I’ve borrowed from poetry. The poem can move by association—by image or language patterning to accrue a larger sense and a larger mystery. The stanza can often signal that kind of leap. So can the line. Extending this kind of patterning—image and language—in fiction provides you with another narrative strategy. In the novel I used collage by which I mean I wrote sections in chunks, sections that were linked to other sections by image or place or situation. I didn’t know how exactly to think about ordering initially. But I knew that once I’d created a thread I had to use it again. That was how I created plot. It made sense to have that kind of fragmentation because of the narrator’s state of mind. With the second novel I was confident that I would do it differently. More of a straight shot. No such luck. Novels have proven different altogether—maybe more compositionally like a poem.

When I began to write fiction I discovered, in a wholly new way, possibilities within the sentence. I discovered the joys of syntax. This seems ass-backwards; I should have found syntax first as poet. It seems that it was simply developmental, I was at last seeing what the music inside a sentence, the intelligence inside a sentence, the personality within the sentence might be. In those first stories things seemed possible and more than possible it felt essential at times to have three prepositional phrases jammed up together, to take the sentence in one direction and then press it into another direction. I began to consider what I could do with postponement or preponement of, for example, the subject of a sentence. I love that book of stories if, for nothing else, how dizzy and blissed out I was with just how to construct story sentence by sentence.

But how I went about the composition of a poem and a short story was kind of different. I usually write a draft of a poem in one sitting. And then, subsequently begin to mess around, add, subtract, rearrange, merge it with other poems, turn it bottom to top. With short stories I write pretty much sentence by sentence by paragraph by paragraph. The revision happens line by line so that when I get to the end I’m not revising. I’m usually done. I take that back. I often have written it too tightly and need to go back in and dilate from within.

You asked about the first book of stories and the second—which were published 18 years apart with novels and poetry collections in between. As you can see in this book I’m pretty interested in a close third person—I wanted to have a third person voice that’s as close to a first person POV as I could get. At least that’s true for a bunch of the stories. You say they are less elliptical. Are they? I probably move in real time more in these stories. And I slow down, wanting to drill into a moment longer. But I wonder if some of the shift has more to do with age. Many more of the stories in Where The Road Bottoms Out focus on children—that collective voice of children that occurs in many stories. In Make Me Do Things the focus—even when there are kids in the stories—seems closer to the adults.

But maybe, it is all developmental—a lifelong apprenticeship with language, character, how what is story. And mixed in with that are the particular fascinations—conscious and unconscious—at any given moment.

 

You write “sentence by sentence by paragraph by paragraph” but in that fight to get to the sentence, how do you navigate between sense and sound? How soon do you squash possibility and clamp down on character, incident, and story? For example, recently, your contemporary and friend, Noy Holland said, “I go word by word by ear for as long as I can, according to my awareness of what I’ve said and did not mean to say…The ordering impulse is crucial but I don’t want it to be dominant or inhibiting. When it’s dominant the terms we commonly use—character, voice, plot, setting—begin to make sense; the story bleeds out; it’s anybody’s.”

I think I understand your question, Jason. And I believe I understand what Noy is getting at. A single sentence could potentially spawn many potential next sentences. Sometimes it is daunting. And the challenge is to find the one that is truest—not only true with respect to the linguistics and the acoustics. But the sentence has to move forward character, stance, action, and do so with inevitability and risk. It wants to complicate the mystery. Poets talk about sound and sense, Pope’s the “sound must be an echo to the sense.” Honestly, this all makes the writing seem so much more laborious than it really is.

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How do you view your evolution as a writer of fiction, and how has your growth as a poet influenced your narrative tendencies in fiction?

My hope in these new stories is probably not unlike the hope I’ve always had in writing to push into the difficult places. Sure, that has something to do with the dark places of hearts and minds. But I’m also interested in Joy—the ways we shun it, why we fear joy. And why in midst of real happiness we conspire to fuck it up. I suppose how we understand bravery shifts with age and experience. One of my internal cajoling’s has been—you have permission—which on the page can mean permission to be plain spoken or exorbitant, permission to say what feels dangerous to say and, almost more importantly, to find language that isn’t worn thin, to have the permission to make the language singular. But right now I also find myself interested in the ways I can bend and keep bending inside the story to dig up something I don’t know. Which, heaven knows, is most days most things. What else and what else and what else is right here, right now. Because, of course, everything is right there, all the old hurts and hopes, all the new ones and all the invented convolutions of the current mind. I love the way in our dark moment we say hilarious things. I am interested in the way we bungle things up. Despite our certain efforts to get it right.

You ask about my evolution as a writer. Probably a writer is the worst person to try to identify her evolution. There’s the question of fascinations—with certain images, with kinds of situations. Sometimes I fear that I’m writing the same kind of story over and over, walking around some few subjects that emerge again and again, even when I imagine I’m breaking into new turf. Okay, maybe that’s simply that we can’t escape our deep concerns, our central objects. In this new story collection, people have noticed the last story, “Ahoy,” saying something different is happening in that story. Maybe I should be bummed out that every story doesn’t seem to break new ground but I confess excitement because it’s the last story I finished for the collection. So to feel that I broke into something new there feels hopeful. I’m not sure if others mean new subject or new form, I don’t know if I care. Probably, it would frighten me too much to look closely at my evolution. Where have I slackened? Where am I repeating old tricks? Why do so many of my characters behave in kind of obsessive ways?

As for how poetry connects with the fiction, I’m not sure. I used to maintain that they originated from the same impulse, the same desire to experiment in language, to render and make witness to the world. But I’m less certain of this now.

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May I ask if you, when you write as a poet or a fiction writer, do you ever find yourself responding as a fiction writer to the pieces you’ve written as a poet, or vice versa?

Wow, your question makes me sound like a strange and divided person. Honestly, I don’t think it works that way. The work is the work and you try to come at it with a rigorous sense of possibility. It’s always a balance, right? On the one side to detect lapses, opportunities not taken by failure of sight or patience or heart. And on the other side is keep the composition playful so that you allow for accident and the unconscious to emerge. That’s true in whatever form one works.

But now that I’ve reread your question and wonder if what you’re asking is do I ever take on similar subject in fiction and in poetry? And, I suppose here the answer is yes. Not intentionally. But because ultimately I am not such a divided creature I’d like to believe that different forms allow me to come at my interests, obsessions, concerns from differing angles.

 

In “He’s Back,” a father comes home to his wife and son together in the tub. This bathtime, a way of being rather than a common nightly occurrence, has accumulated into a breaking point inside the narrator, who’s put off by the constant bathing. He questions the closeness between mother and son (“she was no doubt letting him look at the whole thing”), becomes jealous (“there was hardly a moment she would let him have alone with the boy”), and finally annoyed to the point of action (“He would teach them both a thing or two”). While this story seems to touch on familiar thematic territory for you (the nature of family and familial relationships), you chose the first-person male point of view. In certain stories, can the choice between the gender of a narrator propel the drama?

The story “He’s Back” arrived—as many stories will—with an initiating image. A father coming home to his wife and child who are in the tub. It’s not all that strange an image. All across the world, on any given evening or morning a parent is showering or bathing with a child. Not strange or scandalous. Easier to get in that shower to soap Junior. But what I glimpsed in that initiating moment is a feeling—also common—to come into a room and see your child and spouse engage in anything—a game, a conversation, a book—and feel out of their orbit. Feel displaced by that beautiful, exclusive place a parent and child might occupy for a moment. And even as we see the beauty of the moment, happy for their closeness, at the love and pleasure they share, we feel excluded. We feel jealous. This complex rub interests me in fiction. That displacement, real or imagined, interests me. You ask does the gender propel the narrative? One could absolutely imagine a mother displaced. It happens all the time. But in this story the triangulation is rendered from the man’s point of view and I hope it is specific and particular enough to feel that it is not an interchangeable voice, it’s not a woman. Triangulation always interests me; it is inherently dramatic. Spend any time with two parents and a kid and you’ll notice the pushes and pulls in every direction. Territorial displacement can shift ever so minutely and it is felt profoundly. That is true in marriages, in friendships, in parent/child relations.  And how jealousy manifests, well that’s endlessly interesting and usually not simple. The great challenge for people everyday is not to use a third person as protection or weapon against someone they love.

I didn’t set out to write a collection that featured writing from men and from women’s points of view but clearly it happened. It makes some sense (at least retrospectively) because no gender seems to have the prize for blundering personal lives or for trying to make sense and manage a life.

 

In between Where The Road Bottoms Out and the publication of Make Me Do Things, you published poetry, novels, and continued to publish short fictions. Can you talk a bit about your process in assembling this new collection? For example, “He’s Back” seems like an orphan of your first collection, and, in fact, I believe the story predates all other stories in the collection. What criteria did you use to decide which stories would make the cut?

You’re right that “He’s Back” is an older story. It predates Loverboy. And I suppose has some connections to Loverboy, or at least shows a bit of my path of inquiry that I had not exhausted. It was written around the same time as “Stuff” and “Third Cycle” and “The Horn”. The stories in this collection span from those stories to “Ahoy” which was the last story that I wrote. But to confuse things, I’d written some pages of “Ahoy” years ago and then couldn’t figure my way and left it. I remember interviewing Grace Paley some years ago. Grace had just had a story published in that week’s New Yorker. She told me it was one she’d begun a decade before and that she’d put those first pages in a folder which had the stories she couldn’t get right or finish. Her dud folder. She said that she often went to the folder, pulled out a story and, reading the pages, thought, “Hey, that’s not bad.” And right away started editing and playing with it and writing a bit more. It was so different than the way I worked but, boy, I remembered it. And, well, those opening pages were something I’d looked at more than once in the intervening years. Then last year I thought, I want that story. I want to figure it out, to figure him out.

There were other stories that didn’t make the cut. I’d keep them in the mix for awhile, mostly to make me feel good that I was close to a finished collection. But when I’d write a new story, I’d let another go. And when the story was knocked out, I’d feel relieved. What’s the criteria? If I can still feel surprised by a story. If I feel there’s sufficient language or sufficient true hard looking. If I don’t think I was faking somehow. I know there’s a lot of different tones in this book. Maybe some would feel critical of that—I don’t know—maybe it shows a lack of consistent music. But I like the variation. I want it. Hopefully, others do too.

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As a teacher, how do you instruct students who are interested in reconciling the differences between fiction and poetry in their own work? Do you have a list of writers you cite as lyrically inclined, yet who still stick close to story?

There are so many interesting prose writers who have great density of language, a real lyricism in their work. Hello, Christine Schutt. Hello, Dawn Raffel. Hello, Michael Ondaatje. I teach their work in poetry classes. Others too. Anne Michaels who wrote Fugitive Pieces, a book I love. I teach Robert Frost in fiction classes.

The lyrical fiction writer (student) has to keep remembering not to get so lost in language that the importance of a dramatic situation, of an instigating problem is forgotten. The key is to keep swerving, letting language become part of the dramatic insistence. Otherwise, it all spins into pretty. We lose sight of characters.

 

Dawn Raffel and Diane Williams edited a story or two in your new collection, if I’m not mistaken. Can you speak about the differences or similarities in editing styles between these two friends and former Lish students? At what stage of a story might you allow these particular readers to read one of your pieces?

Yes, Dawn edited a story and so did Diane. Actually, Diane published two stories from this collection. One in NOON and the other in an issue of StoryQuarterly. I trust both their judgment so implicitly that I think I took the suggestions both gave. Dawn had two suggestions that were a function of hearing an off-ness in word choice. Dawn has a great, uncanny ear and, well, she was right.

As for when I show things…I don’t show stories early. In fact, not till I’ve got them as done as I can get them. My agent, Bill Clegg, is a great reader and he pushed on some of the last stories. Finding moments where he’d felt I’d lost nerve and gone an easier route. He was right. I knew it instantly. And I could even recall the failure of nerve. So it was good to go back and carve a tougher route.

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You were quoted as once saying, “Everything you need to know about the next line in a story is actually present in the words of the sentence that preceded it.” Phrased another way, Amy Hempel’s way: “You do what you do because of what is prior.” Obviously, this is something Gordon Lish preached to his students, but it’s also, I’ve noticed, a phrase that his students, who now teach, seem to preach to their students. Why is this compositional strategy so powerful? What has this recursive principle taught you about story and the degrees of so-called story?

I simply cannot imagine anyone who has truly listened to Gordon Lish speak of writing not teaching a recursive principle. Gordon Lish spoke more persuasively and generously about composition than anyone I’ve ever listened to. I’m betting that you could walk into a class taught by Amy Hempel, Mark Richard, Christine Schutt, Dawn Raffel, Noy Holland, Ben Marcus, Peter Christopher (God rest his soul), Sheila Kohler, Patricia Lear, Rick Whitaker, Sam Lipsyte, Lily Tuck, and the list continues on and on of those who have gone on to write and teach—the notion of the prior would be, as you say, preached. This principle, once grasped, is essential. And once grasped, you see it in all stories. This is because story is composed. It is made. If you think of this composition as a weave, a fabric, then it makes complete, natural sense that you are pulling threads through from beginning to end. And those threads—call them objects, call them rhetorical elements, call them syntactical events, call them parts of the sentence—all need to be utilized. Do you knit? If you knit you know that you can’t drop a stitch unintentionally without creating a hole in the garment. Same deal with story. Why would you want to forget any element that is prior? What is prior provides the deeper mystery. What is prior provides what can—no—what must be unpacked. You go vertical with it, not just forward. What is prior is what informs the sound of the story. It is the mind of the story. It’s important, Jason, to realize that recursive writing does not create any specific sound or mind. What is prior presents the terms for what is ahead. Look, going back to my knitting analogy. If—for god knows what design reason—you made a garment with an intentional dropped stitch in the first rows. You’d probably want to create drop patterning throughout the garment. It might actually have been unintentional. But by noticing it, repeating it, shifting from one dropped stitch to three dropped stitches you take that which was error and make a rightness of it. A great sweater, maybe. Maybe not. Which is also to say that just being recursive does not make a story. This is where swerve comes in. This is where actually making sure you’ve plunked yourself down in a worthy domain that provides friction and jeopardy and dramatic possibility.

