Nov 022015


Some more pictures from the NC bunker. The light is grand, and, of course, uncapturable. The top couple of images are looking west at sunset. I’m not trying to show you what it really looks like. The effects are meant to exaggerate the light and dark, the patterns thereof. The middle two images are attempts to get the light streaming into the woods from behind. And now that the leaves are mostly gone I can see things I couldn’t before. Camel’s Hump looms in the distance, dark and ominous. The very bottom image is a snow squall coming over the Worcester Mountains in the west, a sign of the future.

Naturally, it’s terrifying and time-consuming to live in such a dramatic environment and I get no work done. What work? Lucy asks.






ch again

snow coming Glover

Oct 312015

Canadian notes and queries 93 1

Last year, Kim Jernigan, the estimable, indefatigable, generous, and wise former editor of The New Quarterly, emailed me to say she was putting together a special edition of the journal CNQ: Canadian Notes & Queries, and would I write an essay for it. The focus, the demand, was for an essay about  rereading: pick a book I had read long ago and recently reread, and write an essay about the difference between the readings (and, perhaps, the difference between me then and me now). I leaped to the task, having just taken another look at Camus’s L’Étranger after years of remembering it a certain way, fixed in my mind since my first reading as a freshman at university. I discovered a new and truly remarkable book. I also discovered that, yes, I am only beginning to learn to read.

CNQ is a print magazine. Issue number 93 is just out, but you’ll have to order a copy to read it. But here are the opening paragraphs.


This photo of DG (as Existential hero) and the mysterious SE at the pool in Freiburg im Breisgau dates from about the time he first read Camus, 1968, and is included with the essay for context.


I was eighteen when I read L’Étranger for the first time. I read it in French in a freshman class at York University in Toronto, probably read it in English simultaneously. I think I even wrote an essay about it in French, and that essay might still exist somewhere in a box. Or possibly I dream this, trying to impress myself. I still do remember lines of poems I memorized that year: Mignonne, allons voir si la rose / Qui ce matin avoit desclose / Sa robe de pourpre au Soleil.

I remember the instructor, a pale, heavy-lidded young man who rarely rose from the chair behind his desk, droning on with his face in a book. He wore a shiny grey suit and a white shirt open at the neck, which I took to be Continental attire. His eyes were invariably puffy and irritated – the word dissipated comes to mind now. I often sat next to a girl named Karen Yolton who was also sleepy, wore black nail polish but nervously tore her cuticles, and whispered scandalous tales of her escapades in a city that was new and alien to me.

I was a little lost and amorphously rebellious and wanted desperately to be an outlaw. I got an F on my first English paper. And perhaps this bled into my reading of Camus, especially Meursault’s carefree sensuality with his lover Marie and his inarticulate defiance of conventional normative language. I remember my teenage outrage at being told to feel what I didn’t feel. That was the thing you noticed in the novel as a young person — the appeal to false authority, the sense of people asking things of you that you didn’t feel and you didn’t feel like giving. Hell, I wanted to sleep with girls and defy authority; Meursault and I were one in my heart, aside from, you know, the small matter of shooting the Arab to death on the beach.

Somehow I always slid over the actual murder any time I summarized the novel to myself, seeing Meursault as a victim of social and linguistic tyranny not a confessed killer. Camus himself famously, and perhaps mischievously, confused his readers by saying, “In our society any man who does not weep at his mother’s funeral runs the risk of being sentenced to death.” This is neither an accurate description of the French criminal justice system nor the novel itself. Meursault shoots the Arab once, then pauses before pumping another four bullets into his body. Meursault’s interrogation before the examining magistrate turns on this fact, for which he has no explanation. But it shreds any chance of his pleading self-defense.

I was eighteen, as I say, and enamoured with the outlaw girl I met in French class, with her ragged cuticles, cigarette rasp, and freckles, and I had no clear idea what Existentialism was except insofar as I had seen a picture of Camus, looking dour and swarthy with a cigarette in his mouth, and somehow had decided this was the very image of the Existentialist hero, a phrase I now realize is an oxymoron, and I would imagine Karen, Camus/Meursault, and myself becoming really good friends, comrades against the (adult) world.

I adopted Existentialism as an attitude rather than an idea. Though deep down I quickly divined the speciousness of its crucial ethical argument, the basic and unworkable paradox of having to create value by making decisions without recourse to values. In time, I came to realize that Existentialism hadn’t amounted to much, had quickly been abandoned even by Sartre who invented it (he became a Communist, then a Maoist). It was only a moment in a long argument in the West between the language of the gods and the language of a world without a supernatural life support apparatus, a world without gods, a world of mere existence. This argument culminated first with Descartes’ Radical Doubt and later, in the early 20th century, in Edmund Husserl’s Cartesian Meditations, after which philosophy veered sharply away from metaphysics into various branch lines: phenomenology, language philosophy, critical theory, structuralism, etc. Existentialism, an extreme 20th century application of systematic doubt, is a version of positivism with a concomitant impoverishment in the ethical and emotional sphere; the human aspect of language wilts.

But at first reading, the critical attitude, the defiant rejection of traditional values, melded seamlessly with my hormones and the biases of the hour: late 1960s counter-culture, Vietnam war protests, the Free Speech Movement, and nationalist revivals in both English Canada and in Quebec. Like many people, I read L’Étranger through the zeitgeist. I had lost my sense of humour, and in my yearning for simple positions, it never occurred to me that a novel might be beautiful, funny, tragic, and mysterious all at once.

Douglas Glover


Read the entire essay at CNQ 93, which has just been published but not yet linked at the web site.

The issue also includes work from Numéro Cinq contributors Caroline Adderson, Susan Olding, and Jeff Bursey, as well as Chris Arthur, Marc Bell, Kathy Friedman, Jason Guriel, the legendary bookseller David Mason, Peter Sanger, Robin Sarah (who just won a Governor-General’s Award), Carrie Snyder, JC Sutcliffe, Jess Taylor, and Anne Marie Todkill.

Aug 112015


There is a tide and time in the lives of chickens, as there is in the lives of men and women. Many of you have watched the rise and fall of the hen population on the farm with amusement and sympathy. But things have gone south. In late spring, a Cooper’s Hawk took the third to last hen. Then the second to last fell sick and died (they were all getting old for chickens). And finally Jean broke her hip a few weeks ago (um, she’s 94), putting an end to plans for repopulation. Chickens are social animals and aren’t happy on their own. While Jean was AWOL in the hospital, I got in touch with Amber Homeniuk, poet (see her poems in the current issue) and Jean’s favourite chicken expert, who offered to rescue ours.

Here we have images and video of the last moments. Amber came prepared with a chicken carrier, also sliced grapes and chicken feed. And you can tell from the video what a gentle and reassuring animal wrangler she is.

Below the video is a collection of images Amber put together of the first moments at the other end of the exchange.

More about chickens than you ever wanted to know, right? But I’ll miss them. Surprising, sociable creatures. Nice to have around the place.



welcome, Jean's hen!

Welcome, Jean’s hen! Images by Amber Homeniuk


Aug 082015


Due to ongoing death threats, drive-by shootings, kidnappings, lawsuits, federal investigations, vehicle repossessions, and debt collections, the usual fare of literary magazine publication, Numéro Cinq has relocated its headquarters to a hardened bunker somewhere in Vermont. For your edification, a selection of the usual boring Vermont vistas taken from the backdoor, looking west toward Camel’s Hump, the Worcester Mountains, and Mount Mansfield. Also some woodsy shots with dogs. Neighbours report a “small” 300-lb black bear living across the road. DG needs a new camera for this.

The best part is that nobody can find him.



Morning clouds


Very early, about 5am


Evening clouds


Another morning,  need better camera



dg and Lucy

dg and Lucy, very first editorial conference at new HQ

Jul 132015

The Brooklyn Rail

Here’s another dyspeptic comedy, a cracked romance (there is a dark, dark love angle), from the hand of Douglas Glover, just published in the July-August issue of The Brooklyn Rail. What to expect? Well, the protagonist’s name is Drebel, a combination of dreadful and rebel. Click on the link below the teaser or the cover image above to read the entire piece.

Drebel started when he was fourteen organizing a grocery shopping service for the elderly in his neighborhood. He charged a flat rate per bag, accepted gratuities, and handled the cash exchange between the grocery store and the old people. Once he gained a customer’s trust, he would skim a percentage off the change, especially when the old man or woman couldn’t see that well. He would smile winningly while counting out the money; the old folks loved having a young person to socialize with. Seeing themselves reflected in his eyes, they thought they were smart, plucky oldtimers. Later, he was able to arrange a small quid pro quo from the supermarket manager’s petty cash to steer his customers away from competitors. He never bought bulk or generic. When an elderly party insisted on cheaper brands, Drebel would shrug and say the store was out. He watched for customers whose memory was failing and preyed on them, lifting a hundred dollar bill from the open purse or pocketing an expensive watch from the sideboard. Once he swiped a handful of silver cutlery from a drawer, sweeping it into his courier bag and clanking out the door. But he had trouble fencing the forks and spoons, and he was really only interested in the cash. He couldn’t help becoming fond of the old woman who said she would put him in her will, though he knew she wouldn’t. He didn’t take any offer of warmth or affection personally. He knew the old people were wrapped tight in their narrow lives, narrower and narrower as they grew older. They could be just as devious and mean as the next person. Drebel noticed how the codgers took a perverse pride in trying to shortchange him, arguing over the receipts, shaving the tip. “Here’s another quarter, son. Oh, drat. I thought I had another quarter. Next time?” He didn’t care. All he wanted was his cut, the skim.