Look at any writer you admire and I’ll bet you a good sum that is there is this weave I’m describing. This is how patterning begins to occur in story and in the novel. It means that the architecture of the work is inevitably built from local materials as it were. I could really go on about this. But I’ll chill out and shut up.

—Victoria Redel & Jason Lucarelli

 

Victoria Redel is the author of four books of fiction (Make Me Do Things, The Border of Truth, Loverboy, and Where The Road Bottoms Out) and three books of poetry (Woman Without Umbrella, Swoon, and Already The World). Her work has been translated into six languages. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College

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Jason Lucarelli is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Numéro Cinq, The Literarian, 3:AM Magazine, Litro, Squawk Back, and NANO Fiction. He lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

 

Jan 032014
 

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Woman Without Umbrella
Victoria Redel
Four Way Books
88 pages, $15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-935536-24-6

Woman Without Umbrella slips out the door barefoot in spite of flash flood warnings. Without interruption is my recommendation when reading this, Victoria Redel’s third collection of poetry.

Redel is also the author of four books of fiction, most recently a collection of stories, Make Me Do Things, from Four Way Books. Her award-winning novel, Loverboy, was adapted to film in 2004. A native New Yorker, Redel earned her MFA at Columbia University and was a student of Gordon Lish: as an editor at Alfred A. Knopf, Lish published her first book. In an interview with Leah Umansky, Redel reflects “I’m a poet more driven by the sentence than by the line, and I’m a fiction writer driven more by language than plot.”

The first poem in this collection is titled “The Way It Began,” and the second one is “The End.” These two poems are separated by two blank pages and a page with an ampersand, an indication of Redel’s skill in measuring and compressing time and space in the length of the collection, in the space and interaction between poems, and within single stanzas.

From this energetic opening, the collection would seem to explode outward, way beyond structures. In fact, the next poem begins with “The roof collapses.” David Orr, in his most recent article “On Poetry” in the NYTimes Book Review, concludes “poetry, unlike churches and fortresses, has never loved a wall.” Here, poetry loves a wall but for different reasons entirely, as Redel shows in “Woman Without Umbrella, Unseasonable.”

All month her city sweats and sticks,
women and men stripped down to a snarl, it’s too fucking hot.

These are steamy low-key days, south of the border,
hot-to-the-touch afternoons,

burning cement walls built for pressing him up against.

The poem next is “Suddenly,” which begins “A month after turning forty-five, every last egg in her body / is a Rockette doing the can-can. Use me use me use me, they cry.” And it goes on, describing the woman at the crosswalk, warning off any nearby men. The next poem, “Woman Without Umbrella,” begins with “Thus she waited at the corner / for the light to change.” The manipulation of time between month and month is exhilarating, as is the way Redel focuses the space, from the wide-angle view of the city to the particular woman standing on a corner.

The poems “Upgrade” and “Bottom Line,” which are a little before the halfway point in the collection, is a glorious reflection on the nature of the heart and our relationship to it, which seems sometimes strange to say, as though we could remove ourselves from it enough to say “to it.” But in Redel’s hands, this manipulation of the view through time and space is masterful. In “Upgrade,” Redel shows us the “I want,” incessantly asking, clawing-for-something heart, the font of all desire. Apart from the heart, in the wonderment of considering it—

I don’t want a refund to say it didn’t fit, never worked, or worked at first,
then in fits and starts, the switches useless, gears stripped. No, I don’t want

Customer Service, a Claims Department, complaint letters, an exchange
or credit toward the latest model, an upgrade or Lifetime Parts Replacement.

Even now, broken, chipped, in pieces, pieces lost, worn out, the original
gone—there are times, still, it comes back to me whole and I am amazed

by what is beyond fragile, by how elaborately and generously, wrecked
and beyond repair, we made use of our hearts all those years. And then.

The way her lists topple into other lists here is the glory of it. The first stanza’s list repeats the words “fit” and “worked,” and uses the assonance of the short i sound for intense energy from the start. And we don’t know what she’s talking about yet, as the second stanza takes us into Customer Service for this broken or defective thing. Third stanza, and this list parallels the first with the short-i sound in “chipped” and the repetition of “pieces.” Then in the beginning of the third stanza, “even now” starts to shift the poem away from its initial “I don’t want” and into the amazement of “and then.”

“And then” is a force in this collection. I found myself following it, catching it hiding here and there, and finding its inverse flying around in certain dark corners. For example, we move from “And then” at the end of the poem “Upgrade,” to the beginning of “Bottom Line”: “As when my father goes back under / and the doctor comes out to tell us he’s put a window in my father’s heart.” Perhaps this is the most extreme example of the way “and then” propels the reader through this collection. Or maybe it’s in the poem “Later Still, Then,” where Redel begins, “What if I told the husband everything. / How I leaned against a shoulder on the raft. Later, still. Or years earlier. And then.” In the poem on the facing page, two of the lines begin with “then.” The poem titled “And Then” precedes a page with an ampersand, which precedes the three-and-a-half-page “Kissing.” That is followed by another page with an ampersand, followed by “Holy” which begins “Then I went to a party and danced like no tomorrow.” And next comes “And, Finally,” and then “Gorgeous Present.” And this is still nowhere near the end of the book.

So, back to “Kissing.” The poem begins with a potent first line, “The first surprise of your mouth on mine.” Then it steams up quickly with a glorious list of the places where:

On streets, on staircases, in bathrooms, in the backs of cabs, in a field, against that wall and that wall and that wall, down on the floor, my hair caught in it, in hotel beds, in a borrowed bed, and in the same bed night after night after year after night, through an open window, under pines, under water, on a raft, in rain, salty with ocean, a peck at the door, a have a good day.

Our mouths, prepositional.

From this point, the poem delves beautifully into every aspect of that description, “prepositional.” Mouths act as prepositions indicating another place, “like there is another room inside and then another room inside.” Alternatively, kissing mouths are prepositional to each other, introducing the irresistible action of offering and taking: “suddenly you are turning me saying, / ‘Give me your mouth,’ and I am giving you my mouth.” The poem takes the grammar reference further with these lines: “A fluency, accented, each vowel and consonant exactly formed. / Sudden native speakers.” Later in the poem, we consider “A private syntax. / Pun and slang, slip of tongue, intentional.” The reader wonders whether kissing is a metaphor for language or if it’s the other way around.

Redel’s list of mostly prepositional phrases uses alliteration and assonance in tight sequence at the beginning of the run, and then repetition of “wall,” “bed,” “night,” “under,” “on,” and especially “in.” There’s that wall again. And that raft. Within single lines of the poem, the repetition of a word strikes the right notes of sound and insistence. In “Kissing,” this doubling of words within the line occurs with “eyes,” “mouth,” “room,” “taste,” and “drifting,” which is in itself an enticing list.

Paired with this virtuosity of metaphor and pattern is Redel’s exquisite attention to imagery and sensory detail.

Like something windy, like good weather. In winter, our mouths the
warmest place in the city.

Kissing like nobody’s business.

A lower lip flicked by teeth, pulling back just a little to breathe
together.

 And, then, all twitch and pull and ache.

If this were a review of a novel, I’d have to stop here to avoid spoilers. In her interview with Leah Umansky, Redel said “I see Woman Without Umbrella as having a kind of narrative arc and so the thread of poems using the same titles is a consideration of time. And though “Woman” in the title is singular I think of this as a book inhabited by many women both contemporary and historical.” A couple of stanzas toward the end of the collection stand out as fine examples of Redel’s repetitions and resulting conversion of these materials into something sublime. In “Smoking Cigarettes with Brodsky,” the last stanza evokes “and then” with the surprise of “and yet.”

I’m just learning desire makes us sometimes lovely,
always idiotes. And yet. And yet. And yet
Joseph smokes another cigarette.

The first half of “Monet’s Umbrella” gives it away, too.

I didn’t have to kneel down by the roadside lilacs
and I didn’t have to go walking this dawn in Riverside

with the dog sniffing wet dirt and the red tail hawks
nesting over the Westside highway on-ramp

to know that without even trying Sweetness returns
without a Monet umbrella or a proper scarf around its neck

and that when I rush to bring Possibility indoors for a hot tea
it gathers me in for a dirty-minded kiss.

Redel’s “and then” has become “and that when” here. And there’s that kiss again, suggesting with its capitalized “Possibility” an Emily Dickinson poem, which begins “I dwell in Possibility — / A fairer house than Prose –”.

Redel leaves us in a cozier place at the end of the collection—in a theater after the show, considering the “riveting” special effects, as you might after reading this book without intermission. The deluge of brilliance in this collection could turn manhole covers into geyser spouts, recycling bins into white-water rafts, and then—who needs an umbrella?

—A. Anupama

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A. AnupamaA. Anupama is a U.S.-born, Indian-American poet and translator whose work has appeared in several literary publications, including The Bitter Oleander, Monkeybicycle, The Alembic, Numéro Cinq and decomP magazinE. She received her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. She currently lives and writes in the Hudson River valley of New York, where she blogs about poetic inspiration at seranam.com.

Nov 072013
 

Victoria Redel

Just a taste: the opening lines of Victoria Redel’s short story, “On Earth,” from her new collection Make Me Do Things. Of this story, our reviewer,  Richard Farrell writes:

The first sentence of “On Earth” certainly works: “‘What if we were the last ones on Earth?’ her daughter said after Sasha turned off the bedside lamp and put the book back on the shelf.” In this twenty-five page story, Redel teases out themes of family, marriage, evolution, infidelity and obsessions. The daughter, Ella, is a seven-year-old girl preoccupied with dinosaurs. Sasha worries that dinosaurs are a “boy thing.” Then, on the second page, the story swerves, destabilizing expectations and opening up fresh possibilities.

And on the collection as a whole:

It’s impossible to nail down Redel’s style. Each of these eleven stories is uniquely crafted, perhaps because she approaches them with a protean lens, focusing attention down on the particular details of narrative and syntax, so that the result is clarity of intention and meaning. As a writer, she is willing to let her images guide her, willing to follow her sentences and characters into whatever strange and twisted paths they seem destined to trod.

 

“What if we were the last ones on Earth?” her daughter said after Sasha turned off the bedside lamp and put the book back on the shelf.

“That’s not a bedtime question, buckaroo,” Sasha said, leaning to press her lips against her daughter’s cheek. Ella’s cheek in the dark seemed softer than at any other time of day, the skin almondy from bath soap.

“But what about the dinosaurs?” Ella said, holding Sasha’s arm. Dinosaurs were the new craze. Before, it had been fairies. She’d begged Sasha for the yellow wings they’d seen in the store. Then mermaids. Now it was everything Tyrannosaurus Rex. Everything Pterodactyl. Sasha was not prepared for her daughter’s obsession with dinosaurs. Wasn’t that a boy thing? Dump trucks, superheros, dinosaurs—what the morning coffee group called basic male destiny.

What was it with men and their end-of-the-world questions?

This afternoon, the lover had moved Sasha over to the window. “Look out there,” he’d said, positioning her against the sill as he pressed into her. “We’re all that’s left.”

“Ella, dinosaurs were hardly the last ones.” Sasha kept her voice easy and matter-of-fact. “There are new species evolving on Earth all the time.” That sounded right; she was pretty certain that it was right. But if it got down to particulars, Sasha couldn’t whip out the name of a newly discovered Amazonian insect or hybrid amphibian. Always risky to give new information before sleep. A comment like that could keep Ella up asking questions, calling Sasha back and back and back into the room. Best she could do then was angle for a morning research project. Better yet, by morning her daughter would be on to a new obsession.

“But what about the very last dinosaurs? Did the very, very last know they were the last?”

“Roll over, my beauty,” Sasha said.

Ella squiggled onto her stomach and Sasha worked her hand in small circles, the nightgown’s thin cotton bunching and slipping as she moved down the delicate ridge of her daughter’s spine. Sasha closed her eyes and worked to keep her breath and her hand slow, as if leading Ella to sleep by example.

“Did they?” Ella’s voice pushed up. There again, that urgent, worried thread. Not just a fear of extinction, but the sorrow of the final one, the one that endures and knows it is the very end.

Sasha worked two slow breaths, holding back from giving a response.

“I don’t know about the very last,” Sasha said when Ella asked again. “But I promise we’re good here for a while.” . . .

— Victoria Redel

Nov 072013
 

redel photo Ettlinger

Victoria Redel

Make Me Do Things
Victoria Redel
Four Way Books
227 pages; $17.95

Whether examining divorce, infidelity, shaved genitalia or historical re-enactors who forget they’re acting, Victoria Redel’s prose tramples fiercely over safe and familiar conventions. Zany, powerful, and at times downright heartbreaking, her raw and luminous characters set out from territories that, at first glance, seem anything but exotic. And yet when they arrive, their destinations (and destinies) are always sublime.

A poet as well as a fiction writer, Redel has just released a new story collection, Make Me Do Things, with Four Way Books. This marks her seventh book; she has three previous books of poetry and three of fiction. And though her language and imagery are always sharp and rich, there’s a tidiness about her prose, a self-contained urgency, that makes each of the eleven stories in this collection taut and trenchant. It’s not surprising that Redel studied with Gordon Lish, or that Lish published her first book. In an interview, she credits Lish with “the belief is that the story works from the first sentence on, and if it doesn’t, then you fix the first sentence and go back.”

The first sentence of “On Earth” certainly works: “‘What if we were the last ones on Earth?’ her daughter said after Sasha turned off the bedside lamp and put the book back on the shelf.” In this twenty-five page story, Redel teases out themes of family, marriage, evolution, infidelity and obsessions. The daughter, Ella, is a seven-year-old girl preoccupied with dinosaurs. Sasha worries that dinosaurs are a “boy thing.” Then, on the second page, the story swerves, destabilizing expectations and opening up fresh possibilities.

This afternoon, the lover had moved Sasha over to the window. ‘Look out there,’ he’d said, positioning her against the sill as he pressed into her. ‘We’re all that’s left.’

Notice the parallels between the daughter’s question and the lover’s remark. Note the physical space of the two scenes—both set in bedrooms, Sasha twice poised on a bed but for very different purposes. Juxtaposed as they are, the scenes render an almost diabolical rhythm to the story. And yet Sasha still loves her husband. A connubial bliss somehow survives. After having passionate sex with her husband, she thinks, “if she told the women in the Muffin about the lover, they would be surprised most of all that she had no complaint about her husband.”

Later in the story, when Sasha discovers that her morose lover is secretly obsessed with her daughter, she is faced with an extinction of her own. The scrim standing between fantasy and reality becomes suddenly much thinner than she imagined:

Heat coughed from the pipes. The room was broiling. What instinct gone kerflooey would put so much at risk? He was making survival kits, three of them. ‘Come with me, my love’ he’d said. She was wrong; she hadn’t stepped into unexpected weather. She was her own catastrophe. Her own bolide collision. No, there were catastrophes much larger—unseen shifts to the system—she hadn’t considered. Extinction. The underlying cause, the failure to adapt to changing conditions.

All the elements of this story—the obsession with dinosaurs, the passion, the infidelity, the presumptions of reality, the premise of extinction—resonate throughout the text in wonderfully intricate patterns.

Again and again, Redel plays for the highest stakes, and she delivers with remarkably clever stories that haunt us long after the final words are sounded. In “The Third Cycle,” two seemingly innocuous albeit infertile women are sitting at a café having lunch. They decide to assume new identities:

‘I could use being someone else today,’ says one of the women.
‘You? Call me Polly and I’ve got to be happier than who I am,’ the other woman says, squeezing at her arm.
‘Polly? Right. That’s perfect. You’re Perky Polly and I’ll be a Susie,’ says the new Susie.

They order fresh, viable eggs for lunch. “‘Eggs! Eggs! More eggs!’ they shriek. ‘Lots and lots of them!’ And both of them are laughing now, unladylike, practically snorting water right at the waiter.” The set up is rather breezy, with humor and a curious energy. Like Lorrie Moore, Redel blends humor and sadness seamlessly, each hinted at in the characters’ refusal to say the word ‘baby.’ But Redel never particularizes this sadness. We don’t learn these characters’ histories, and the residual gaps work to set up expectations.

Then the Blue Woman, pushing a pram, sits down next to them, and things suddenly go off kilter. Polly and Susie offer to hold the Blue Woman’s crying baby and the two friends transform into, well, witches of a sort.

Redel is summoning Angela Carter here, and retelling a Slavic folktale, “Baby Yaga,” in feverishly inventive ways. When the Blue Woman asks for her baby back, Polly and Susie refuse to relinquish the infant. There’s mounting evidence that these two women have the darkest intentions: “The baby is plump, with full, plum cheeks. ‘Is this delicious or what?’ Susie says, leaning over the baby, making smoochy nibble kisses.” We refuse to believe that these women are about to actually eat the baby, but it certainly looms as a possibility. A storm ensues, a maelstrom of biblical proportions, replete with torrents of frogs and plagues of vermin. “Of course, slaying of the firstborn has been, if not mentioned, already considered.”

Perhaps what’s most surprising about Redel’s fiction is how masterfully compelling her twists turn out to be. What began as a relatively simple opening—resting on assumptions of maternity, infertility, wish fulfillment—turns dark, intriguing and utterly unexpected.

It’s impossible to nail down Redel’s style. Each of these eleven stories is uniquely crafted, perhaps because she approaches them with a protean lens, focusing attention down on the particular details of narrative and syntax, so that the result is clarity of intention and meaning. As a writer, she is willing to let her images guide her, willing to follow her sentences and characters into whatever strange and twisted paths they seem destined to trod.

In the final story, “Ahoy,” a husband and wife, after selling an internet startup company for a fortune, move to an island for a year. Their idyllic plans and their marriage quickly begin to unravel, primarily due to the husband’s incessant partying and budding cocaine habit. Then, Olivia takes a job at the Hardwick House, a historical home where she plays the part of a sea captain’s wife. She becomes pregnant, and for all intents and purposes, starts living in the nineteenth century.

This story is rich with dreamy details, conjuring up John Fowle’s novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, which actually takes on a prominent role in the story. Like the novel, the murky line between reality is driven to a desperate, dramatic convulsion. The husband even begins to assume the role of Captain Hardwick.

This, the end of my story: like me, it’s wobbly, more often than not unable to walk a straight line. I have been away, at sea, adrift. I wish I came home bearing exotic gifts, tales of the South Seas and perils of rounding angry Cape Horn, but I never left port.

Like Redel’s narrator, we journey through this book as Redel builds a geography of textured prose that emerges from her lush and prolific imagination. Endowed with an amazing gift of wit and wisdom, she offers variations on themes and reconfigures the richness of life, story and memory. Her words rush out from familiar shores toward the unsettled shoals of ontology. Her characters are wonderfully and arrestingly broken, seekers in the best sense of the word. Innocence coexists alongside wisdom, hope alongside despair, love alongside lust. Somewhere in these stormy seas, Redel navigates us through these vivid and irresistible stories, and we, the beneficiaries of her work, never have to leave port.

 

—Richard Farrell

farrell

Richard Farrell is the Creative Non-Fiction Editor at upstreet and a Senior Editor at Numéro Cinq (in fact, he is one of the original group who helped found the site). A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he has worked as a high school teacher, a defense contractor, and as a Navy pilot. He holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories. His work, including fiction, memoir, essays, interviews and book reviews, has appeared in Hunger Mountain, A Year in Ink, upstreet, New Plains Review, Descant (Canada) and Numéro Cinq. He lives in San Diego.

 

May 122010
 

Swoon

redel

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Hazlitt said, “Every word must be a blow.” And that’s the way Victoria Redel writes. Every word and phrase a hammer blow, crafted along the edge of a twisty syntax that is taut, teasing, emphatic and lascivious.

Swoon is something else, is gorgeous, a complex triptych of a book, a classic three-step structure held together by the strings of eros and femininity and point of view (that woman poet) and the technical threading–the repetition of the italicized “Such Noises” prologue poems and the smaller linguistic and image parallels (see, for example, how “…bend into the microphone…” on p.4 in “Somewhere in the Glorious” transforms into “And with that she’d sing, tilting and leaning into/ the purpled head…” on p. 71 in “Tilted Woman”; and how Akhmatova, the “Russian woman” and “my mothers” in “Such Noises” on p. 3 return as the “old Jew” who kvelts in “Noisy Woman” on p. 77). And so, though the book moves through its sequence–the young lover in the throes of eros the bittersweet, to the mother, to the multiple female characters of the austere, Chekhovian prose poems in the last section–it is one complexly woven whole.

In Swoon, Redel has hit her form in a spectacular fashion. She is alive in language. She’s a mature poet, a knowing poet, a wild, romantic poet. But, in the end, what she is most besotted with (what the poet in the poems is besotted with) is language itself.

Look at that second poem already mentioned “Somewhere in the Glorious”; two lines in the middle go: “I have only all my waiting. For what have I waited/ by cross street and elbow, for what gadget of transformation?” Then, two poems later, in “Cabin Note”: “We are still waiting./ But for what?” And then in the next poem “Damsels, I”: “If not for paradise then for what/ do I rut, incorrigible in the palm of your hand?” Nevermind that I’d give anything to have written any of these sentences myself with their insistent and erotic parallel constructions, their open-ended and endless interrogatives, their theological and sexual weavings, their surprising turns of phrase. But Redel has actually managed to thread and suspend the thought through three different poems over several pages so that the mind of the reader, in the middle poem (with its acute exploitation of white space, the emptiness of waiting, quite specific to this poem), is really suspended, in suspense, unconsciously waiting for the syntactic pay-off. And the pay-off is spectacular, not because of the thematic surprise (the connection between desire for spiritual transformation and for love is an ancient theme) but because of the language, the bull’s-eye perfect “what”/”rut” rhyme in the third poem. It goes straight to the heart and the mind. It’s what makes Redel a masterful poet.

I love things like this: “What we do we do in this life with our clothes still mostly on.” A line I could write an essay on, an epigram made poetry by the atypical verb placement. Think how a line like this gets built up. It starts with the idea: We do what we do in life with our clothes on. (A slightly anti-romantic, pretty realistic view of what life is like after you’re grown up.) Redel inverts natural word order–“We do what we do” to “What we do we do”– to make the line surprising, give it rhythm and zing. What we do we do in life with our clothes on. An interesting idea but still not a line Redel would write. She adds the word “still” so that we get: “What we do we do in life with our clothes still on.” Which builds in the antithetical picture of what we do with our clothes off which, accordingly, is not what we really do in life. And finally she adds the amazing “mostly”–“our clothes still mostly on” which twists the whole sentence with a wry, ironic tweak. The epigram becomes story, it becomes the image of a couple doing what they do in life but half-in or half-out of their clothes, that sad, comic moment of struggling, half-dressed transition from passion to so-called real life.

—Douglas Glover

See also “Swoon.”

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Apr 172017
 

M. is reading a biography of Allen Ginsberg (Dharma Lion by Michael Schumacher), which got us talking about Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. We started watching videos to bring the people to life and see the connections, the tracks between. These threads of personal connection and influence, genre and tradition, are compelling. One startling thread, as I watched this stuff, was the still rich theme of America as a vast open space, the frontier, and the colonization of that space by driving over it (ah, America). Nary a mention of the natives.

This is Kerouac reading from On the Road on the Steve Allen Show. The sound track and clips from this film show up in almost all the other Kerouac videos.

And here is the famous 1968 interview with William F. Buckley. Kerouac is drunk. He died a year later.

And here’s Ginsberg’s gloss on that appearance. Incidentally, this is Ginsberg at his personable best. Amiable and loyal.

And here is some casual footage shot in 1959 in New York with Kerouac, Ginsberg and Lucien Carr and his family. There’s a fascinating story dating back to 1944 and before. William Burroughs’ friend David Kammerer, as I understand it, had a crush on Carr when Carr was twelve and in a Boy Scout troop Kammerer led. Kammerer essentially became a stalker. And in 1944 Carr stabbed him to death in Riverside Park and dumped the body in the river. Then he went to see Burroughs and tell him, and Burroughs said to go to the police, which he did. Carr did some time. Burroughs and Kerouac were arrested as accessories after the fact.

All handsome young people, even Ginsberg who looks raffish and brooding.

Time frame: Kerouac wrote an early draft of On the Road in the late 1940s. It was published in 1957.[1]

And here’s a short documentary about Neal Cassady and Kerouac, beginning with an old Ginsberg interviewing Cassady in a bookstore.

And here’s a documentary about Cassady and Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. Cassady enlisted as the driver of the bus (obviously a bit hair-raising). This was 1964, a second chance at becoming a myth for Cassady, who wanted to be a writer but couldn’t. Fascinating how he became a figure of the imagination for two cultural movements, the Beats and the 60s Hippie movement. This video contains clips of a slightly demonic Hunter Thompson commenting on Cassady’s crystal meth addiction.

As a side note, Gordon Lish was teaching at a school in Burlingame, California, in the early 60s and publishing the experimental magazine Genesis West. Cassady and Kesey, among others, used to come around the the Lish house.

I like this connection because, of course, Lish was my editor for The Life and Times of Captain N. (1993) and my story “Swain Corliss, Hero of Malcolm’s Mills (Now Oakland, Ontario), November 6, 1814”, which appeared in The Quarterly, No. 13, in 1990. I started sending work to Lish as far back as the early 1980s when I was a student at the Iowa Writers Workshop. And, of course, through Lish, we arrive at the 80s, 90s and 2000s, a whole new generation of North American experimental prose. [2]

Here is Lish on those early relationships from an interview in the Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER

How did you meet Ken Kesey?

LISH

Through his old wrestling coach, or English teacher, at Oregon, Philip Temko. We wrestled, Ken and I, out in front of a shack he had on Perry Lane, hard by Stanford, where he was a Stegner Fellow. Frances and I had a little bungalow on Concord Way in Burlingame and fell in with Ken through Temko and my search for Allan Temko, a writer I wanted to attract to the Chrysalis Review, a lit mag I was mounting at the time. So first I meet Kesey in San Jose at a romp Philip Temko was throwing. Met Neal there that night, too. Later on Kesey and I wrestled. He slaughtered me. This seemed to promote a friendship. Too, he was working on Cuckoo’s Nest, so there was the bughouse connection. Indeed, I was incarcerated twice—for two weeks in Florida and, later, for eight months up in White Plains. I could spend forever telling you tales about Kesey and Cassady. At the time I fell all over myself in devotion to Kesey’s writing. Yeah, I loved Kesey and his work. I loved the shit out of him, an utterly alive fellow, as was Cassady. But Cassady was gentle and dear and sensitive and kind. Kesey was anything but. He could be a pretty trying fellow and we became increasingly less palsy. There were all the kids he collected around his place in La Honda, that claque, and by the time Tom Wolfe turned up on the scene, I was plenty absent from it. Went up to Victoria, Canada, then to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, then on to New York. I wouldn’t go along on either of the bus trips. Didn’t want to surrender myself to that prankstering bit, had Frances, the children, and a job I was going, presently, not to have. Ken kept saying, Come on, come on, come on, if you want to be my friend, come on, but I wouldn’t go. Yes, we had remarkable times. He died too young. I miss him all the time. Can’t say I didn’t love Ken, but with Neal the affection was far less troubled. No, no trouble at all.

After this, we decided to explore tangentially. We found a couple of documentaries about Black Mountain College (1933-1957), a John Dewey inspired college near Asheville heavily infiltrated by ex-Bauhaus artists and teachers escaping Hitler’s Germany. The connection for me was Charles Olson, whose what we would now call hybrid essays (I am beginning to shudder at the phrase) on history and projective verse also struck me at a vulnerable time, i.e. influenced me (I just checked my copy of the Selected Essays, bought in 1981 in Iowa City).

In this one there are some clips of Ed Sanders, who also appears in the Kerouac-William F. Buckley interview above, with an interesting bit of background in Ginsberg’s commentary following. Sanders is another of those trans-generational characters.