Read the rest at The Brooklyn Rail.

Jul 122015


Robert Day

Numéro Cinq is always an adventure, a game of firsts. The first this, the first that. Now Robert Day‘s essay series Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind is being published (the end of the month) by Serving House Books and that is a first of a high order, the first ever book composed entirely of work that appeared in Numéro Cinq first (you can see I am obsessing on the word “first”). This is a proud moment for the whole community and an inspiration to the many who have contributed regularly and brilliantly to the magazine. I foresee more such NC-inspired books. (Actually, Robert Day’s novel, Let Us Imagine Lose Love, first serialized on NC, will be published in the fall as well, but I will do a separate announcement about that at the appropriate moment. The man is on a roll!)

I wrote an introduction — entitled “Exit, Pursued by a Bear” — for the Serving House Books edition, an honour and a pleasure (he opines) that you all get to share right now.


Exit, pursued by a bear

Robert Day and I met something like 35 years ago in a University of Iowa classroom. He was the teacher, I was a student. He strode into the room and proceeded to the blackboard where he wrote, in large capital letters, from one side of the room to the other: REMEMBER TO TELL THEM THE NOVEL IS A POEM. Outside of class we got to know each other a bit. He once said, pressing the elevator button instead of climbing one slight of stairs, that if God had meant us to use stairs he would not have invented elevators. I was on the cusp of a truly disastrous relationship just then. Day said to me, “Get out of there. For every day you spend with her now, it’ll take you another year to get out of it.” Ask me if I listened to him. One afternoon we spent kicking tires at a Jeep dealership. And one day he talked to me about the novel I was working on, a conference that must have lasted all of 20 minutes but somehow managed to open up the novel and show me its hot, beating heart, which hitherto had failed to reveal itself to me. That was a lesson I did listen to.

Now, many, many, many years later we have congregated again through the magical intervention of the Internet and the online magazine I materialized Numéro Cinq. We hadn’t been in touch in years; we still haven’t actually seen each other since 1981. But we continue to exert gravitational force upon each other’s lives in ways that are astonishing and delightful. The long and short of it is that I began to publish Robert Day. A short story first. Later the story became a novel. I published the entire novel. Then I published a memoir about his mother, a tender, sweet essay about her suspicion of the French, Day’s love of Montaigne, and the summer she died while he was traveling in France.

Then Day invented a new form, the Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind essays, brief, whimsical, sometimes touching, reminiscences about his brushes (often friendships) with literary greatness. The first one he wrote and tried out on me was about the poets John Ashbery and Tadeusz Rozewicz. He didn’t meet them; they met in his mind, and in a conversation with a friend over a kitchen table in Kansas. But the collision was sparkling in its reverent irreverence and the insights spawned in the erotics of juxtaposition. But it was also airy, gossamer-thin, a playful and informal thing, a little jeu d’esprit that took itself not very seriously, yet with flashes of seriousness and wit. Day asked me if I wanted more of these. He projected a series. He made a list. He wrote: “I’d like to keep the “Chance encounters” real–that is, what I stumble into or on to as I lead my literary life; there should be x of them the rest of the year because I poke around in these matters often these days, and, like any fiction writer, stories (and chance literary encounters) happen to me.

I have my favorite moments. Day and Raymond Carver quoting Jack London back and forth to each other. Day’s sweet evocation of the life-philosophy of poet William Stafford, who once advised his young daughter, “Talk to strangers.” This is in an essay that goes on to ponder our current Age of Fear, the prevalence of surveillance, and our willingness to submit to precautions that cheat us of human relations.

I also adore Day’s piece on screenwriter Walter Bernstein, especially Day’s expert interventions in an early script for the movie The Electric Horseman. Day being from Kansas, Bernstein considered him the expert on cowboys and horses. “Somehow Walter had learned the word hackamore (probably from an East Coast riding friend) and so I had to take the hackamore off all horses and put bridles and bits back in their mouths.” And, of course, the “Exit, pursued by a bear” stage direction from The Winter’s Tale that pops up unbidden and like fireworks in Day’s essay on Sarah Palin and going to see a production of Coriolanus.

The buzzword these days for someone who wanders about poking idly into things (and being brilliant and witty about them) is flâneur. But when I read Day’s essays I think, not of Walter Benjamin, but of the waggish early 18th century essays of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele and the journals they published, The Tatler and The Spectator, whose purpose it was “to enliven morality with wit; and to temper wit with morality.” Day’s essays are intelligent, literate conversation at its best—all too rare these days—written with aplomb in the author’s trademark amiable and self-ironic style.

     —Douglas Glover

May 132015

Just back from a wild swing to the farm to oversee vast excavation and pipe-laying to repair the tenant house (twice burned down, but the original house was the first on the farm; ancient stone foundation dating to before 1850, we also found the remains of what must be the original well) plus swing to Toronto to see Jonah (hiked down the Humber River to the lake and back). Many pictures, no theme, my brain is a scattered mess.

Re. the pipe. We had a line locator come out to locate the old line, which he didn’t manage properly. So we had to follow the old pipe with the backhoe, a lovely serpentine hole with a couple of false tangents and trial digs here and there. Kind of interesting and delicate, especially at the very end when we were sure we were close to the main pipe. These digging photos are of purely documentary interest. No one made a map the last time the pipes were put in, and now I have pictures. Otherwise, I will spare you the details.




Apr 242015

Chauvet lion

Something stunningly poignant, modern, and significant about the fact that some of the greatest and earliest human art work can only be viewed in the form of a replica. In France, a replica of the Chauvet cave and paintings has been built so people can see what the paintings looked like in situ without destroying the actual art, which has existed for tens of thousands of years in darkness but is threatened by people entering the cave.

In discovery is the beginning of destruction.

The real thing cannot be seen for, in viewing it, we destroy it.

Art that is destroyed by watching.

To know is to demolish.

To experience is to commence the decomposition of reality.

What is true can neither be approached nor referenced except at a sterile distance.

We are not threatened by experience, but what we experience is in deep peril from us.


Consciousness is the production of replicas of the real.

We live in a reproduced universe.

Do you really want to go half-way around the world to look at fake art?

Do you really want to live in a fake world?

Think about it.

—Douglas Glover

And here is a clip from Werner Herzog’s film  Cave of Dreams.


Apr 192015

Images from the farm on Ontario, just these past few days. Lucy at the beginning, Jean at the end (93). In between, well, I got a bit obsessed with the clash of the industrial and the natural, which is modern agriculture. So I have three images of a Norway spruce windbreak, clouds spiraling up beyond them and a jet contrail. Then a series of images of tractor ruts in a rye field. I fell in love with the annual manure pile, never has a manure pile seemed so, well, epic. And finally we’re mounding the fields in preparation for planting. This is done with a machine, of course, that creates lovely symmetrical rectangular slices in the soil. The images are all variations. I like that, the repetition of the image with some slight variation.

The last time on the farm (Christmas) I had to dig out the risers to the septic tank to release the guard grid that had been improperly installed so that I could get at the plastic filter and clean it. This time a new experience: The tenant house has been without water since early March, frozen pipes we thought. I got the pipes to the garden hydrant turned on last week and then with the help and guidance of a neighbour ran a hose from the garden hydrant to the tenant house and attached it to the outside tap on the house wall, turned on the outside tap and ran water from the garden hydrant into the tenant house. I didn’t invent this, did not believe it would work, but it did. Low pressure but it works. Next we have to dig up the pipe to the house, which is clearly not frozen but blocked irretrievably.

I also spent a lot of time lying in the mud and ice on my stomach jamming a log up the irrigation pond overflow culvert, which has been partly blocked for a couple of years. This is a pilgrimage I make every trip to the farm. I have my own special log and I walk back to the pond, looking for arrowheads along a knoll where Early Woodland natives used to camp, and lie down with my face almost in the pond and run the log into the culvert. It is a zen thing to do and never works (also has a certain sub-erotic overtone, which I don’t really want to get into). Then Lucy goes for a swim, whimpering for me to throw a stick. This year there was still ice along the margins of the pond, but she still went in. We share this tendency to self-destructive obsession.




Apr 182015

Ray A Youngbear and son

Taiaiake Alfred just wrote to say he’d discovered by chance that I had written a review of one of his favourite novels, Black Eagle Child by Ray A. Youngbear. Taiaiake sent me the link, which I had lost track of, which gave me a chance to waste half-an-hour adding the review to NC. This review is important in my own development as a writer. It appeared in April 1992 in the Los Angeles Times. I was working out the aesthetic and form for my novel The Life and Times of Captain N. So there was a crucial influence, a cross-pollination. Black Eagle Child itself was absolutely fascinating and mysterious.