Then we thought to check out Goddard College (it was a night of tangents, all of which made sense at the time), the venerable experimental arts college in Vermont. It turns out that parallel to Black Mountain, the modern incarnation of Goddard was founded by another John Dewey acolyte with a similar vision of the interpenetration of the humanities and arts as an exercise in soul creation and emancipation. Of course, the personal connection here is that Vermont College of Fine Arts, where I have taught on and off for a decade and a half, is an offshoot of Goddard, its egalitarian, counter-culture ethos very much an echo of Dewey and the days of vital experiment. At least these are the things that have always drawn me to the place.

I am writing this at the NC Bunker outside of Plainfield. Goddard College is just three miles down the hill on the other side of the village. Vermont College of Fine Arts is in Montpelier, about ten miles away.

But then we veered back to Charles Olson and started watching this documentary. It’s in six parts. You can just keep watching. Lovely to watch him lumbering about and to hear the legends of his marathon teaching sessions at Black Mountain. Also lovely to see this clips of Robin Blaser talking about him. As it happens, I interviewed Blaser in the early 90s when I had my radio show (another connection/influence — by the time I interviewed him he had long since taken up residence in British Columbia where he helped anchor the powerful Canadian wing of Black Mountain poetry).[3]

This brings me back to the beginning, my note about the theme of America as place, as space, as mythic and local at once. You can hear it in Kerouac and you can hear it in Olson, especially the snippets from his book Call me Ishmael. I’m Canadian and I live here and now, with all its concomitant ironies and subversions, and these naive affirmations of love and ownership for the land, the sense of identity and language embedded in the land, America, make me edgy. They ring hollow, whereas as once they helped propel the careers of these authors, as rebellious and as experimental as they seemed. Perhaps it is this naive affirmation that so many Americans miss nowadays.

dg

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Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. There is a comical connection between Numéro Cinq and Burroughs who once threatened to shoot John Proctor (a boy at the time). John was one of the first group of writers on the masthead and he wrote a knowing little essay about the incident.
  2. We have a serious commitment to all things Lishian at Numéro Cinq: two strong essays on Lish and his school by Jason Lucarelli here and here, photos of Lish by Bill Hayward, and essays, reviews and interviews on/with Lish protégés — Victoria Redel here, here and here; Diane Williams, Greg Mulcahy here and here, and Gary Lutz. I’ll stop — there are more.
  3. Not coincidentally, our Contributing Editor Natalie Helberg won the Robin Blaser Award for Poetry a couple of years ago. There is, in fact, a strong, shared aesthetic at the back of the magazine.
Feb 162015
 

jason-lucarelli-2

Jason Lucarelli is a brilliant literary commentator with a special bent toward literary Modernism and, specifically, Gordon Lish, Lishian studies, and Lishian influences. He’s already written two substantial essays and an interview (with Victoria Redel, a Lish protegé early in her career). And he has a lengthy interview with Diane Williams coming out in the March issue. It’s a pleasure to announce that he’s consented to make his relationship with the magazine official, public, and above-board by joining us as a Special Correspondent.

dg

Jason Lucarelli is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Numéro Cinq, The Literarian, 3:AM Magazine, Litro, Squawk Back, and NANO Fiction.

And here is the Jason Lucarelli NC  Archive Page with his previous contributions to the magazine.

 

The Jason Lucarelli NC Archive Page

 

jason-lucarelli-2

Jason Lucarelli is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Numéro Cinq, The Literarian, 3:AM Magazine, Litro, Squawk Back, and NANO Fiction.

The Geometry Of Breaking Up: Review Of Jean-Philippe Toussaint’s Naked

Have I Come Clean Enough?: Review of Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams

Every Book is Like Writing a Book for the First Time: Interview with Greg Mulcahy

These are the Ferocious Challenges: An Interview With Diane Williams

The Press of a Human Heart Against the Page: An Interview with Victoria Redel

Using Everything: Pattern Making in Gertrude Stein’s “Melanctha,” Robert Walser’s “Nothing at All,” and Sam Lipsyte’s “The Wrong Arm” | Essay

The Consecution of Gordon Lish: An Essay on Form and Influence

Burlesques Of Togetherness: Review of Assisted Living by Gary Lutz

Consciously Amateurish | Review of The Sarah Book by Scott McClanahan

2014

 

Vol. V, No. 12, December 2014

Vol. V, No. 11, November 2014

Vol. V, No. 10, October 2014

Vol. V, No. 9. September 2014

Vol. V, No. 8, August 2014

Vol. V, No, 7, July 2014

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Vol. V, No. 6, June 2014

Vol. V, No. 5, May 2014

Vol. V, No. 4, April 2014

Vol. V, No. 3, March 2014

Vol. V, No. 2, February 2014

Vol. V, No. 1, January 2014

2013

 

Vol. IV, No. 12, December 2013

Vol. IV, No. 11, November 2013

Vol. IV, No. 10, October 2013

Vol. IV, No. 9. September 2013

Vol. IV, No. 8, August 2013

Vol IV, No. 7, July 2013

Vol. IV, No. 6, June 2013

Vol. IV, No. 5, May 2013

Vol. IV, No. 4, April 2013

Vol. IV, No. 3, March 2013

Vol. IV, No. 2, February 2013

Vol. IV, No. 1, January 2013

2010

 

Vol. I, No. 11, December 2010

Vol. I, No. 10, November 2010

Vol. I, No. 9, October 2010

Vol. 1, No. 8, September 2010

Vol. I, No. 7, August 2010

Vol. I, No. 6, July 2010

Vol. I, No. 5, June 2010

Vol. 1, No. 4, May 2010

Vol. I, No. 3, April 2010

Vol. I, No. 2, March 2010

Vol. I, No. 1, February 2010

The Richard Farrell NC Archive Page

 

Richard Farrell

Richard Farrell is the Non-Fiction Editor at upstreet and a former Senior Editor at Numéro Cinq (in fact, he is one of the original group of Vermont College of Fine Arts students who helped found the site). A graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, he has worked as a high school teacher, a defense contractor, and a Navy pilot. He is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work, both fiction and non-fiction, has been published or is forthcoming in Descant, Hunger Mountain, Newfound, Blue Monday, Dig Boston, Contrary, Numéro Cinq, and others. He is currently at work on a collection of short stories and a novel. In 2016, he will be a resident writer at the Ragdale Artist Community in Lake Forest, Illinois. Richard lives with his family in San Diego.
Contact: richardfarrell@old.numerocinqmagazine.com

§

Fiction

Dogfights

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Nonfiction

A Boy Falling out of the Sky: Memoir

First Solo

On Reverence

On A Writer Dying Young

Into the Realm of the Dark

On Courage

Almost Independence Day

About Face: On Class Reunions and Reading Salter


Will, Kate & Osama: Jean Baudrillard on Royal Weddings and the Death of bin Laden

Deforming Form: Outlier Short Stories and How They Work

What It’s Like Living Here [San Diego]

Non-Commencement Commencement Address, January, 2011

Unintentional Pugilism: A Memoir

The Life and Work of Alphonse Kauders

Invitation to a Re-shredding: The Top 10 Things I Learned This Semester

Degenerates, Monks and Writers

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Book Reviews

Fever Dreams: Review of R.W. Gray’s Entropic

The Decomposition of Continuous Movement: Review of Juan José Saer’s La Grande

Tin-Penny Miseries and Chickenshit Joys: Review of Lorrie Moore’s Bark

Outside the Known Limit | Review of Victoria Redel’s Make Me Do Things

Laundromats, Lucky Charms and the Labors of Herakles | Review of Anne Carson’s Red Doc>

Ship of Fools: Review of A Thousand Morons by Quim Monzo

Unmeasured Depths: A Review of Steven Heigthon’s The Dead Are More Visible

Desperate Wagers: Review of Scars by Juan José Saer

In Search of the Author, Barthes Be Damned: Review of The Selected Stories of Mercé Rodoreda

Elegant Uncertainty: Review of Juan Jose Saer’s novel The Sixty-Five Years of Washington

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Interviews

Bushwacked by Inspiration: An Interview with Steven Heighton

Capturing the Equivalences: Interview With Translator Steve Dolph

Manufacturing Dreams: An Interview with Anthony Doerr

Double Exposure: An Interview with Darin Strauss

Making the Little Monsters Walk: Interview with Brad Watson

And Make Mine a Double: Interview with Keith Lee Morris

The Confluence of Rivers: Interview With Tammy Greenwood

Change the Weather/Avoid the Dead: Interview with David Shields

When I’m in the Swamps, I Just Need Questions: Interview with R.W. Gray

May 282012
 

Book News, Reviews, Orders

“…a master of narrative structure” (Wall Street Journal)

“…every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.” (Globe and Mail)

———–

Order Attack of the Copula Spiders

———–

 

April 25, 2013

Brendan Riley review in Review of Contemporary Fiction:

This is not literary craft reduced to statistical formulae and write-by-the-numbers word-bytes. Glover’s admirable ability and patient willingness to cast a careful—not cold—eye on what makes sentences hum and flow is fueled by a vital, infectious fascination with words, enabling him to reveal the inspired, alchemical, verbal concatenation at work in the most alluring and memorable fiction writing.

Read the whole review here.

§

March 30, 2013

3 Canadian Writers with Buzz @ The Reader

 

 

attack

§

March 9, 2013

A Canadian author’s book on writing went viral on social media recently, leading to thousands of would-be fiction writers searching their manuscripts for “Copula Spiders.”

Douglas Glover’s book Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis) coins the term to refer to the multi-appendaged mess created by circling and linking all of the variations of the verb “to be” in a paragraph. (Copula is a term for the link between subject and predicate of a verb.) Excessive use of sentence constructions like “he was happy” or “the building was unassuming” lead to “flaccid and uninteresting prose,” he writes.

Joe Ponepinto, book review editor of the Los Angeles Review, brought Glover’s ideas to the literary world in a much-circulated blog post subtitled “Why I’ll never write (or read) the same way again.”

via Cameron Dueck’s arts column – Winnipeg Free Press.

§

March 2, 2013

from Joe Ponepinto @ The Saturday Morning Post

I reviewed a book a while back that has stayed with me for many months and has affected the way I write and read, and it’s opened my eyes to a weakness in much creative writing, even in published books. Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis, 2012) criticizes many aspects of fiction, but saves its most withering scorn for the rampant and indiscriminate use of copulas.

The Secret of Maimonides-Submission for 2-26

I hear you asking, “What’s a copula? I admit I had to look it up. Webster’s definition says: “the connecting link between subject and predicate of a proposition.” In most cases, this refers to a form of the word “be.” But what does that mean to us everyday writers? It means banal, didactic, often passive sentences, almost completely lacking in action or depth.

As Glover says: “A copula spider occurs when a student uses the verb ‘to be’ so many times on a page that I can circle all the instances, connect them with lines, and draw a spider diagram. Now there is nothing grammatically wrong with the verb ‘to be,’ but if you use it over and over again your prose is likely to be flaccid and uninteresting.”

via The Case of the Copula Overdose, or, Why I’ll Never Write (or Read) the Same Way Again by Joe Ponepinto @ The Saturday Morning Post

§

December 9

From Chapman/Chapman’s Favorite Longreads of 2012.

“‘A Scrupulous Fidelity: on Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser’ by Douglas Glover, The Brooklyn Rail

Close reading doesn’t get much better than this. Glover expertly unpacks the logorrheic hilarity of Bernhard’s text without ruining any of the fun.”

 §

November 24

Attack of the Copula Spiders named one of the top non-fiction books of 2012 by The Globe and Mail.

“[By] by the time I reached the penultimate chapter, a brilliant examination of, among other things, the catastrophic meeting of the 15th-century book cultures of Europe and the oral cultures of the new world, I had decided that every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.” — Charles Wilkins

via Non-fiction books from this year that are worth a read (or two) – The Globe and Mail.

§

November 9

Governor-General Podcast Interview with Sky Hornig in Calgary during Wordfest in mid-October.

The Governor-General Podcast Interview – Douglas Glover

via Douglas Glover – CJSW – Calgary’s Independent Radio 90.9 FM.

§

September 29

A few months ago I read a book by Douglas Glover titled Attack of the Copula Spiders. At the time, I didn’t even know what a copula was. Once I understood, I spent days fixing copula-laden writing, and sweated over every sentence I wrote to make sure I was using more active verbs. In time, though, those fixations fade into the subconscious, which is where they belong. The key to good writing, I believe, is not to ignore rules and not to obsess over them. It’s to incorporate the ones you believe are true into your writing psyche so that you are aware of them without thinking about them. — Joe Ponepinto, Book Review Editor at LA Review. Writer, editor, teacher. Occasional curmudgeon. Dad to henry, the coffee-drinkin’ dog

§

September 29

 §

September 5

If I had to guess what events will sell out first, my money would be on the Douglas Glover Master Class. He’s a spectacular Canadian writer who has kindly agreed to do a three hour class on the mechanics of good creative writing for WordFest patrons. The best part about it? It’s only 30 bucks per person. What are you waiting for? Follow this link and buy tickets now!

via Post-Launch Blog: A Response | WordFest Blog.

 

§

July 17

Shelagh Shapiro interviews dg on his new book Attack of the Copula Spiders at Write the Book, Shelagh’s long-running radio show, which, by the way, is fast becoming an institution in its own right, a vast trove of writerly advice and experience. Listen to the interview on Shelagh’s site or download the podcast — it’s also available at iTunes.

Douglas Glover – Interview

Award-winning Canadian author Douglas Glover, on his latest book: a collection of essays on writing, Attack of the Copula Spiders, published by Biblioasis.

§

July 15

Douglas Glover and How to Write a Novel

by Jane Eaton Hamilton

I’m reading “Attack of the Copula Spiders” by Douglas Glover. i remember him trying to drill the matters in his first piece, “How to Write a Novel,” through my thick brain back in Saratoga Springs in the early 90s. It was the best advice I had ever gotten on making a novel. Really, it still is, and I’m glad to see it again in other than my own scrambled notes. 

§

July 6

Vivian Dorsel interviews Douglas Glover in upstreet 8.

upstreet with Douglas Glover

Dorsel:  What do you emphasize in your teaching of writing?