BLACK EAGLE CHILD: The Facepaint Narratives
Ray A. Young Bear
First published by University of Iowa Press


Albert E. Stone, in his foreword to “Black Eagle Child,” calls this book an experimental autobiography. But the reader quickly discovers two things: This tale is not factual–it is full of composite characters and fictionalized events–and it is only tangentially about its author, the Mesquakie Indian poet Ray A. Young Bear, who eventually disappears behind a series of changed names, false leads, alter egos, digressions, epi-stories and myths.

Young Bear is a poet who makes his aesthetic home between two worlds, the native and the non-native. He is a dancer at the world’s rim–a fan dancer, for he conceals as much as he reveals of himself and his people. Concealment is a key aesthetic principle, for as Young Bear constantly reiterates, there is a price to be paid for telling tribal secrets to outsiders. In his afterword to “Black Eagle Child,” he recollects how his grandmother taught him that “there were things I could not write about.”

As an Indian who sets himself up as an author in the white sense, Young Bear is freighted with a terrible dual responsibility: to satisfy his readers that he is being truthful and informative, and to satisfy his personal and tribal need for secrecy. He must invent a new form, the nature of which is duality, a form that is never straightforward, yet full of implication. It will be poetic, but it will not fulfill every demand of traditional poetic genre. It will always be surprising; it may not end. A code, in other words, that only the right people can break.

In his first book of poems, “Winter of the Salamander” (1980), a much younger Ray Young Bear gave a hint of forms to come:

What do you do when
there is a man
who represents your dreams
who goes talking and appraising
his deeds
and for no reason he stops
and says something new
there is a chance
for those who want to learn
but not for those who feel it
hard and difficult

For “those who want to learn,” “Black Eagle Child” is a kind of non-autobiographical Zen treasure trove of non-information about Mesquakie Indians and Young Bear. It is ostensibly a poetic Bildungsroman centered around Edgar Bearchild, a Mesquakie boy from the Black Eagle Child Settlement in central Iowa (Young Bear is from the Mesquakie settlement near Tama, Iowa). It begins with Edgar in grade eight in 1965 and follows him through his career as the community’s youngest treatable alcoholic. There’s a brief stint at a prestigious liberal-arts college in California, then back to Iowa, where he becomes a successful poet haunted by UFOs. He lives off grants from the fictional Maecenas Foundation (Young Bear received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in the 1970s).

This process of becoming a writer fascinates Edgar, who sees himself wrapped in a paper cocoon, changing, altering, saving himself from the usual fates of a reservation Indian. Learning to translate between worlds redeems him, though with redemption comes alienation and survivor’s guilt, since he must separate himself from the normal communal life of his people.

Twinned with Edgar (like the twin boys of Indian legend) is the more adventurous and traditional Ted Facepaint, who follows the tenets of the Well-Off Man Church, a fictional Mesquakie affiliate of the mushroom-eating, pan-Indian Native American Church. (This, by the way, is Young Bear being highly elusive. Rather than reveal traditional Mesquakie rites and legends, he describes a modern cultural intrusion in which he has no stake. Here he seems to reveal without revealing anything.)

Like Edgar, Facepaint also heads west to college. He drops out and hitchhikes across America, trying to reach some romanticized accommodation with this alien white country, only to be beaten and robbed along the way. Back in Iowa, he continues his frenetic drinking and eventually dies—metaphorically, at least—stabbed repeatedly with a screwdriver by rogue Mesquakies nicknamed the Hyenas. He is then mystically transported to Orion, the sacred constellation of the Well-Off Man Church. “Black Eagle Child” closes, however, with Facepaint’s resurrection at the hands of Rosie Grassleggings, an immensely obese native healer.

Young Bear knits together these two narrative lines with a complex pattern of imagery. Red-haired and red-hatted people relate to the red-capped hallucinogenic mushrooms, and also to the red-haired man of some native legends. White rabbits recall the Great Hare, Nanebojo, an Algonquin culture hero, who is often paired with Jesus Christ in modern native myth.

This is the bare skeleton of Young Bear’s code, the vastly complex and engaging system the reader has to learn to read. Only superficially chaotic, his narrative bears all the indications of a sophisticated and cunning literary intelligence. Young Bear has a novelist’s eye for precise social and atmospheric detail.

In his afterword, the author himself calls his book a collage, but whatever you call it, “Black Eagle Child” is an example of the new blood flowing back into the hardened arteries of Anglo-American literature from the margins–from the formerly colonized, enslaved and defeated peoples who must, inevitably, change us as we have changed them.

April 12, 1992|Douglas Glover | Glover’s most recent book, “A Guide to Animal Behavior,” was nominated for the 1991 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction, Canada’s highest literary prize.


Mar 272015

Windsor Review2

A new little story of mine, a jeu d’esprit, a micro-story (a three-pager), called “A Noir Romance” has just come out in the fall issue 2014 (yes, a bit late) of the Windsor Review, a special Alice Munro issue. This is a print magazine, so you’ll have to go buy a copy to read the whole story. This issue of WR is blessed with work from several other Numéro Cinq bad girls and boys, including Marty Gervais, Karen Mulhallen, John B. Lee, and Amber Homeniuk.

Here’s a bit from the story, the opening lines.

“The short one, you say?”

“Yes. I believe that’s him. He had a mask. It was dark in my bedroom.”

“He had a mask.”

“Yes, sir.”

“But it was definitely the short one, you say?”

“He had a mask, but he was short just like the one in the middle.”

“The short one.”

“He had that look, you know. Short. I was wearing my nightie and putting cold cream on.”

“In the dark.”

“Yes. I’m really rather sure it’s the short one. He looks like a man who would steal up on women in their bedrooms.”


“Well, he has that look. Short. Shortness. Like the one in my bedroom.”

“Ma’am, the short one is an officer from the precinct. He picked you up and drove you here.”

“No. I would have recognized him.”

“He’s a police officer.”

“No, sir. It’s the man in my bedroom.”

“Because he’s short.”

—from “A Noir Romance” by Douglas Glover @ the Windsor Review

Mar 132015

Okay, so I got a little obsessed with the trees and shadow patterns. These were taken yesterday, again along the Hudson. Cold after two warm days, the trail chopped up and icy. When you look carefully you see the trees, the shadows and the columns of light between the shadows. The snow simplifies the scene, makes it an abstraction. The trees are more or less straight and sharp-edged, but the shadows follow the contours of the snow, which, in turn is following the contours of the rocks, gullies, stumps, and down trees underneath. And then you start to notice the angle at which the light is hitting the trees, going across the frame or coming toward you (with a focal point at the sun). So you get a very complex and layered images. Then I started looking at the birch trees!

dg (Ask him what he is supposed to be doing instead of this.)


Mar 102015

First day it was warm enough to take the old dog on a longish hike, so we went to the Palmerston Range,  Adirondack outliers cut through by the southern branch of the Hudson River. Actually, we went out a couple of days before, too, but it was positively Antarctic on the exposed shoulder near the top and the trail was drifted over, and it was not so much fun. Saw a female pileated woodpecker and a barred owl (last week I saw a snowy owl while I was snowshoeing in the ravine behind NC HQ — you can see I am working hard on something or other, right?). We also scared up a flock of turkeys, exploding out of the treetops as we came down from the ridge. This about cured my SAD for this year.


LucyDog of the North



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALooking down to the Hudson River where we started



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA little birch grove




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Barred owl (okay, I am not a photographer; it was far away)

Feb 182015


Another in a long list of zombie book reviews revived from my old days when you could actually make a little extra money writing reviews (and learn a lot about writing on the side). This one appeared in a magazine called Books in Canada in 1990. I quite like it because I managed, despite my tender years and experience, not to be awed by the aura of greatness. For example:

His long-awaited new novel, Vineland, his first since Gravity`s Rainbow (a book about V-2 rockets and coprophilia, I think) in 1973, reads like the mutant offspring of Henry James-turned-northern-California-mall-rat and Marshall McLuhan in the paranoid grip of a bad acid trip, with a little Joseph Campbellish mytho-delirium thrown in for colour.


Thomas Pynchon
Little, Brown (1990)


THOMAS PYNCHON IS a mysterious and reclusive cult figure in the United States, a kind of highbrow J. D. Salinger, a grey eminence of the American Post Mod movement, and one of the four horsemen of the New Writing of the `60s and `70s, along with John Barth, Robert Coover, and William Gass. His long-awaited new novel, Vineland, his first since Gravity`s Rainbow (a book about V-2 rockets and coprophilia, I think) in 1973, reads like the mutant offspring of Henry James-turned-northern-California-mall-rat and Marshall McLuhan in the paranoid grip of a bad acid trip, with a little Joseph Campbellish mytho-delirium thrown in for colour. Part political allegory and part metaphysical fantasy, Vineland seeks to answer those perennial questions: What happened to the `60s? Who betrayed the Woodstock nation? It`s also about TV, the trivialization of violence, and America`s loss of innocence (yes, yes, that again —America, the eternal virgin) during the Nixon-Reagan presidencies.