Glover: Reading. The first thing I give students is a reading rubric and an analytical check-list to begin to reform their reading skills. As I say in Attack of the Copula Spiders, we live in a post-literate age. On a certain level that book is about the act of reading. I am pushing a critical aesthetic that is a bit like New Criticism and a bit like Russian Formalism; but, to my mind, as a writer, it just seems reasonable and immeasurably expands comprehension. You read a story and pay some attention to how it’s put together and, beyond the illusion of fictional narrative, you suddenly engage with the text on a whole other, rather exciting, level of grammar, rhythm and meaning. You begin to see connections that hitherto you vaguely passed over supplying your own dreamy connotations (as you’re taught to do in high school). We’re at a moment in our culture when differences in the ability to read and comprehend a text are critical.

I can’t remember the moment when I actually invented the phrase “copula spiders,” I only foggily recall circling over and over again all the “to be” verbs and then noticing that I could make a diagram on the page and that the diagram resembled a spider (with far more legs than it should have). The real issue, the shocking point, is that when you teach writing you are basically teaching the same student over and over again. It doesn’t matter whether the student is writing nonfiction or fiction or that the student thinks the burning piece of paper in his hand is the next War and Peace because he has put his heart into it and it comes out of his own original personal thoughts and is different (he believes) from anything ever written before (or in the future). The shocking thing is the uniformity of mediocrity. The shocking thing is that intelligent adults can’t think of another verb to use (actually most students jog along with a verb repertoire of about five: to be, to look, to sit, to stand, to see—absolutely the most popular verb choices).

The crucial connector here is to realize that part of the reason proto-writers don’t notice they are doing this is because they don’t know how to read. Eighty percent of what I do every semester is teach students how to read like writers, that is, with attention to structure and the felicities of well-written prose. So the two aspects of my book are necessarily joined: you can’t teach people to write simply by telling them what they are doing wrong; you have to show them where it is done right, that is, you have to show them how to read.

Once you learn to read you can teach yourself how to write. Literature is an encyclopedia of technique.

§

June 5

“The best essays in this collection come further in as Glover, like a physicist dissecting atoms, breaks down the prose of several great writers of the past few decades. A successful fiction writer in his own right, he wants not only to identify the techniques of stylists such as Alice Munro, Mark Anthony Jarman, and Thomas Bernhard, but to understand the grand logic behind the structures, the God-like plans that such geniuses hatch to produce their greatest works. Although this is not specifically a “how-to” book, Glover’s analyses in Copula Spiders prove far more insightful than traditional criticism, and by extension far more helpful to writers who are serious about approaching perfection in their craft.” — Joe Ponepinto @ The Los Angeles Review

§

June 5

It’s a great book. Look for my review in the next issue of Broken Pencil. — Nico Mara-McKay @ nicomaramckay.com

§

June 3

The first bad review; always a landmark. DG taken to the barn and whipped with limp squibs by Daniel Evans Pritchard at The Critical Flame, a young man apparently lacking a sense of humor and a delusional optimist who seems to think all those e-books coming out are worth reading. Without a trace of irony, he quotes, um, a Gallup poll to tell us the state of literary culture in America. At least he spelled my name right (although he didn’t manage to copy Mark Anthony Jarman’s name with the same accuracy — Mark suddenly becoming French in the translation — Marc Anthony Jarman). Tiresome as it is, I herewith issue my usual challenge to a duel.

§

May 21

Such was the pace of my conversion, that by the time I reached the penultimate chapter, a brilliant examination of, among other things, the catastrophic meeting of the 15th-century book cultures of Europe and the oral cultures of the new world, I had decided that every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays and was fixing to present them to my eldest daughter, who is about to begin literary studies at UBC.

Glover is at times rather detached in his assessment of the value of storytelling. And yet there is a subtext to his work, a sense that if a story is to have life beyond the intrinsics of its existence, it must, sooner or later, ease up to the imponderables at the heart of what it is to be human. As Joni Mitchell said of songwriting, if at some point a song’s lyrics don’t extend themselves into a larger orbit, “it’s all just complaining.” Charles Wilkins, The Globe and Mail

§

May 13

His sortie on the verb “to be” in “Attack of the Copula Spiders” is particularly brilliant. Mark Sampson at Free Range Reading

§

April 28

Attack of the Copula Spiders is a practical guide for anyone interested in writing. Glover’s first chapter, “How To Write A Novel,” alone is worth the price of the book. Telegraph Journal SalonBooks

§

Caroline Adderson, author of A History of Forgetting: “Just ordered it. The essay on “Meneseteung” alone is worth the price.”

§

April 13

“These essays are not just for writing students, however. Whatever heightens student awareness of craft also sharpens the awareness of the general reader who has no desire to try his or her hand at writing but would like better to understand literature. Glover has an essay on Alice Munro that is of value to any short story writer but also should be required reading for anyone interested in Canadian fiction.” Philip Marchand in the National Post

 §

April 10

“You should have a look at Douglas Glover on what may be the Mexican classic, Pedro Paramo, which was once described to me as “Mexico’s Joyce.” (The essay appears in Glover’s recent Attack of the Copula Spiders, which looks to be a great book of literary essays.)” — Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading

 §

April 9

“Thoughtful and erudite books such as Attack of the Copula Spiders are always useful as roadmaps for developing better readers and writers. Now if we could only get the world to read them carefully.” George Fetherling review in Quill and Quire

§

“I’m a few chapters into reading it a second time. All of it is wise and clear and exciting. The book is chock-full of good stuff, but the first and third chapters are especially brilliant. And the first paragraph of your essay on the Rooke novel is itself worth the price of the book. ” — Jack Hodgins, Governor General’s Award winning author of The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne and The Invention of the World

§

March 25

Douglas Glover interview re Attack of the Copula Spiders on The Danforth Review.

§

Douglas Glover’s Craftwork talk on the novel at the Center for Fiction — based on “How To Write A Novel,” one of the essays in Attack of the Copula Spiders

§

March 14

Craftwork: Douglas Glover — Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 7:00 pm, at

The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street
(between Fifth and Madison)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 755-6710
info@centerforfiction.org

§

March 15

Douglas Glover Read at Celebration of The Literarian

The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street
(between Fifth and Madison)
New York, NY 10017
(212) 755-6710
info@centerforfiction.org

Thurs

day March 15, 2012
07:00 pm

Come join us for drinks and micro-readings in celebration of our online magazine, The Literarian, featuring contribs Alan Cheuse, Anne Landsman, Barbara O’Dair, Carmela Ciuraru, Christine Schutt, Diane DeSanders, Douglas Glover, Elissa Schappell, Jane Ciabattari, Kim Chinquee, Leigh Newman, Leopoldine Core, Terese Svoboda, Tracy O’Neill, and Victoria Redel.

§

February 9

The Thomas Bernhard essay in Attack of the Copula Spiders quoted in The New Yorker online Book Bench.

§

Among the essays included in the book:

  • How to Write a Novel (dg’s famous Novel Lecture)
  • How to Write a Short Story: Notes on Structure and an Exercise (see examples of student stories written from the exercise here and here)
  • The Drama of Grammar
  • The Mind of Alice Munro
  • Novels and Dreams
  • A Scrupulous Fidelity: On Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser

§

February 5

UK Guardian reviewer and columnist and editor of the magazine 3 a.m. Andrew Gallix quotes from Attack of the Copula Spiders.

(This is in his Phantom Book category, related to language theory and a modernist aesthetic. dg is up there with Walter Benjamin, George Steiner and Herman Melville.)

§

February 1

Essay excerpted from Attack of the Copula Spiders in The Brooklyn Rail

Linked on A Piece of Monologue, ReadySteadyBook, and wood s lot.

“…excellent essay” — @ Who Killed Lemmy Caution?

“…excellent essay” — @ Three Minutes’ Chewing

“…a great essay by Douglas Glover about Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser (it is serialized from Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing, published by Biblioasis. The essay makes a fine rundown of the various rhetorical devices that makes Bernhard Bernhard. So if you ever wonder how he manages to attain those typically Bernhardian effects, look here.” Scott Esposito @ Conversational Reading

§.

Attack of the Copula Spiders Book Signing at Vermont College of Fine Arts booth, AWP ChicagoThursday, March 1, 2-3:30pm. Books available. Bring cash or checks.

§

Attack of the Copula Spiders Party at AWP Chicago Friday, March 2, 7-8:15pm, Hilton Chicago Hotel Dining Room 4. Invitation below.
.

§

Invitation Flyer

§

 

Visit the NC Bookstore.

Buy books here and a percentage comes back to NC for the upkeep of the magazine.

Attack of the Copula Spiders

 

Attack of the Copula Spiders

Book News, Reviews, Orders

“…a master of narrative structure” (Wall Street Journal)

“…every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.” (Globe and Mail)

———–

 Order Attack of the Copula Spiders

———–

April 25, 2013

Brendan Riley review in Review of Contemporary Fiction:

This is not literary craft reduced to statistical formulae and write-by-the-numbers word-bytes. Glover’s admirable ability and patient willingness to cast a careful—not cold—eye on what makes sentences hum and flow is fueled by a vital, infectious fascination with words, enabling him to reveal the inspired, alchemical, verbal concatenation at work in the most alluring and memorable fiction writing.

§

March 30, 2013

3 Canadian Writers with Buzz @ The Reader 

 

attack

§

March 9, 2013

A Canadian author’s book on writing went viral on social media recently, leading to thousands of would-be fiction writers searching their manuscripts for “Copula Spiders.”

Douglas Glover’s book Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis) coins the term to refer to the multi-appendaged mess created by circling and linking all of the variations of the verb “to be” in a paragraph. (Copula is a term for the link between subject and predicate of a verb.) Excessive use of sentence constructions like “he was happy” or “the building was unassuming” lead to “flaccid and uninteresting prose,” he writes.

Joe Ponepinto, book review editor of the Los Angeles Review, brought Glover’s ideas to the literary world in a much-circulated blog post subtitled “Why I’ll never write (or read) the same way again.”

via Cameron Dueck’s arts column – Winnipeg Free Press.

§

March 2, 2013

from Joe Ponepinto @ The Saturday Morning Post

I reviewed a book a while back that has stayed with me for many months and has affected the way I write and read, and it’s opened my eyes to a weakness in much creative writing, even in published books. Douglas Glover’s Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis, 2012) criticizes many aspects of fiction, but saves its most withering scorn for the rampant and indiscriminate use of copulas.

The Secret of Maimonides-Submission for 2-26

I hear you asking, “What’s a copula? I admit I had to look it up. Webster’s definition says: “the connecting link between subject and predicate of a proposition.” In most cases, this refers to a form of the word “be.” But what does that mean to us everyday writers? It means banal, didactic, often passive sentences, almost completely lacking in action or depth.

As Glover says: “A copula spider occurs when a student uses the verb ‘to be’ so many times on a page that I can circle all the instances, connect them with lines, and draw a spider diagram. Now there is nothing grammatically wrong with the verb ‘to be,’ but if you use it over and over again your prose is likely to be flaccid and uninteresting.”

via The Case of the Copula Overdose, or, Why I’ll Never Write (or Read) the Same Way Again by Joe Ponepinto @ The Saturday Morning Post

 §

December 9

From Chapman/Chapman’s Favorite Longreads of 2012.

“‘A Scrupulous Fidelity: on Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser’ by Douglas Glover, The Brooklyn Rail

Close reading doesn’t get much better than this. Glover expertly unpacks the logorrheic hilarity of Bernhard’s text without ruining any of the fun.”

 §

November 24

Attack of the Copula Spiders named one of the top non-fiction books of 2012 by The Globe and Mail.

“[By] by the time I reached the penultimate chapter, a brilliant examination of, among other things, the catastrophic meeting of the 15th-century book cultures of Europe and the oral cultures of the new world, I had decided that every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays.” — Charles Wilkins

via Non-fiction books from this year that are worth a read (or two) – The Globe and Mail.

§

November 9

Governor-General Podcast Interview with Sky Hornig in Calgary during Wordfest in mid-October.

The Governor-General Podcast Interview – Douglas Glover

via Douglas Glover – CJSW – Calgary’s Independent Radio 90.9 FM.

§

September 29

A few months ago I read a book by Douglas Glover titled Attack of the Copula Spiders. At the time, I didn’t even know what a copula was. Once I understood, I spent days fixing copula-laden writing, and sweated over every sentence I wrote to make sure I was using more active verbs. In time, though, those fixations fade into the subconscious, which is where they belong. The key to good writing, I believe, is not to ignore rules and not to obsess over them. It’s to incorporate the ones you believe are true into your writing psyche so that you are aware of them without thinking about them. — Joe Ponepinto, Book Review Editor at LA Review. Writer, editor, teacher. Occasional curmudgeon. Dad to henry, the coffee-drinkin’ dog

§

September 29

 §

September 5

If I had to guess what events will sell out first, my money would be on the Douglas Glover Master Class. He’s a spectacular Canadian writer who has kindly agreed to do a three hour class on the mechanics of good creative writing for WordFest patrons. The best part about it? It’s only 30 bucks per person. What are you waiting for? Follow this link and buy tickets now!

via Post-Launch Blog: A Response | WordFest Blog.

 

§

July 17

Shelagh Shapiro interviews dg on his new book Attack of the Copula Spiders at Write the Book, Shelagh’s long-running radio show, which, by the way, is fast becoming an institution in its own right, a vast trove of writerly advice and experience. Listen to the interview on Shelagh’s site or download the podcast — it’s also available at iTunes.

Douglas Glover – Interview

Award-winning Canadian author Douglas Glover, on his latest book: a collection of essays on writing, Attack of the Copula Spiders, published by Biblioasis.

§

July 15

Douglas Glover and How to Write a Novel

by Jane Eaton Hamilton

I’m reading “Attack of the Copula Spiders” by Douglas Glover. i remember him trying to drill the matters in his first piece, “How to Write a Novel,” through my thick brain back in Saratoga Springs in the early 90s. It was the best advice I had ever gotten on making a novel. Really, it still is, and I’m glad to see it again in other than my own scrambled notes. 

§

July 6

Vivian Dorsel interviews Douglas Glover in upstreet 8.

upstreet with Douglas Glover

Dorsel:  What do you emphasize in your teaching of writing?

Glover: Reading. The first thing I give students is a reading rubric and an analytical check-list to begin to reform their reading skills. As I say in Attack of the Copula Spiders, we live in a post-literate age. On a certain level that book is about the act of reading. I am pushing a critical aesthetic that is a bit like New Criticism and a bit like Russian Formalism; but, to my mind, as a writer, it just seems reasonable and immeasurably expands comprehension. You read a story and pay some attention to how it’s put together and, beyond the illusion of fictional narrative, you suddenly engage with the text on a whole other, rather exciting, level of grammar, rhythm and meaning. You begin to see connections that hitherto you vaguely passed over supplying your own dreamy connotations (as you’re taught to do in high school). We’re at a moment in our culture when differences in the ability to read and comprehend a text are critical.

I can’t remember the moment when I actually invented the phrase “copula spiders,” I only foggily recall circling over and over again all the “to be” verbs and then noticing that I could make a diagram on the page and that the diagram resembled a spider (with far more legs than it should have). The real issue, the shocking point, is that when you teach writing you are basically teaching the same student over and over again. It doesn’t matter whether the student is writing nonfiction or fiction or that the student thinks the burning piece of paper in his hand is the next War and Peace because he has put his heart into it and it comes out of his own original personal thoughts and is different (he believes) from anything ever written before (or in the future). The shocking thing is the uniformity of mediocrity. The shocking thing is that intelligent adults can’t think of another verb to use (actually most students jog along with a verb repertoire of about five: to be, to look, to sit, to stand, to see—absolutely the most popular verb choices).

The crucial connector here is to realize that part of the reason proto-writers don’t notice they are doing this is because they don’t know how to read. Eighty percent of what I do every semester is teach students how to read like writers, that is, with attention to structure and the felicities of well-written prose. So the two aspects of my book are necessarily joined: you can’t teach people to write simply by telling them what they are doing wrong; you have to show them where it is done right, that is, you have to show them how to read.

Once you learn to read you can teach yourself how to write. Literature is an encyclopedia of technique.

§

June 5

“The best essays in this collection come further in as Glover, like a physicist dissecting atoms, breaks down the prose of several great writers of the past few decades. A successful fiction writer in his own right, he wants not only to identify the techniques of stylists such as Alice Munro, Mark Anthony Jarman, and Thomas Bernhard, but to understand the grand logic behind the structures, the God-like plans that such geniuses hatch to produce their greatest works. Although this is not specifically a “how-to” book, Glover’s analyses in Copula Spiders prove far more insightful than traditional criticism, and by extension far more helpful to writers who are serious about approaching perfection in their craft.” — Joe Ponepinto @ The Los Angeles Review

§

June 5

It’s a great book. Look for my review in the next issue of Broken Pencil. — Nico Mara-McKay @ nicomaramckay.com

§

June 3

The first bad review; always a landmark. DG taken to the barn and whipped with limp squibs by Daniel Evans Pritchard at The Critical Flame, a young man apparently lacking a sense of humor and a delusional optimist who seems to think all those e-books coming out are worth reading. Without a trace of irony, he quotes, um, a Gallup poll to tell us the state of literary culture in America. At least he spelled my name right (although he didn’t manage to copy Mark Anthony Jarman’s name with the same accuracy — Mark suddenly becoming French in the translation — Marc Anthony Jarman). Tiresome as it is, I herewith issue my usual challenge to a duel.

§

May 21

Such was the pace of my conversion, that by the time I reached the penultimate chapter, a brilliant examination of, among other things, the catastrophic meeting of the 15th-century book cultures of Europe and the oral cultures of the new world, I had decided that every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays and was fixing to present them to my eldest daughter, who is about to begin literary studies at UBC.

Glover is at times rather detached in his assessment of the value of storytelling. And yet there is a subtext to his work, a sense that if a story is to have life beyond the intrinsics of its existence, it must, sooner or later, ease up to the imponderables at the heart of what it is to be human. As Joni Mitchell said of songwriting, if at some point a song’s lyrics don’t extend themselves into a larger orbit, “it’s all just complaining.”  Charles Wilkins, The Globe and Mail

§

May 13

His sortie on the verb “to be” in “Attack of the Copula Spiders” is particularly brilliant. Mark Sampson at Free Range Reading

§

April 28

Attack of the Copula Spiders is a practical guide for anyone interested in writing. Glover’s first chapter, “How To Write A Novel,” alone is worth the price of the book.  Telegraph Journal SalonBooks

 §

Caroline Adderson, author of A History of Forgetting: “Just ordered it. The essay on “Meneseteung” alone is worth the price.”

 §

April 13

“These essays are not just for writing students, however. Whatever heightens student awareness of craft also sharpens the awareness of the general reader who has no desire to try his or her hand at writing but would like better to understand literature. Glover has an essay on Alice Munro that is of value to any short story writer but also should be required reading for anyone interested in Canadian fiction.” Philip Marchand in the National Post

§

April 10

“You should have a look at Douglas Glover on what may be the Mexican classic, Pedro Paramo, which was once described to me as “Mexico’s Joyce.” (The essay appears in Glover’s recent Attack of the Copula Spiders, which looks to be a great book of literary essays.)” — Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading

 §

April 9

“Thoughtful and erudite books such as Attack of the Copula Spiders are always useful as roadmaps for developing better readers and writers. Now if we could only get the world to read them carefully.” George Fetherling review in Quill and Quire

 §

“I’m a few chapters into reading it a second time. All of it is wise and clear and exciting.  The  book is chock-full of good stuff, but the first and third chapters are especially brilliant. And the first paragraph of your essay on the Rooke novel is itself worth the price of the book. ” — Jack Hodgins, Governor General’s Award winning author of The Resurrection of Joseph Bourne and The Invention of the World

 §

March 25

Douglas Glover interview re Attack of the Copula Spiders on The Danforth Review.

§

Douglas Glover’s Craftwork talk on the novel at the Center for Fiction — based on “How To Write A Novel,” one of the essays in Attack of the Copula Spiders

§

March 14

Craftwork: Douglas Glover — Wednesday, March 14, 2012, 7:00 pm, at

The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street
(between Fifth and Madison)
New York, NY  10017
(212) 755-6710
info@centerforfiction.org

§

March 15

Douglas Glover Read at Celebration of The Literarian

The Center for Fiction
17 E. 47th Street
(between Fifth and Madison)
New York, NY  10017
(212) 755-6710
info@centerforfiction.org

Thursday March 15, 2012
07:00 pm

Come join us for drinks and micro-readings in celebration of our online magazine, The Literarian, featuring contribs Alan Cheuse, Anne Landsman, Barbara O’Dair, Carmela Ciuraru, Christine Schutt, Diane DeSanders, Douglas Glover, Elissa Schappell, Jane Ciabattari, Kim Chinquee, Leigh Newman, Leopoldine Core, Terese Svoboda, Tracy O’Neill, and Victoria Redel.

§

February 9

The Thomas Bernhard essay in Attack of the Copula Spiders quoted in The New Yorker online Book Bench.

§

Among the essays included in the book:

  • How to Write a Novel (dg’s famous Novel Lecture)
  • How to Write a Short Story: Notes on Structure and an Exercise (see examples of student stories written from the exercise here and here)
  • The Drama of Grammar
  • The Mind of Alice Munro
  • Novels and Dreams
  • A Scrupulous Fidelity: On Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser

§

February 5

UK Guardian reviewer and columnist and editor of  the magazine 3 a.m. Andrew Gallix quotes from Attack of the Copula Spiders.

(This is in his Phantom Book category, related to language theory and a modernist aesthetic. dg is up there with Walter Benjamin, George Steiner and Herman Melville.)

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February 1

Essay excerpted from Attack of the Copula Spiders in The Brooklyn Rail

Linked on A Piece of Monologue, ReadySteadyBook, and wood s lot.

“…excellent essay” — @ Who Killed Lemmy Caution?

“…excellent essay” — @ Three Minutes’ Chewing

“…a great essay by Douglas Glover about Thomas Bernhard’s novel The Loser (it is serialized from Attack of the Copula Spiders and Other Essays on Writing, published by Biblioasis. The essay makes a fine rundown of the various rhetorical devices that makes Bernhard Bernhard. So if you ever wonder how he manages to attain those typically Bernhardian effects, look here.” Scott Esposito @ Conversational Reading

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Attack of the Copula Spiders Book Signing at Vermont College of Fine Arts booth, AWP ChicagoThursday, March 1, 2-3:30pm. Books available. Bring cash or checks.

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Attack of the Copula Spiders Party at AWP Chicago Friday, March 2, 7-8:15pm, Hilton Chicago Hotel Dining Room 4. Invitation below.
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Invitation Flyer

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Visit the NC Bookstore.

Buy books here and a percentage comes back to NC for the upkeep of the magazine.

 Comments Off on Attack of the Copula Spiders

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Douglas Glover, Theatre Passe MurailleDouglas Glover’s obscurity is legendary; he is mostly known for being unknown. He has been called “the most eminent unknown Canadian writer alive” (Maclean’s Magazine, The National Post). But for sheer over-the-top hyperbole, nothing beats the opening of a recent piece about him in Quill and Quire in Toronto, which elevates his lack of celebrity to the epic: “Certain mysteries abide in this world: the Gordian Knot, the Holy Trinity, and the literary obscurity of Douglas Glover.” Luckily, he owns a dog and is not completely alone in the world. And occasionally someone actually reads what he writes: He has also been called “a master of narrative structure” (Wall Street Journal) and “the mad genius of Can Lit” (Globe and Mail) whose stories are “as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature” (Los Angeles Review of Books) and whose work “demands comparison to [Cormac] McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner” (Music & Literature). A new story collection, Savage Love, was published in 2013.

Glover is the author of five story collections, four novels, three books of essays, Notes Home from a Prodigal Son, Attack of the Copula Spiders, and The Erotics of Restraint, and The Enamoured Knight, a book about Don Quixote and novel form. His novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was optioned by Isuma Igloolik Productions, makers of Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner. His story book A Guide to Animal Behaviour was a finalist for the 1991 Governor-General’s Award. His stories have been frequently anthologized, notably in The Best American Short Stories, Best Canadian Stories, and The New Oxford Book of Canadian Stories. He was the subject of a TV documentary in a series called The Writing Life and a collection of critical essays, The Art of Desire, The Fiction of Douglas Glover, edited by Bruce Stone.

Glover has taught at several institutions of high learning but mostly wishes he hadn’t. For two years he produced and hosted The Book Show, a weekly half-hour literary interview program which originated at WAMC in Albany and was syndicated on various public radio stations and around the world on Voice of America. He edited the annual Best Canadian Stories from 1996 to 2006. He has two sons, Jacob and Jonah, who will doubtless turn out better than he did.

See also “Making Friends with a Stranger: Albert Camus’s L’Étranger,” an essay in CNQ:Canadian Notes & Queries; Consciousness & Masturbation: A Note on Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos,” an essay in 3:AM Magazine; “Pedro the Uncanny: A Note on Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo,” an essay in Biblioasis International Translation Series Online;A Scrupulous Fidelity: Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser,” an essay in The Brooklyn Rail;Mappa Mundi: The Structure of Western Thought,” an essay on the history of ideas also in The Brooklyn Rail; and a dozen extremely wise epigrams at Global Brief

 

Senior Editors

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Book Reviews

Jason DeYoungJason DeYoung lives in Atlanta, Georgia. His work has recently appeared in Corium, The Los Angeles Review, The Fiddleback, New Orleans Review, and Numéro Cinq.
Contact: jasondeyoung@old.numerocinqmagazine.com.
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Numéro Cinq at the Movies

R. W. Gray (Numéro Cinq at the Movies) was born and raised on the northwest coast of British Columbia, and received a PhD in Poetry and Psychoanalysis from the University of Alberta in 2003. His most recent book, a short story collection entitled Entropic, won the $25,000 Thomas Raddall Fiction Award in 2016. Additionally, he is the author of Crisp, a short story collection, and two serialized novels in Xtra West magazine and has published poetry in various journals and anthologies, including Arc, Grain, Event, and dANDelion. He also has had ten short screenplays produced, including Alice & Huck and Blink. He currently teaches Film at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton..

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Editor-at-Large

Fernando Sdrigotti is a writer, cultural critic, and recovering musician. He was born in Rosario, Argentina, and now lives and works in London. He is the author of Dysfunctional Males, a story collection, and Shetlag: una novela acentuada. He is a contributing editor at 3am Magazine and the editor-in-chief of Minor Literature[s]. He tweets at @f_sd.

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Translations

WoodardBenjamin Woodard lives in Connecticut. His recent fiction has appeared in Cheap PopdecomP magazinE, Spartan, and Numéro Cinq. His reviews and essays have been featured in, or are forthcoming from, Numéro Cinq, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Rain Taxi Review of Books, The Kenyon Review, and other fine publications. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can find him at benjaminjwoodard.com.
Contact bwoodard@old.numerocinqmagazine.com.

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Poetry Editors

aizenberg-thumbnailSusan Aizenberg is the author of three poetry collections: Quiet City (BkMk Press 2015); Muse (Crab Orchard Poetry Series 2002); and Peru in Take Three: 2/AGNI New Poets Series (Graywolf Press 1997) and co-editor with Erin Belieu of The Extraordinary Tide: New Poetry by American Women (Columbia University Press 2001). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, among them The North American Review, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Blackbird, Connotation Press, Spillway, The Journal, Midwest Quarterly Review, Hunger Mountain, Alaska Quarterly Review, and the Philadelphia Inquirer and have been reprinted and are forthcoming in several anthologies, including Ley Lines (Wilfrid Laurier UP) and Wild and Whirling Words: A Poetic Conversation (Etruscan). Her awards include a Crab Orchard Poetry Series Award, the Nebraska Book Award for Poetry and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Levis Prize for Muse, a Distinguished Artist Fellowship from the Nebraska Arts Council, the Mari Sandoz Award from the Nebraska Library Association, and a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner award. She can be reached through her website, susanaizenberg.com..

gillisSusan Gillis has published three books of poetry, most recently The Rapids (Brick Books, 2012), and several chapbooks, including The Sky These Days (Thee Hellbox Press, 2015) and Twenty Views of the Lachine Rapids (Gaspereau Press, 2012). Volta (Signature Editions, 2002) won the A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry. She is a member of the collaborative poetry group Yoko’s Dogs, whose work appears regularly in print and online, and is collected in Rhinoceros (Gaspereau Press, 2016) and Whisk (Pedlar Press, 2013). Susan divides her time between Montreal and rural Ontario..