Pynchon puts the blame for the steamrolling of Hippiedom squarely on the Tube, the Man (DOJ, DEA, FBI, CIA), and certain dark forces — “… the unrelenting forces that leaned ever after … into Time`s wind, impassive in pursuit, usually gaining, the faceless predators… [which] had simply persisted, stone-humourless, beyond cause and effect, rejecting all attempts to bargain and accommodate, following through pools of night where nothing else moved wrongs forgotten by all but the direly possessed, continuing as a body to refuse to be bought off for any but the full price, which they had never named.”

Bleak? Heck, yes. But Pynchon tempers his bleakness with a stoned sense of burnout that runs the gamut from sly literary in-jokes — e.g. a “Carpenter Gothic outhouse” — to full-scale satirical set pieces and running gags. A character named Zoyd Wheeler lives on government disability cheques he earns by jumping through plate-glass windows once a year in front of a battery of Live Action Cams and TV reporters. Zoyd`s daughter, Prairie, makes a hit as a cook at an Esalen-like martial-arts retreat serving up such yummy items as baked Spam with grape jam garnish, which she discovered on the recipe page of the local TV magazine section. Zoyd`s nemesis, Detective Hector Zuniga, is being treated for “tubal abuse” and tries to have his ex-wife charged with murder for shooting the family television set.

The plot of Vineland is a flimsy, cardboard thing (as you would expect in allegory), a frame for the jazz riffs of Pynchon`s manic-mythic reconstruction of American history. It has something to do with the obsessive, sleazoid relationship between Brock Vond, an evil Department of justice operative intent on subverting everything good in the U.S. of A. from the radical left to marginal marijuana farmers, and Frenesi Gates (blonde, blue eyes, anagram for “sin free”), Zoyd’s wife and the daughter of a couple of pinko Hollywood black listees from the McCarthy era.

At the counter-culture`s apogee, Brock “turns” Frenesi into a snitch and a stool pigeon. She betrays Weed Atman, the Christ-like leader of a rock and roll “republic” on the California coast, then sets him up to be murdered. Frenesi spends the next 14 years in the government`s Witness Protection Program, traveling from one trouble-spot to the next as a freelance traitor. Then in 1984, deficit-driven cutbacks force the WPP to drop Frenesi and her fellow stoolies from the program. She and her file disappear, and Brock goes hunting for her with an army of SWAT teams and black helicopters that pluck people from the ground in a black-comedy version of the “rapture.”

Everyone converges on Vineland, an imaginary county north of San Francisco where the hippies, rad lefties, the Thanatoids (a community of the living dead waiting for “karmic readjustment”), and Zoyd and Prairie have taken refuge from Yuppiedom. At the climactic moment, another round of cutbacks pulls the plug on Brock`s very own program. His choppers grounded, he simply dies away, or at least finds himself being led down an earthen trench to the mythic Yurok underworld where an ancient spirit couple sucks the bones from his body.

What all this seems to mean is that TV has sapped the moral fibre of what Pynchon calls “Midol America,” paving the way for the triumph of the cynical, rich, and sun-tanned retro-fascists of San Clemente and Santa Barbara. Yet, in the long run, these malign forces of modern commercial capitalism will strangle on their own deficits and the ancient Red Indian gods of the North American earth will reassert their hegemony.

This is goofy political day-dreaming and a middle-class, male, whitebread version of American history (what ever happened to women`s lib and the civil rights movement?). This is thinking big on the level of Doonesbury and Oprah Winfrey. Some of the ideas in this book are so downright trite they’re embarrassing (e.g. pistols and stick shifts are penis substitutes). And yet, and yet, beyond the run-on jokes, the jumbled mythologies, the errant orthography, and the relentless folksiness of the dialogue, there is something compelling about Vineland. It’s a book that sticks in your mind, seems increasingly hilarious in retrospect, and fairly seethes with a spooky sort of Quixotic, half-wit wisdom. There is something about the foolishness of it all that may be next door to greatness.

Douglas Glover

(Books in Canada, April, 1990)


Dec 142014

wordfest b&w more

For your Sunday morning delectation, along with coffee, croissants and the crossword, you can follow the link below (or click the image) to a page containing two lectures I gave at Vermont College of Fine Arts on reading. Like a broken record, I am always saying that 80% of what I teach when I teach writing is how to read (and to write about what you read). I have twice lectured at VCFA on reading and managed to record both for a possible future essay. Go to the page, and you’ll find the recordings plus all sorts of amusing goodies (um, lecture handouts) including some hilarious examples of VERY BAD readings, a marked up reading copy of Elizabeth Tallent’s little story “No One’s a Mystery,” a reading rubric I give to students, and a 90-page pdf of excerpts from my letters two students on reading (evidence of a deeply compulsive personality).

For my money, the first lecture is more fun (it has the bad examples). The second lecture is rather more pointed at students in the program who are struggling with their critical papers.


The lectures are here! 





Nov 182014

BenedictPinckney Benedict via

Here’s a lively book you all ought to read. I reviewed it in 1992 for The Chicago Tribune, which at the time had a wonderful weekly book section and sponsored the annual Nelson Algren Short Story Award. Again, this is one of those Lazarus texts, not quite dead and gone but hibernating on a hard drive. Some aren’t worth keeping, but others, like this one, serve at the least to remind me of good books that I once carefully read. You’ll have to pardon the anachronisms. Pinckney Benedict can no longer be described as a young writer. And Cormac McCarthy is much better known that he was then.



The Wrecking Yard
by Pinckney Benedict
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday


Pinckney Benedict is a young writer who hails from the hills of West Virginia and is blessed with a natural gift of southern Bible-belt oratory, part-lyric and part-hammer-and-tongs sermon. He doesn’t write like one of those precious minimalist or K-Mart realist northerners — his stories rise in the heart of a non-existent, mythic America, a no-time and no-place of elemental characters and pure narrative.

At his best, he reads like a cross between Barry Hannah (at his best) and the great, though lesser known, Cormac McCarthy of, say, Blood Meridian or Outer Dark. All three are inheritors of the southern (Faulknerian) tradition of violence and bombast. All three work a vein of exaggeration and hyperbole that is a kind of pure macho poetry.

The Wrecking Yard, Benedict’s second story collection (his first included “The Sutton Pie Safe” which won him the Chicago Tribune’s Nelson Algren Award), runs the gamut from a Hemingway homage set in Nicaragua to a tale in the form of a radio play about a sideshow freak who was once struck by lightning and kills her lovers by electrocution.

The aesthetic keystone of The Wrecking Yard is “Washman,” a long story about a crippled hunchback killer, a limping evil, who shoots down a man in a gunfight over a mule, steals his girl (previously stolen from someone else) and leads a posse of upright citizens to a strange and terrible fate.

Of the twelve men who chase Washman into the mountain fastness where he lives, five die before they find him — two in avalanches, two to drowning and one to a diamondback rattlesnake. Five more die in a forest fire after they hang Washman, and the last two go mad.

The girl reaches the valley town with her hair burned off and lungs scorched, and pregnant, though she is not sure who the father is. “It will be a monster,” she says. “I’ll be mother to a monster that has eyes but no other part of a face. The flames sang it to me when their curtain passed over. They took my hair but they left me alive.”

This story takes place in a country of the imagination, not any place recognizably real. It is a peculiarly American country, a country invented by Ambrose Bierce and Bret Harte — white, poor, rural, southern and western, just at the edge of civilization (represented by women, sheriffs and doctors), just at the edge of the twentieth century (cars mix with mules and horses).

It is an eerie country of aimless, spectacular destruction, of gruesome and obsessive (or mechanical) evil. It is a place where fine speech goes for nought, where sly understatement and violence are the preferred modes of human intercourse, where retribution outweighs self-preservation, where insult and death are one, and where women are either absent or occasions for volcanic testosterone explosions.

In “Odom,” a pair of hillmen, father and son, clearing a piece of land for a new house, slowly become obsessed with blasting their parcel of forest to smithereens. The house, the original point of the exercise, is forgotten in an orgy of destruction, of pine and hemlock rocketing skywards, impelled by explosions of contraband dynamite.

“Farther away, the trees are down, but they have not been cut. They have been blasted wholesale from the ground, and the seared trunks lie at startling removes from the tangles of their roots. The trees are tumbled pell-mell over one another, two and even three deep, in a welter of sap and pith and broken wood. Odom has cleared enough space for a mansion, for the home of a giant.”

Odom even blows himself up in a premature blast — though this doesn’t stop him. At the end, bandaged head and hands, he is starting on the bedrock of his lot, hand-drilling a blast hole, father and son joined together, driving “a narrow shaft toward the hidden bitter heart of the rock.”

In Pinckney Benedict’s imaginary universe, life is a constant Coyote and Road Runner cartoon of despair. And Odom is a typical Benedict hero — obstinate to the point of stupidity, half-cartoon, half-god, huge, terrible and funny.

In “Bounty,” a gruesome shaggy dog story, a piece of poor white mountain trash named Candles drives into town with a rusty truckload of dead animals claiming a five-dollar-apiece wolf bounty from the sheriff. Candles drags the sheriff out to his truck and starts dropping the bodies of dogs on the street. It slowly dawns on the sheriff (and the reader), as the bodies accumulate, that these are family pets, mostly snagged in steel leghold traps — hounds, Alsatians, beagles.