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Managing Editor.

Deirdre thumbnailDeirdre Baker is a freelance web and copy editor living in Toronto. She worked for nearly three decades at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, most recently as manager of the Legislature’s website and intranet. After years of bills, proceedings, debates, policies, and procedures, she is delighted to finally have something interesting to read for work.

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Chief Technical Officer/Internet Security

Jonah Glover is a twenty-three-year-old human male. Jonah was hired into a technical role despite a long history of shoving chalk into the Glover family VCR. His tenure as CTO is a brazen act of nepotism by DG, so he says. In truth, he has rescued the magazine from malware attacks and hosting issues over and over again. He also designed the logo (many years ago). He works as a software engineer in Seattle and is completing a degree at the University of Waterloo.
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Contributing Editors.

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Riiki DucornetThe author of nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essays and five books of poetry, Rikki Ducornet has received both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction. She has received the Bard College Arts and Letters award and, in 2008, an Academy Award in Literature. Her work is widely published abroad. Recent exhibitions of her paintings include the solo show Desirous at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2007, and the group shows: O Reverso Do Olhar in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2008, and El Umbral Secreto at the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile, in 2009. She has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, Joanna Howard and Anne Waldman among others. Her collected papers including prints and drawings are in the permanent collection of the Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Chile, The McMaster University Museum, Ontario, Canada, and The Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.

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Patrick J. Keane is Professor Emeritus of Le Moyne College. Though he has written on a wide range of topics, his areas of special interest have been 19th and 20th-century poetry in the Romantic tradition; Irish literature and history; the interactions of literature with philosophic, religious, and political thinking; the impact of Nietzsche on certain 20th century writers; and, most recently, Transatlantic studies, exploring the influence of German Idealist philosophy and British Romanticism on American writers. His books include William Butler Yeats: Contemporary Studies in Literature (1973), A Wild Civility: Interactions in the Poetry and Thought of Robert Graves (1980), Yeats’s Interactions with Tradition (1987), Terrible Beauty: Yeats, Joyce, Ireland and the Myth of the Devouring Female (1988), Coleridge’s Submerged Politics (1994), Emerson, Romanticism, and Intuitive Reason: The Transatlantic “Light of All Our Day” (2003), and Emily Dickinson’s Approving God: Divine Design and the Problem of Suffering (2007).

HeadsJulie Larios is the author of four books for children: On the Stairs (1995), Have You Ever Done That? (named one of Smithsonian Magazine’s Outstanding Children’s Books 2001), Yellow Elephant (a Book Sense Pick and Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book, 2006) and Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures (shortlisted for the Cybil Award in Poetry, 2008). For five years she was the Poetry Editor for The Cortland Review, and her poetry for adults has been published by The Atlantic Monthly, McSweeney’s, Swink, The Georgia Review, Ploughshares, The Threepenny Review, Field, and others. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Pushcart Prize for Poetry, and a Washington State Arts Commission/Artist Trust Fellowship. Her work has been chosen for The Best American Poetry series by Billy Collins (2006) and Heather McHugh (2007) and was performed as part of the Vox series at the New York City Opera (2010). Recently she collaborated with the composer Dag Gabrielson and other New York musicians, filmmakers and dancers on a cross-discipline project titled 1,2,3. It was selected for showing at the American Dance Festival (International Screendance Festival) and had its premiere at Duke University on July 13th, 2013.

Sydney Lea2Sydney Lea is the former Poet Laureate of Vermont (2011-2015). He founded New England Review in 1977 and edited it till 1989. His poetry collection Pursuit of a Wound (University of Illinois Press, 2000) was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Another collection, To the Bone: New and Selected Poems, was co-winner of the 1998 Poets’ Prize. In 1989, Lea also published the novel A Place in Mind with Scribner. Lea has received fellowships from the Rockefeller, Fulbright and Guggenheim Foundations, and has taught at Dartmouth, Yale, Wesleyan, Vermont College of Fine Arts and Middlebury College, as well as at Franklin College in Switzerland and the National Hungarian University in Budapest. His stories, poems, essays and criticism have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and many other periodicals, as well as in more than forty anthologies. His selection of literary essays, A Hundred Himalayas, was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2012, and Skyhorse Publications  released A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife in 2013. In 2015 he published a non-fiction collection, What’s the Story? Reflections on a Life Grown Long (many of the essays appeared first on Numéro Cinq). His twelfth poetry collection, No Doubt the Nameless, was published this spring by Four Way Books.

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Special Correspondents

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Victoria Best small photoVictoria Best taught at St John’s College, Cambridge for 13 years. Her books include: Critical Subjectivities; Identity and Narrative in the work of Colette and Marguerite Duras (2000), An Introduction to Twentieth Century French Literature (2002) and, with Martin Crowley, The New Pornographies; Explicit Sex in Recent French Fiction and Film (2007). A freelance writer since 2012, she has published essays in Cerise Press and Open Letters Monthly and is currently writing a book on crisis and creativity. She is also co-editor of the quarterly review magazine Shiny New Books (http://shinynewbooks.co.uk).

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Jeff BurseyJeff Bursey is a literary critic and author of the picaresque novel Mirrors on which dust has fallen (Verbivoracious Press, 2015) and the political satire Verbatim: A Novel (Enfield & Wizenty, 2010), both of which take place in the same fictional Canadian province. His forthcoming book, Centring the Margins: Essays and Reviews (Zero Books, July 2016), is a collection of literary criticism that appeared in American Book Review, Books in Canada, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, The Quarterly Conversation, and The Winnipeg Review, among other places. He’s a Contributing Editor at The Winnipeg Review, an Associate Editor at Lee Thompson’s Galleon, and a Special Correspondent for Numéro Cinq. He makes his home on Prince Edward Island in Canada’s Far East.

Garvin thumbnailGary Garvin lives in Portland, Oregon, where he writes and reflects on a thirty-year career teaching English. His short stories and essays have appeared in TriQuarterly, Web ConjunctionsFourth Genre, Numéro Cinq, the minnesota reviewNew Novel ReviewConfrontationThe New ReviewThe Santa Clara ReviewThe South Carolina Review, The Berkeley Graduate, and The Crescent Review. He is currently at work on a collection of essays and a novel. His architectural models can be found at Under Construction. A catalog of his writing can be found at Fictions.

Genese Grill

Genese Grill is an artist, translator, writer, and cultural conspirator living in Burlington, Vermont. She is the author of The World as Metaphor in Robert Musil’s ‘The Man without Qualities’ (Camden House, 2012) and the translator of a collection of Robert Musil’s short prose, Thought Flights (Contra Mundum, 2015). She is currently working on completing a collection of essays exploring the tension between spirit and matter in contemporary culture and a room-sized, illuminated, accordion book inscribed with one of the essays from the collection, along with many other fanatical projects. You can find Genese online at genesegrill.blogspot.com.

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JasonJason Lucarelli is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Numéro Cinq, The Literarian, 3:AM Magazine, Litro, Squawk Back, and NANO Fiction.

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Bruce Stone4

Bruce Stone is a Wisconsin native and graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts (MFA, 2002). In 2004, he edited a great little book of essays on Douglas Glover’s fiction, The Art of Desire (Oberon Press). His own essays have appeared in MirandaNabokov StudiesReview of Contemporary Fiction, Los Angeles Review of Books, F. Scott Fitzgerald Review and Salon. His fiction has appeared most recently in Straylight and Numéro Cinq. He currently teaches writing at UCLA.
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Trimingham_Julie

Julie Trimingham was born in Montreal and raised semi-nomadically. She trained as a painter at Yale University and as a director at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto. Her film work has screened at festivals and been broadcast internationally, and has won or been nominated for a number of awards. Julie taught screenwriting at the Vancouver Film School for several years; she has since focused exclusively on writing fiction. Her online journal, Notes from Elsewhere, features reportage from places real and imagined. Her first novel, Mockingbird, was published in 2013.

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Production Editors

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Alyssa green backgroundAlyssa Colton has a PhD in English with creative dissertation from the University at Albany, State University of New York. Her fiction has been published in The Amaranth Review and Women Writers. Her essays have appeared in Literary Arts Review, Author Magazine, Mothering, Moxie: For Women Who Dare, Iris: A Journal about Women, and on WAMC: Northeast Public Radio. Alyssa has taught classes in writing, literature, and theater at the University at Albany, the College of St. Rose, and Berkshire Community College and blogs about writing at abcwritingediting.
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Nowick GrayNowick Gray writes fiction, essays and creative nonfiction that likes to bend boundaries and confound categories. He also works as a freelance copy editor and enjoys playing African drums. Having survived American suburbs, the Quebec Arctic and the BC wilderness, Nowick is now based in Victoria, frequenting tropical locations in winter months..

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Nic Leigh has had work published in Juked, The Collagist, UNSAID, Atticus Review, Requited, Gobbet, and DIAGRAM. A chapbook, Confidences, won the Cobalt/Thumbnail Flash Fiction contest and is forthcoming from Cobalt Press. Leigh is also a fiction reader for Guernica.

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CaptureKathryn Para is an award-winning, multi-genre writer with a MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in Grain, Room of One’s Own, Geist, Sunstream, and Vancouver Review. She is the 2013 Winner of Mother Tongue Publishing’s Search for the Great BC Novel Contest with, Lucky,  her first novel, which was also shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize in 2014. Her stage play, Honey, debuted in 2004. She has also written, directed and produced short films.

Daniel Davis Wood is a writer based in Birmingham, England. His debut novel, Blood and Bone, won the 2014 Viva La Novella Prize in his native Australia. He is also the author of Frontier Justice, a study of the influence of the nineteenth century frontier on American literature, and the editor of a collection of essays on the African American writer Edward P. Jones. He can be found online at www.danieldaviswood.com..

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Assistant to the Editor

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mary-brindley2Mary Brindley is a Vermont-born copywriter living in Boston. A recent graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts, she writes creative nonfiction, performs improv, and is about to move to London.

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Contributors

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Anu2A. Anupama is a U.S.-born, Indian-American poet and translator whose work has appeared in several literary publications, including The Bitter Oleander, Monkeybicycle, The Alembic, Numéro Cinq and decomP magazinE. She received her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012. She currently lives and writes in the Hudson River valley of New York, where she blogs about poetic inspiration at seranam.com.

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dylanbrennan-croppedCurrently based in Mexico City, Dylan Brennan writes poetry, essays and memoirs. His debut collection, Blood Oranges, for which he won The Patrick Kavanagh Award runner-up prize, was published by The Dreadful Press in 2014. His co-edited volume of academic essays Rethinking Juan Rulfo’s Creative World: Prose, Photography, Film is available now from Legenda Books (2016). In addition to his work as Mexico Curator for Numéro Cinq, he regularly contributes to the online Mexican literary site Portal de Letras. Twitter: @DylanJBrennan.

jeremy brungerJeremy Brungeroriginally from Tennessee, is a writer attending a graduate program at the University of Chicago. His interests trend toward the Marxian: how capital transforms us, abuses us, mocks us. His writing on philosophy and politics has been featured on Truthout, The Hampton Institute, and 3 AM Magazine and his poetry has appeared in the Chiron Review and Sibling Rivalry Press. He can be contacted at jbrunger@uchicago.edu.
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Michael Carson lives on the Gulf Coast. His non-fiction has appeared at The Daily Beast and Salon, and his fiction in the short story anthology, The Road Ahead: Stories of the Forever War. He helps edit the Wrath-Bearing Tree and is currently working towards an MFA in Fiction at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Laura Michele Diener author photoLaura Michele Diener teaches medieval history and women’s studies at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. She received her PhD in history from The Ohio State University and has studied at Vassar College, Newnham College, Cambridge, and most recently, Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her creative writing has appeared in The Catholic Worker, Lake Effect, Appalachian Heritage,and Cargo Literary Magazine, and she is a regular contributor to Yes! Magazine..

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Daniel Green is a writer and literary critic whose essays, reviews, and stories have appeared in a variety of publications. He is the author of Beyond the Blurb: On Critics and Criticism (2016).

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A gallerist in Saratoga Springs for over 15 years, visual artist & poet Mary Kathryn Jablonski is now an administrative director in holistic healthcare. She is author of the chapbook To the Husband I Have Not Yet Met, and her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals including the Beloit Poetry Journal, Blueline, Home Planet News, Salmagundi, and Slipstream, among others. Her artwork has been widely exhibited throughout the Northeast and is held in private and public collections.
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OgburnCarolyn Ogburn lives in the mountains of Western North Carolina where she takes on a variety of worldly topics from the quiet comfort of her porch. Her writing can be found in the Asheville Poetry Review, the Potomac Review, the Indiana Review, and more. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory and NC School of the Arts, she writes on literature, autism, music, and disability rights. She is completing an MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is at work on her first novel.

Paddy Patrick O’Reilly was raised in Renews, Newfoundland and Labrador, the son of a mechanic and a shop’s clerk. He just graduated from St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and will begin work on an MFA at the University of Saskatchewan this coming fall. Twice he has won the Robert Clayton Casto Prize for Poetry, the judges describing his poetry as “appealingly direct and unadorned.”

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Frank Richardson lives in Houston where he teaches English and Humanities. He received his MFA in Fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Mark SampsonMark Sampson has published two novels – Off Book (Norwood Publishing, 2007) and Sad Peninsula (Dundurn Press, 2014) – and a short story collection, called The Secrets Men Keep (Now or Never Publishing, 2015). He also has a book of poetry, Weathervane, forthcoming from Palimpsest Press in 2016. His stories, poems, essays and book reviews have appeared widely in journals in Canada and the United States. Mark holds a journalism degree from the University of King’s College in Halifax and a master’s degree in English from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Originally from Prince Edward Island, he now lives and writes in Toronto.