“When Candles opened his mouth to speak, the sheriff held up a forestalling hand. ‘I don’t need to hear it,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure exactly what went on here.’ he said, indicating the back of the truck, ‘and I don’t believe I care to know.'”

Benedict’s style is laconic and deadpan. He gets comic mileage from the tension between the dry, matter-of-fact way he writes and the terrible and outlandish things he describes — from three men crawling up Washman’s hanging body to snap his neck to Odom’s blast-blackened fingers to the come-hitherish whispers of the deadly Electric Girl (whose boyfriends are all suicides).

It is not clear that Benedict has a message to get across. Rather, I think he has tapped into a deep lobe of the American psyche, a fragment of that lawless and ambiguous frontier that the nation has internalized and repressed but not forgotten.

He is weakest when he moves away from this vein of material, when he strays into the present or the real — that Hemingway homage or the title story in which a junkyard employee muses over the people who die in the cars he cannibalizes.

He is at his best when he ignores the contemporary Siren calls of sentimental realism and interpersonal sensitivity and simply lets the violence overflow, propelling his reader into a world of strange and macabre beauty.

—Douglas Glover (Published first in The Chicago Tribune Books, January, 1992)


Nov 112014

lynne_tillman_by_david_shankboneLynne Tillman by David Shankbone.

Here’s a review I wrote of Lynne Tillman’s 1992 novel Cast in Doubt. Those were the days when I was a young, hungry whipper-snapper trying to review in all the notable places. It was also my introduction to a lot of amazing writers, including Lynne Tillman. This review originally appeared in the Washington Post Book World, then, as is the nature of these things, it more or less disappeared. Kirkus Reviews called the book “Beach reading for the John Hawkes set.” Which is pretty funny actually, stupid and smarmy and quite smart all at once. Would that all readers were of “the John Hawkes set.” The novel was originally published by Simon & Schuster’s Poseidon Press and finally reprinted by Red Lemonade. We have published a story by Tillman on Numéro Cinq. You can read it here.



Cast in Doubt
By Lynne Tillman


Cast in Doubt is a clever, witty, passionately written act of postmodern literary prestidigitation — a mystery novel without a body, a murder, or crime of any kind.

Not only that, but the novel’s hero-narrator, significantly a writer of detective mysteries, temporizes, delays, makes false starts and detours, searching for clues in old books, then completely muffs his investigative quest, and finally abandons it without solution.

Yet Lynne Tillman, the author of four previous books, writes with such elan, such spirited delight and comic intelligence, that it is difficult to take anything but pleasure in the jokes, aphorisms, potted etymologies and digressions which are the real substance of this book.

Tillman’s point is that the traditional mystery novel is an old-fashioned rationalist project, offspring of an outmoded epistemology. The crime is always soluble, the resolution a neatly logical tying up of motives and loose ends. A postmodern mystery novel, on the other hand, is about what Ludwig Wittgenstein called the “dark background” of our thoughts and words. As Horace, Tillman’s sixtyish, gay narrator says, “I am drawn to the mystery and inconclusiveness of life…”

Cast in Doubt begins on Crete, in a fishing village where a gossipy community of artsy expatriates dwells in restive seclusion. Horace, a New Englander by birth, lives with a Greek boy named Yannis and bickers fitfully with his fellow denizens — an insane South African poet, a former child movie star turned into a hermit who worships electricity, and a retired opera diva.

Helen, an American girl with a pierced nose, arrives one day to disrupt Horace’s complacency. Helen is beautiful and aloof. She carries a diary with “analyst” printed on its cover. In her wake trails a would-be lover named John who promptly attempts suicide by cutting his own throat. Like language itself, she seems pregnant with meaning.

Horace befriends Helen, toys with the idea of falling in love with her (as bizarre as this seems, even to him), then offends her with his nosy intrusiveness when he goes to visit John in the local hospital. As suddenly as she appeared, Helen departs, possibly in search of a mysterious Gypsy woman she has mentioned meeting.

Horace suspects Helen needs saving from something — her past (John mentions a twin sister who may have killed herself), or Gypsy con artists. He decides to search for her but falls under a spell of doubt and lethargy upon the arrival of his friend, Gwen, from New York. Gwen is a hip, cynical black woman, a famous scene-maker in the Village. She deflates Horace’s odd passion for the slender Helen, then makes a pass at the recovering John.

Eventually Horace does drive off, secretly, and in the wrong direction. He meets a Gypsy caravan, gets drunk, stays the night and has his fortune told — “You can’t see,” the fortuneteller intones. “You do not learn. You only look for the right things.” The next day, on a beach, he meets Stephen, the child-star-hermit, who happens to be carrying Helen’s diary, which Horace steals. Having found her private narrative, the story of the story, he loses interest in Helen herself and races home again. But the diary is enigmatic and fragmentary. It ends with a list:

Do laundry
buy glue
meet S
phone W
toilet paper

Horace’s attempt to solve a real mystery, not just one in a book, comes to nought. Helen never reappears, nor is there any hint that anything untoward has befallen her. Years intervene — during which Horace writes a new crime novel appropriately entitled The Big Nothing. At the book’s close, he is bemused, philosophical, and contemplating a trip to the market.

Cast in Doubt is about meaning and the writing of books — and the impossibility of both. (Horace is always planning a magnum opus called Household Gods which never gets finished.) It takes language, not as a device for communication, but as a limiting concept characterized by what the post-mods call slippage (puns, double entendres, Freudian slips, etc.).

It says that things are not what they seem, that life is wayward and uncertain, and that there is high comedy in the collision between our over-weaning confidence in words and life’s mocking inconclusiveness. And when, as happens, Horace gets drunk and begins to vamp and dance, he becomes for us a precious image of all humans, not as wounded and alienated, but as fumbling, playful beings, essentially at home in and absorbed by the shifting messages and meanings that make up the world.

—Douglas Glover
(Originally published in Washington Post Book World, 1992)


Oct 232014

© 2014 Open Space Arts Society. All rights reservedDouglas Glover reading at Open Space Gallery, Victoria. Photo by Miles Giesbrecht.


I hate to inundate you with all this stuff from my Victoria trip, but you all know I don’t get out much and hence my tendency to hyperventilate if I get over the county line. Here’s a the recording of my reading from Savage Love at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria. The art work behind me is by Tommy Ting and Dong-Kyoon Nam. The story is called “Pointless, Incessant Barking in the Night.” The reading is preceded by an introduction by my gracious hostess, who gives all the particulars of the event.


Oct 222014

My beloved and loyal fiction publisher, Goose Lane Editions, had its 60th birthday last month. Part of the celebration was the publication of a little boxed set of similarly designed small books, six@sixty, one short story each by esteemed Goose Lane authors over the years: Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady, Mark Anthony Jarman, Alden Nowlan (whose house I used to visit when he was alive, back when I was a reporter at the Evening Times-Globe in Saint John, New Brunswick), Shauna Singh Baldwin, and Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, as well as me. All the books look like mine but in different colours. It’s a lovely gesture, a limited edition, simple and elegant. Also mine is very cute, like a book you can keep as a pet.

My story, “Woman Gored by Bison Lives,” is from my book A Guide to Animal Behaviour, which Goose Lane published in 1991. It was shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Award for Fiction that year.

It’s a melancholy love story about a lesbian couple in Saskatoon. They watch an English tourist gored by a bison, and subsequently one of the lovers dies of cancer. I was learning to write aphorisms in those days. The story ends with a little run. This is the surviving lover talking to a three-year-old child: “There are certain things you have to know. Suicide is not an option. Life is always better under the influence of mild intoxicants. Masturbation is healthy, the sooner started the better. It’s a sin not to take love where you find it. That is the only sin.”

The story as a whole begins like this:

Days, while my husband is at work, Susan and I make love on the couch in her parents’ basement. It is a desperate thing to do, and we are both a little stunned by it. But something has pushed us to the edge of caring.

Gabriela, the baby, is upstairs sleeping, while Susan’s mother does housework or watches soap operas. We keep our clothes on, manacled at the ankles by a tangle of underwear, jeans and belts.  And when Susan comes, I press my palm across her lips to keep her from shouting out her joy.

I don’t know if we are in love. But we are both in need of solace, and our sex is a composition of melancholy and violence, as though we are seeking to escape and punish ourselves in the same act.


Back Cover


Oct 202014

DSCF9318At the end of the Victoria trip, dg spent an afternoon with the Coast Salish master carver Charles W. Elliott in his studio at the Tsarlip First Nation Reserve on the Saanich Peninsula north of the city. Above is a thunderbird atop of a Charles Elliott totem pole  in front of the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal High School just down the road from the studio.

DSCF9299Charles W. Elliott holding a print he designed as a symbol for the University of Victoria Indigenous Governance program.

Still processing this visit. Charles Elliott is an amazingly generous and intelligent artist, very articulate and personable. He took a lot of time to describe what he does. Coast Salish art is a formalist invention (which, naturally, makes is tremendously interesting to me) — he called it the Salish “system” — that involves the use of a finite set of motifs (e.g. thunderbird, raven, orca, etc.) and design elements (eyes, bracket shapes, lanceolate shapes, etc.). Often the smaller formal elements are fitted into a larger form that derives from a utilitarian space (house fronts, paddles, spoons, bowls, etc.). The print above, for example, is circular, a shape derived from the spindle whorl used by the native women to process wool. The artist fits larger motifs into the overall form and then fills the blank spaces with either smaller versions of a motif (or in inversion) or with repetitions of the abstract design elements. For example, the thunderbird wings contain eyes, brackets and lanceolate shapes. Beneath the thunderbird is an orca, and you can see the bracket shapes used down the whale’s back. The idea, Elliott says, is to bring the spaces “to life.” The large motifs refer to legends, myths, and powers (also, in some cases, clan and social organization elements), so they carry story and meaning to the viewer. But at the same time there is a purely design aspect to the art, a pleasing abundance and vivacity of structure. What’s truly interesting is how the abstract design elements can be used to imply naturalistic details (see the shins on the thunderbird’s legs).


Here’s the school front. Note the repetition of the structure: thunderbird on top of the pole, thunderbird on the from wall of the building, and the structure of the building as a whole is a thunderbird with wings. What you can’t see from the angle is that before the front door is an entryway in the shape of a bird again. To get into the school, students pass beneath the thunderbird’s wings. Also not the bracket shapes along the roof  line. And then think what a lively public art form this is.


DSCF9281This is Elliott’s studio with a huge ocean-going dugout canoe made of old growth cedar, a work in progress. On the left is the base of a new totem pole.

DSCF9282Studio again. Note the Che Guevara image, one of several, in the studio, also mentioned by Elliott. You can’t forget that the natives are a colonized and dispossessed people who wake up every morning and look around and see commuters racing up the highway to a city that covers the land that was once theirs spiritually and economically, land they never gave away in any sense proper to their own culture and way of thinking. Put yourself in their shoes. As Elliott said, it’s as if there is a constant cloud or blanket of colonization over the natives. How they could they forget and be pleased?

DSCF9297Little things all over the studio. Here’s a spinning fish lure in the shape of an octopus, the legs scalloped with those bracket patterns. Everything comes to life in this art world, inanimate objects, utilitarian objects.

DSCF9284So here’s a bronze spindle whorl (traditionally they were made of wood) made by Elliott’s 19-year-old son, Chas Elliott, who is learning the art from his father and brought this over to show us. If I remember correctly this is a seal (but I heard so much I might be misremembering). Mouth in the spindle opening. Flippers or paws to the side. Flippers accented with eye and bracket and lanceolate shapes. Here’s a link to show where both father and son appeared a couple of years ago.

DG with a “talking stick” (you would hand this to someone who would then hold the floor whole others listened). By now you should be able to distinguish some of the motifs and design elements.

DSCF9229Outside the studio looking at a totem pole in for repair after about 20 years in the field. Totem poles don’t last forever, obviously. This one needs to be shaved down to fresh wood and repainted. And there is some rot at the top that needs digging out and a plug put in. A sad thing is that native carvers like Elliott can only work with old growth timber. For some reason, the old growth trees grew slower, their tree rings are much closer together, and the wood is harder and more durable. Newer trees seem to grow faster (perhaps because they get more light), the rings are farther apart and the wood between is “punky.” There is hardly any old growth timber left. I won’t go on. This is just a taste of the visit with Elliott, an immense privilege, not to mention fascinating; I could go on and on.

—DG, photos mostly by MF

Oct 122014

DSCF8995Surprisingly, there are great swathes of clear cut forest all along the coastal road in the west. Sometimes the lumber companies leave a thin screen of trees along the road and sometimes not. Depressing to see. Most of the logs go straight to China these days.

DSCF9036Sombrio Beach (photo by MF). Behind us, makeshift tents and campsites occupied by surfers trying to dry out in the dense mist.

DSCF9135The Juan de Fuca Trail near Sombrio Beach.

IMG_2248DG at the University of Victoria First Peoples House as a guest of Taiaiake Alfred and the Indigenous Governance department, talking to grad students and faculty in the program. Not a great photo and dg looks particularly self-important, perhaps conducting a symphony, but it’s the only one and it preserves the moment.

First Peoples HouseHere’s the hall (without people). Amazing place modeled on the traditional Coast Salish long house.

tshirtTaiaiake Alfred presented dg with a coveted Indigenous Nationhood Movement tshirt, which meant a lot.

DSCF9172Harbor seal off the marina wharf in Mill Bay. They were playing all along the coast, some far out and diving with dramatic tail slaps. At Mill Bay we heard the tail slaps, saw loons and a kingfisher and then a bald eagle zoomed close overhead, all in about five minutes. DG stopped mentioning the seals to the locals because it marked him as a greenhorn.

DSCF9186Cow Bay, a touristified, single-street, old village on the coast, organic foods, organic baked goods, and one store that sold liquor and tools.

DSCF9214This is the so-called butter church on Comiaken Hill in the Cowichan Reserve, Cowichan Bay in the background to the right. Abandoned, it was the first church in the area, an ancient-looking chapel, on a hill that feels lonely, mysterious and sacred, empty grass field to the left where people were once buried, though most of the markers are down, one lone oak tree, low mountains all around except in the direction of the bay. Also a place of ill-memory because of treaties signed nearby in the 1850s. The church was built in 1870 with the help of natives who were paid with money earned from the sale of butter. Apparently.


DSCF9192St. Anne’s Church, just down the road from the butter church. Back in Victoria we had run into an ancient beekeeper who said his great- or great-great-grandfather was Chief George Tzouhalem of the Cowichan band. An Irishman who fought with Pickett at Gettysburg apparently came up the coast and married the chief’s 15-year-old daughter — this was the beekeeper’s line. He said to drive up to this place because old chief Tzouhalem is buried here and his grand-daughter bought a pink granite plinth and had it raised over the grave.  We walked all through this sombre place and finally, yes, did discover the plinth, raised by the grand-daughter Ettie George, just as the beekeeper had said. He had known Ettie and had stories.



DSCF9191Christianity is dissipating perhaps. The crosses all over the graveyard were mostly temporary markers. Occasionally, there was something more indicative of a different way of being. Later, I got to talk to a man who makes the grave markers, a social role passed down through his family, and he said the crosses are just places to put names now, not signs of belief. Alarming number of fresh graves in every native graveyard, signs of hard lives, poverty and the depression that goes with being a dispossessed and colonized people.

Oct 102014

© 2014 Open Space Arts Society. All rights reservedReading at Open Space Gallery, Victoria.

© 2014 Open Space Arts Society. All rights reservedPhoto credit: Miles Giesbrecht. Artists’ works: Tommy Ting (London), Dong-Kyoon Nam (Winnipeg).

DSCF8947Mist on the water. Strait of Juan de Fuca near Sooke.

DSCF9024DG on Sombrio Beach.

DSCF9150Port Renfrew otters (just before we saw the bear).

DSCF8791First Nations exhibit, Royal BC Museum.

DSCF8764Douglas Street.

DSCF8742The bookstore founded by Alice Munro and her first husband.

DSCF8907Breakwater (dark by the time dg got to the end).

Sep 202014

BergerJohn Berger

Here’s a review I wrote of John Berger’s early novel Corker’s Freedom 20 years ago, rescued from an old disk. The novel was first published in the UK in 1964 and was finally published in the U.S. in 1993 by Pantheon Books. This review appeared in the Washington Post in February 1994. Berger, as you all know, went on to win the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G. and became a famous BBC TV art critic. An amazing, knowing writer. Get the book.


corkers-freedom-frontcover-5a44cf4884f45f8f48187085a26d3304The Verso edition.

Corker’s Freedom
A Novel
By John Berger


Dostoevsky once said we all came out from under Gogol’s overcoat by which he meant that the roots of modern storytelling all trace back to Nikolai Gogol’s tale of a humble clerk whose great adventure was buying a brand new overcoat which someone immediately steals.

John Berger’s novel Corker’s Freedom is contemporary masterwork in precisely this Gogolian mode — the old-style noble hero is dead, and in his place we have the drama of a little man who throws all his passion and yearning into some minor, shopworn achievement and inevitably fails.

First published in England in 1964, Corker’s Freedom took almost thirty years to cross the Atlantic Ocean, a slow passage by anyone’s reckoning. I won’t say it was worth the wait because a delay like that is unconscionable, though not inexplicable.

Berger went on to win the Booker Prize in 1972 for his novel G., but he also has an immense reputation as a (Marxist) art critic and avant garde film maker, a reputation sure not to make the hearts of commercial publishers flutter with anticipation.

Corker’s Freedom is about the 64-year-old owner of a grubby little London employment agency who one day decides to leave the home he shares with his invalid sister Irene and set up house in the empty flat above his office. William Corker is humble clay. He and Irene are emotionally pinched — what everyone today would instantly recognize as co-dependent. The single relationship that Corker can recall in anything resembling warm tones is his brief childhood acquaintance with a Viennese nanny.