Natalia SarkissianNatalia Sarkissian has an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was an editor and a contributor at Numéro Cinq from 2010-2017.

 


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Joe SchreiberJoseph Schreiber is a writer and photographer living in Calgary. He maintains a book blog called Rough Ghosts. His writing has also been published at 3:AM, Minor Literature[s] and The Scofield. He tweets @roughghosts.

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captureDorian Stuber teaches at Hendrix College. He has written for Open Letters Monthly, The Scofield, and Words without Borders. He blogs about books at www.eigermonchjungfrau.wordpress.com.

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Authors & Artists of Numéro Cinq

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Ryem Abrahamson • Abdallah Ben Salem d’Aix • Alejandro de Acosta • Caroline Adderson • José Eduardo Agualusa • Susan Aizenberg • Ramón Alejandro • Taiaike Alfred • Gini Alhadeff • Abigail Allen • Steve Almond • Darran Anderson • Trevor Anderson • Jorge Carrera Andrade • Ralph Angel • A. Anupama • Guillaume Apollinaire • Jamaluddin Aram • Fernando Aramburu • Louis Armand • Melissa Armstrong • Tammy Armstrong • Glenn Arnold • Miguel Arteta • Adam Arvidson • Nick Arvin • Kim Aubrey • Shushan Avagyan • Steven Axelrod • Elizabeth Babyn • J. Karl Bogartte • Louise Bak • Bonnie Baker • Sybil Baker • Martin Balgach • Brandon Ballengée • Zsófia Bán • Phyllis Barber • John Banville • Byrna Barclay • Mike Barnes • Stuart Barnes • Kevin Barry • Donald Bartlett • Todd Bartol • John Barton • Sierra Bates • Svetislav Basarav • Charles Baudelaire • Tom Bauer • Melissa Considine Beck • Joshua Beckman • Laura Behr • Gerard Beirne • Amanda Bell • Ian Bell • Madison Smartt Bell • Dodie Bellamy • Joe David Bellamy • Leonard Bellanca • Russell Bennetts • Brianna Berbenuik • Samantha Bernstein • Michelle Berry • Jen Bervin • Victoria Best • Darren Bifford • Nathalie Bikoro • Eula Biss • Susan Sanford Blades • François Blais • Clark Blaise • Denise Blake • Vanessa Blakeslee • Rimas Blekaitis • Liz Blood • Harold Bloom • Ronna Bloom • Michelle Boisseau • Stephanie Bolster • John Bolton • Jody Bolz • Danila Botha • Danny Boyd • Donald Breckenridge • Dylan Brennan • Mary Brindley • Stephen Brockbank • Fleda Brown • Laura Catherine Brown • Nickole Brown • Lynne M. Browne • Julie Bruck • Jeremy Brunger • Michael Bryson • John Bullock •  Bunkong Tuon • Diane Burko • Jeff Bursey • Peter Bush • Jane Buyers • Jowita Bydlowska • Mary Byrne • Agustín Cadena • David Caleb • Chris Campanioni • Jane Campion • J. N. F. M. à Campo • Jared Carney • David Carpenter • Michael Carson •  Mircea Cărtărescu • Ricardo Cázares • Daniela Cascella • Blanca Castellón • Michael Catherwood • Anton Chekhov • David Celone • Corina Martinez Chaudhry • Kelly Cherry • Peter Chiykowski • Linda E. Chown • S. D. Chrostowska • Steven Church • Nicole Chu • Jeanie Chung • Alex Cigale • Sarah Clancy • Jane Clarke • Sheela Clary • Christy Clothier • Carrie Cogan • Ian Colford • Zazil Alaíde Collins • Tim Conley • Christy Ann Conlin • John Connell • Terry Conrad • Allan Cooper • Robert Coover • Cody Copeland • Sean Cotter • Cheryl Cowdy • Mark Cox • Dede Crane • Lynn Crosbie • Elsa Cross • S.D. Chrostowska Roger Crowley • Alan Crozier • Megan Cuilla • Alan Cunningham • Paula Cunningham • Robert Currie • Nathan Currier • Paul M. Curtis • Trinie Dalton • J. P. Dancing Bear • Lydia Davis • Taylor Davis-Van Atta • Robert Day • Sion Dayson • Martin Dean • Patrick Deeley • Katie DeGroot • Christine Dehne • Nelson Denis • Theodore Deppe • Tim Deverell • Jon Dewar • Jason DeYoung • Susanna Fabrés Díaz • Laura Michele Diener • Anne Diggory • Mary di Michele • Jeffrey Dodd • Anthony Doerr • Mary Donovan • Steve Dolph • Han Dong • Erika Dreifus • Jennifer duBois • Patricia Dubrava • Rikki Ducornet • Timothy Dugdale • Ian Duhig • Gregory Dunne • Denise Evans Durkin • Nancy Eimers • Jason Eisener • John Ekman • Okla Elliot • Shana Ellingburg • Susan Elmslie •  Paul Eluard • Josh Emmons • Mathias Énard • Marina Endicott • Sebastian Ennis • Benjamin Evans • Kate Evans •  Cary Fagan • Richard Farrell • Kinga Fabó • Kathy Fagan • Jared Daniel Fagen • Tom Faure • David Ferry • George Fetherling • Kate Fetherston • Laura Fine-Morrison •  Patrick Findler • Melissa Fisher • Cynthia Flood • Stanley Fogel • Eric Foley • Larry Fondation • Paul Forte • Mark Foss • Tess Fragoulis • Anne Francey • Danielle Frandina • Jean-Yves Fréchette • Rodrigo Fresán • Abby Frucht • Simon Frueland • Kim Fu • Mark Frutkin • Róbert Gál • Mia Gallagher •  Mavis Gallant • Andrew Gallix • Eugene K. 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About

 

Well-known for being intellectual and deep, in other words obscure.

Globe and Mail

Always a must-read.

—Two Lines Press

Holy shit!  This looks great!  Even the fine print (I always read credits at movies too).

—a reader

I think it looks spectacular! Numéro Cinq is one handsome webzine…

—a reader

Thanks so much for doing a great journal. Folks are a-buzz about it.
 
—a reader

Must read with coffee & rejoice that NC continually makes neurons fire and leaves readers a little smarter than before.

—another reader

…yesterday was the first time I looked at N.Cinq in a while, not because it isn’t great which it is but because it makes my ambition stand up and scream and on days when I have so much else to do (most days now that it’s summer) this is like eating something really good in small spoonfuls, some sugar, some fire, mostly fire.

— yet another reader

Well, I live by myself on a rock in the middle of the woods, so you’ve elevated the level of discourse for one person, anyway. I don’t even have a dog to converse with any more.

— even again another reader

Humanity is being preserved at NC, along with literature. (Just saw Court’s piece.)

—a reader

Very cool place.  Easy-going but chewy, dense stuff.  Perfect mix I think.   I’m apt to hang out a bit more often.  I just wish it served drinks….

—a reader!!!!

I love how it carries a conversation in a dark house, voices popping up from various corners, passing thought threads here and there. And I love how it carries back through you, too. Like some strange heartbeat that you pulse out, but returns to give you something in response.

— incredible as it seems, another reader

 

Numéro Cinq started January 11, 2010, as…

a reading, discussion and resource site for a small group of Douglas Glover‘s friends and writing students. It morphed into something monstrous, tenticulate, multiform and quite possibly (gasp) alive!

In its 7 1/2 years as a going concern, the magazine published a stellar array of new and known (international, award-winning) writers including among others, from Canada, Jowita Bydlowska, Lynn Coady, Leon Rooke, Diane Schoemperlen, Mavis Gallant, Julie Trimingham, Bill Gaston, Sheila Heti, Mark Anthony Jarman, Caroline Adderson, Amanda Jernigan, Ann Ireland, David Helwig, Phil Hall, Cynthia Flood, Catherine Greenwood, Julie Bruck, Sharon McCartney, Steven Heighton, and Jack Hodgins; from the U.S., Rikki Ducornet, Curtis White, Lance Olsen, Lydia Davis, Noy Holland, Greg Mulcahy, Madison Smartt Bell, Victoria Redel, Micheline Aharonian Marcom, Joseph McElroy, Donald Hall, David Ferry, Steve Almond, Mary Ruefle, Keith Lee Morris, Darin Strauss, David Shields, Robert Wrigley. Anthony Doerr, Brad Watson, Bianca Stone, Robert Wrigley, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Dawn Raffel, and Lynne Tillman; from Ireland and the UK, Gabriel Josipovici, George Szirtes, Andrew Gallix, Kevin Barry, Julie Reverb, John MacKenna, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, John Kelly, Doireann Ni Griofa; plus work in translation by Viktor Shkolvsky, Mauricio Segura, Daniil Kharms, Julián Herbert, Mircea Cărtărescu, Álvaro Pombo, Quim Monzó, Juan José Saer, Anton Chekhov, Mihail Sebastian, Giacomo Leopardi, Habib Tengour, Besik Kharanauli, Rilke, Mathias Énard and many others. We’ve published novellas, entire books, plays, poems, translations, fiction, nonfiction, sermons, criticism, memoirs, music, art work, hybrid art, conceptual art, provocative graphics.

And this is not to forget our intrepid band of NC staffers, contributors and contributing editors, all convicted felons of the literary type, dedicated artists fast making a name for themselves in the brash new digital universe.

The Name

The name for the magazine came from DG’s short story “The Obituary Writer” in which story the hero, based loosely on the author as a young newspaperman, harasses a distraught neighbour who lives in the apartment across the hall by making loud noises in the night and pretending to be a member of a sinister terrorist group called Numéro Cinq.

Sgt. Pye evicts Earl Delamare. It’s my fault, too, because I was taunting Earl, playing on his fantasies. It’s possible I have driven him mad. One night he came to my door, first listening, then mumbling, then beginning his litany of wild accusations. Instead of responding with my usual silence, I put Night on Bald Mountain on the stereo. As the music rose, I began to intone the French advertisements on the backs of cereal boxes in my kitchen cupboard.

The music gave Earl fits; he practically howled with rage. “Numéro Cinq! Numéro Cinq!” he cried. I played John Cage on the stereo and read the cereal boxes backwards, imitating several voices at once. Earl began to beat the door with his fists, perhaps even his head. I could see the panels giving with the force of his blows. In the midst of this I heard Sgt. Pye climbing the stairs. When he came into my apartment, he found me sitting in an old Morris chair, eating a bowl of Rice Krispies, with the stereo low. Earl had retreated to his room like a mole going underground. But I could still hear him shouting. “Numéro Cinq! Numéro Cinq!” When Sgt. Pye let himself into Earl’s room, the black man went through the window and down the fire escape.

After Earl is evicted, the hero slips into his abandoned room and discovers a photograph of a young woman. Later, he finds Earl living at a shelter while he awaits a decision on whether or not he will be committed to a mental hospital. The hero buys Earl a beer and the two walk through town at which point, for no particular reason, he starts to needle Earl again.

When we finish the beer, I take a deep breath and hand him the photograph. It turns out, as I had begun to expect it would, to be a photograph of his dead wife, a woman he loved deeply but who betrayed him with another man. I tell him I am researching a newspaper story about a secret terror organization called the Numéro Cinq, that I’d appreciate him telling me anything he knows about it. Earl is silent, but tears come to his eyes. I say, “I don’t know much. I’ve been tracking them for years.” Earl nods vigorously. “But they’re everywhere,” I say. Earl hides his face in his hands. “Everywhere,” I say, “and we’re doomed.”

–from “The Obituary Writer” in A Guide to Animal Behaviour; also in Bad News of the Heart.

Douglas Glover’s…

obscurity is legendary; he is mostly known for being unknown. He has been called “the most eminent unknown Canadian writer alive” (Maclean’s Magazine, The National Post). But for sheer over-the-top hyperbole, nothing beats the opening of a recent piece about him in Quill and Quire in Toronto, which elevates his lack of celebrity to the epic: “Certain mysteries abide in this world: the Gordian Knot, the Holy Trinity, and the literary obscurity of Douglas Glover.” Luckily, he owns a dog and is not completely alone in the world. And occasionally someone actually reads what he writes: He has also been called “a master of narrative structure” (Wall Street Journal) and “the mad genius of Can Lit” (Globe and Mail) whose stories are “as radiant and stirring as anything available in contemporary literature” (Los Angeles Review of Books) and whose work “demands comparison to [Cormac] McCarthy, Barry Hannah, Donald Barthelme, William Faulkner” (Music & Literature). A new story collection, Savage Love, came out in 2013.

Glover is the author of five story collections, four novels, three books of essays, Notes Home from a Prodigal Son, Attack of the Copula Spiders, and The Erotics of Restraint, and The Enamoured Knight, a book about Don Quixote and novel form. His novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and was optioned by Isuma Igloolik Productions, makers of Atanarjuat, The Fast Runner. His story book A Guide to Animal Behaviour was a finalist for the 1991 Governor-General’s Award. His stories have been frequently anthologized, notably in The Best American Short Stories, Best Canadian Stories, and The New Oxford Book of Canadian Stories. He was the subject of a TV documentary in a series called The Writing Life and a collection of critical essays, The Art of Desire, The Fiction of Douglas Glover, edited by Bruce Stone.

Glover has taught at several institutions of high learning but mostly wishes he hadn’t. For two years he produced and hosted The Book Show, a weekly half-hour literary interview program which originated at WAMC in Albany and was syndicated on various public radio stations and around the world on Voice of America and the Armed Forces Network. He edited the annual Best Canadian Stories from 1996 to 2006. He has two sons, Jacob and Jonah, who will doubtless turn out better than he did.

See also “Making Friends with a Stranger: Albert Camus’s L’Étranger,” an essay in CNQ:Canadian Notes & Queries; “Consciousness & Masturbation: A Note on Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos,” an essay in 3:AM Magazine; “Pedro the Uncanny: A Note on Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo,” an essay in Biblioasis International Translation Series Online;A Scrupulous Fidelity: Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser,” an essay in The Brooklyn Rail;Mappa Mundi: The Structure of Western Thought,” an essay on the history of ideas also in The Brooklyn Rail; and a dozen extremely wise epigrams at Global Brief.

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