The move from Irene’s house to the agency flat is the great adventure of Corker’s life, his last, desperate bid for freedom before the long night falls. In the midst of rearranging his mother’s old furniture to make a bedroom, he pictures himself as Lancelot holding the Grail. He thinks he has struck a blow for “The right of a man to be himself, the right of a man to find a way out of his suffering, the right of a man to live where and as he wishes — eager, curious, hopeful, experimental — the right of a man to say: I wish to begin again.”

These are brave, rousing words uttered in the cause of personal transformation in a godless modern world. But they come to nothing. In a horrifyingly comic climactic scene, a drunken Corker discourses on the meaning of life, liberty and art in the midst of an ill-attended church hall slide presentation on his recent holiday in Vienna. His sister sits in the audience tapping her canes irritably. His agency assistant Alec fondles his girlfriend. And a pretty young woman with whom Corker thinks he has fallen in love watches cagily while her burgler lover breaks into the employment agency and makes off with the company safe. Ruined, Corker ends up making crank speeches from a Hyde Park soap box and conning tourists for his lunch.

Berger pushes against the constraints of the novel form, using passages of screen-play dialogue and parenthetical stage directions as fictional shorthand to stand for everyday narrative machinery (set-up and background) that might take pages and pages in a normal novel. This is so that he can pay attention to what he wants to pay attention to, which is the gap between the inner thoughts and public statements of his characters, the tragic and ironic distance between what they know or feel and what they can say.

The drama of the book, in Corker’s case, is the gradual narrowing of this gap — at the end of the church hall scene he is saying what he thinks and knows, which, as Berger sees it, is a kind of folly bordering on madness and leads directly to Corker’s downfall. (Hence the irony of the final pages with Corker endlessly exercising every Englishman’s right to free speech to a sparse gathering of unemployed hecklers and baffled tourists.)

Corker is already done for when he announces to his slide-show audience: “To the best of our ability we must choose happiness. That is my choice. I may be interrupted, prevented or defeated by circumstances but at least I know what I want and what I am doing. I am making myself happy.” The final sentence is, of course, untrue, which makes the speech achingly tragic and absurdly funny at the same time.

Berger writes with amazing aplomb, packing his pages with pyrotechnic ethical wisdom, trenchant social criticism (couched dramatically in the life stories of a succession of deftly sketched secondary characters), and sly comedy (Corker getting progressively drunker on Austrian kummel while reflecting on the glories of Vienna and his long-lost nanny).

Corker’s Freedom is an exhilarating achievement, wise, unsettling, and alive with a sense of humanity that is flawed, doomed, yet oddly indomitable.

—Douglas Glover (Originally appeared in the Washington Post, February 27, 1994)


Sep 182014

Bonnie Prince CharlieBonnie Prince Charlie bidding farewell to Flora MacDonald on the Isle of Skye after the Battler of Culloden, from the London Illustrated News.

Okay, the referendum is today. A brief memoir: I have Scottish blood, McCall and McInnes. On the McCall side, there was a Scottish soldier who fought with Wolfe at Quebec and then came west along the Lake Erie shore during Pontiac’s Rebellion. He was demobilized in New Jersey, but left the United States after the Revolution and ended up in what became known as the Long Point Settlement in what is now southwestern Ontario. On the McInnes side, there was a fatherless boy, taken up by Sir Walter Scott, educated and sent on the Grand Tour, who then inherited slaves and a tapioca plantation in Curaçao. Later he became the youngest slave owner indemnified by the British government for giving up his slaves. He took the money, moved also to southwestern Ontario, and never worked again. The two families eventually intermarried and my great-great-grandfather Daniel McCall ran a store in St Williams, Ontario, on the Erie shore. At some point, someone in the family cut this illustration from the London Illustrated News, framed it, and hung it in the outhouse (posh outhouse). Later, my grandmother, who grew up with it, took the illustration to live with her. Now it lives with me, hangs above my desk. So now you know which way I’d vote. On the other hand, these things always have a way of disappointing romantics, so I can’t bear to watch the news today.



Aug 292014


Here’s a review I wrote nearly 20 years ago, published in the Chicago Tribune at the time. Efforts at Truth deserves to be remembered and reread, as does its author. God loves the outliers and eccentrics, his hopeful monsters, too.


Efforts at Truth: an autobiography
By Nicholas Mosley
Dalkey Archive Press 1995

Nicholas Mosley is a rare beast — a reactionary revolutionist, what they call in Canada a Red Tory. He is an English lord, son of an infamous fascist anti-semite, a one-time Church of England apologist, and a writer for decades of highly regarded experimental novels in which he explores the ideas of consciousness and responsibility as a way of critiquing what he sees as the victim ethic of liberal modernity.

At first glance, he looks post-modern or avant garde, but he is not. He is just the opposite — pre-modern, if you will, the voice of an older tradition. Mosley is the champion of an heroic Christianity which reflates the Kierkegaardian ideas of paradox and the romance of risk. Not for him the Christian Coalition brand of weak religiosity with its emphasis on being saved — God’s version of Social Security.

Mosley places humans in the center of a mystery, with a duty to spend their lives paying attention, learning, experimenting — their reward being not safety but the chance of discerning a pattern. “To discover what is hidden,” he writes, “you have to go on a journey; what uproar, indeed, before you arrive at what is there!”

The author of thirteen novels and numerous works of non-fiction, family memoirs and screenplays, Mosley is best known in this country for his novel HOPEFUL MONSTERS which won the 1990 Whitbread Award in Britain and capped a brilliant sequence of books collectively called CATASTROPHE PRACTICE begun in the 1970s.

In CATASTROPHE PRACTICE, the same six characters weave through a series of stories dealing with contemporary issues of love, marriage and the upheavals of history. The books are difficult and unfashionably didactic — demonstrations of the paradoxical questing Mosley posits at the center of existence. But they are also immensely interesting, dense with a sardonic self-honesty, humane and accepting.

Now Mosley has written EFFORTS AT TRUTH, a magnificently idiosyncratic autobiography, in which, with characteristic tenacity, intelligence and decency, he tries to picture the patterns that have informed his own life and work.

Sir Oswald Mosley, the author’s father, was the dashing, charismatic, philandering leader of the Black Shirts, British Fascist sympathizers during World War II. Faced with the paradox of loving his father and hating his ideas, Mosley quickly learned to walk a tightrope between admiration and criticism. While his father languished in a British prison, Nicholas Mosley was in the army fighting Hitler. And amidst the fighting, he found time to exchange loving, deeply intelligent letters with his father.

This ability to hold contradictions suspended in thought, to walk psychic tightropes (Keat’s called it Negative Capability), with minefields on either side, is one-half of the Nicholas Mosley equation.

The other half has to do with the Bible, the Church of England and old-fashioned goodness. Mosley’s dissatisfaction with the traditional novel form stems from a commitment to a literal Christianity, the kind that explores earnestly what is meant by goodness, God and grace in worldly and up-to-date terms. Mosley is no born-again tub-thumper — he is the sort of Christian writer who can write, in his inimitably droll fashion, “For the experience of making patterns the word ‘God’ is useful, but not imperative.”

According to Mosley, modern novels portray characters as victims, with no room for assigning or accepting responsibility for actions. “The literary world seemed to have been taken over by a vast army of contemporary fashion in which freedom was denied and ideas of dignity and redemption mocked.” He set out to write books which, in his words, related the inner (thought) to the outer (actions).

This was no easy task. A new form had to be invented. Mosley’s prose style has a functional awkwardness built in (Mosley himself has always stuttered — he speculates upon the relationship between trying to see the world clearly and his inability to speak). He mixes together letters from lovers, wives and friends, excerpts from his essays and biographies, and passages that are formal pastiches from his novels.

One of Mosley’s favorite devices is the rhetorical question, which gives the narrative a questing quality, an open-endedness. Frequently, his syntax stretches for a kind hypothetical uncertainty — “And at the center of the paradox, should it not indeed be something about sponteneity that is learned?” Sentences like this read strangely at first, till the reader begins to see them as tied perfectly to the author’s project: the careful dissection of thought and action in an effort to reveal some central pattern whose nature may be inexpressible in ordinary expository terms.

Mosley’s rhetoric, like that of Jacques Derrida or Ludwig Wittgenstein, has the quality of seeming to teeter at the very edge of language. Those questions, the sudden twists of self-doubt, the leaps of understanding, the conditional hypotheses — have the effect of drawing the reader’s attention to something that is not quite being said or understood.

EFFORTS AT TRUTH weaves back and forth between Mosley’s life and the life of his books, showing how the one influenced the other. The discovery that, in his earlier books, he has repeated the self-sacrificial hero motif, leads him to shake off a post-combat depression and locate an unexamined yen for the Church of England. (What, after all, is Jesus but a self-sacrificial hero?)

He befriends a monk, suspends his novel-writing and takes over an Anglican magazine called PRISM from which pulpit he blasts the church for moral complacency. This wild turn into Anglicanism happens just as the Angry Young Men, writers like John Osbourne and Kingsly Amis, are storming the bastions of English letters and is an example of Mosley’s sturdy inability to stay with the crowd. Modishness is a vice to which he seems singularly, and sometimes comically, immune.

Meanwhile, Mosley has married, had children, and become willful philandering skunk like his father. At one point, father and son meet accidentally while chasing women in the same London dive. But Mosley’s monk-friend takes him aside and gently suggests there is something wrong in his family dynamic, especially in regard to children.

Till then Mosely has taken forgranted the upper class English notion that children should be raised by someone else. Author and wife energetically fire their nanny and begin to teach themselves how to take care of children, how to love them. Later on, he even figures out about the philandering mess — but not before his willfulness has ruined his first marriage.

Mosley has a fling with screen-writing when two of his novels sell to the movies. He suffers a terrible car accident from which it takes him a year to recover. He goes into analysis and marries a fellow analysand, both of them embarking on this venture in the charmingly naive belief that they have achieved wisdom enough to assure a problem-free marriage. “Here were Verity and I intending to be model spouses and parents in some psychoanalytically re-cycled Garden of Eden. Oh dear!”

Mosley is unsparing of himself, exploring his own smokescreens and cruelties, detailing the awful consequences of his infidelities. One woman has a nervous breakdown, another an abortion. In a letter, his first wife writes: “We are beastly when we are together, but I like you when you’re away very much.” One gets the impression of a creative volcano, an immensely intelligent and self-willed personality, guaranteed to give a rough ride to whoever comes within reach.

EFFORTS AT TRUTH does not set out to be a popular autobiography. There is no name-dropping, little inter-twining of current events (surprising for an author who, in HOPEFUL LOSERS, wrote a masterful historical novel). Mosley sticks with his work and his family, knowing that within this narrow ambit most of the great mysteries of life are played out.

All this is told with infectious brio. Despite the in-built difficulty of the argument, EFFORTS AT TRUTH radiates a cheerfulness, a curiosity about life that is fundamentally healthy and humane. Mosely marks his sins but does not compound them by wallowing in guilt; he does not present himself as a victim of his own faults.

EFFORTS AT TRUTH is an antidote for those who feel the current debates between the right and the left, the Moral Majority and the advocates of a social safety net, have bogged down in stale rhetoric and endlessly circling arguments. It is a brilliant work of literary artistry and an act of faith — a message of mysterious complexity that goes straight to the heart of existence.

—Douglas Glover


Aug 082014


Not to be too confusing, but this is a review of Butterfly Stories, written eons ago in the time before time (1993 to be precise) for Boston Globe Books. It came up in conversation just now, and I looked to see if I still had a copy. It was on a disc of old files in my safety deposit box. Go figure. I liked what I wrote. So here you go.


Butterfly Stories
A Novel
By William T. Vollmann
Grove/Atlantic Press
200 pp.; $22


William T. Vollmann is a certified literary phenomenon. In his early thirties, he already has seven books to his credit, including two installments of a multi-volume fictional history of the North American continent. His journalism appears in high profile glossies like Esquire magazine. The Review of Contemporary Fiction recently hailed him as a writer destined to “eventually achieve historical importance.” He even runs his own publishing house, specializing in limited art editions of his work selling for thousands of dollars.

Vollmann’s latest novel Butterfly Stories — not part of the projected continental magnum opus — harks back to the author’s earlier and continuing obsession with prostitution. In The Rainbow Stories (1989), for example, Vollmann wrote about hookers and hangers-on in San Francisco’s slums. The Review of Contemporary Fiction spread features photographs of the author with assorted prostitutes — in one the author has his hand up the skirt of a black prostitute identified as an AIDS victim. His self-published The Convict Bird sports a bookmark made with a lock of a prostitute’s hair.

This time Vollmann, or Vollmann’s fictional alter-ego — identified as “the journalist” — ranges through Thailand and Cambodia with a photographer accomplice, flitting like a butterfly from one prostitute to another, tubes of K-Y jelly in one hand and packages of (mostly unused) condoms in the other.

The journalist catches an amazing array of sexually transmitted diseases. He worries about Pol Pot and the terrible things some of his whore-lovers and their families have suffered. He falls in love with a Cambodian hooker named Vanna who vanishes. Then he returns to the United States so haunted by Vanna’s disappearance that he divorces his wife and devotes himself to tracking down the missing prostitute. He also discovers that he has won the STD lottery and is carrying the HIV virus.

Butterfly Stories is a startling amalgam of self-destructive behavior, seedy detail (so much as to raise the issue of puerility, though perhaps this is a reaction the author intends), arcane philosophizing, and over-ripe prose that works by virtue of its very strangeness. Butterfly Stories reads like a cross between Henry Miller, Hunter Thompson, William Burroughs and something written by a kid with a green mohawk, EAT MOMMY tattoos, and nails in his ears. Or it reads like one of those postmodern art installations — chaotic, temporary, challenging in its bad taste, and riddled with scattershot culture-bashing.

“The journalist never tried the photographer’s condoms,” writes Vollmann, “because he didn’t even use his own as much as (to be honest) he should have; but the photographer, who tried both, decided that the journalist had really made the right decision from a standpoint of friction and hence sensation; so that is the real moral of this story, and those who don’t want anything but morals need read no further.” [p.26]

This is interesting, this is new, this is weird. No doubt about it. This is the death of modernity with a vengeance. And what we are left with, Vollmann seems to say, is not Nietszche’s Superman or existentialism’s romantic loner but a kind of Judeo-Christian moral sludge. This moral sludge, with its self-absorbed pop spirituality, neo-racism, platitudinous liberalism, and open acceptance of violence as a form of human interaction, is the dominant philosophical system in America today.

The argument of Butterfly Stories is rigorously logical. Pol Pot persecutes prostitutes (Vanna wears the scars of her persecution on her back). America persecutes prostitutes. Therefore, America and Pol Pot are identically tyrannical, fascist, and genocidal. This simple syllogism turns all our cultural assumptions upside-down, and wanting to catch AIDS from a Thai prostitute named Oy or Toy becomes an acceptable ethical choice. The homely little HIV virus becomes the Holy Grail of an inverted universe of values. (It is important to note that these prostitutes are not real characters. Nor is this book titillating or even informative about prostitution. Prostitutes are simply Vollmann’s shorthand metaphor for the mudsill, bottom-level victims of society.)

In this new universe, words like “love” begin a strange migration. Thai chambermaids say, “I wuff you.” Having sex with a sick partner without a condom is love. A prostitute allowing a john to kiss her on the mouth is love. Trying to get an erection, despite debilitating illness and lack of interest, so you won’t hurt a prostitute’s feelings is love. Buying a prostitute drink after drink so you won’t have to sleep with her and be unfaithful to another is love. And, conversely (since, in the world of moral sludge, consistency is a fascist value), being unfaithful, sleeping with another prostitute, though regretting it, is love.

Butterfly Stories ends up being a parody of the traditional romance novel in which the knight errant-journalist falls chastely in love (love is just wanting to hold a prostitute without having sex) with an unreachable, ideal woman who becomes the goal of his adventures. Vanna disappears only to become Western man’s traditional absent love object (the fantasy wife as opposed to the real wife at home doing the laundry). The fact that she may just be hiding out from a tiresome john is heavily ironic, even comic.

The joke, finally, is on the journalist-hero who wanders through Butterfly Stories sick and sick at heart, toiling in the coils of romantic calf-love, and spreading disease in the name of sexual adventure. He doesn’t even have a name. He is Graham Greene’s ugly American and he is Everyman. He is the new hero, the epitome of moral sludge, a walking, talking, self-incriminating critique of the Western world.

Vollmann goes farther than any American writer in expressing his national self-disgust. He consigns his readers to a region of despair where even the hope of hope is lost, where even the consolation of some fragmentary beauty is denied. Butterfly Stories is one long, intricate and disturbing epitaph on a dying civilization.

—Douglas Glover


Aug 012014

Here are a few paragraphs from the opening of my essay on Witold Gombrowicz’s novel Cosmos. The essay was just published this morning at 3:AM Magazine.  A great magazine, a pleasure to appear there.

Note my amazing coinage “onanomaniacal.”  I was asked to explain what the word meant. I wrote:

Onanomaniacal is my coinage. It combines Onan (Genesis, Chapter 38) and “maniacal”. God smites Onan for “spilling his seed” on the ground. This is most often construed as masturbation (although some biblical critics are more precise and suggest it might just be coitus interruptus). In any case, Onan is the great masturbator of the Bible and hence Onanomaniacal means something like the adjective form of frenzied masturbator. So it’s a joke, of sorts. And there is quite a lot of talk of masturbation in Cosmos.

I used to drive by a warehouse in Guelph, Ontario, which bore the sign “Onan Generators” — this always seemed hilarious to me.



In Cosmos — the title makes it obvious — Gombrowicz is satirizing the phenomenology of world creation, the mental process by which we construct a frame of meaning for ourselves. Not the world (whatever that is), my world. Both inside and outside the novel (that is, in so-called real life), the modus operandi of consciousness is comically super-rational and simultaneously self-defeating (Husserl demonstrated that reason was never going to get where it said it was going). You (a subject, a consciousness) begin to notice hints of repetition and pattern; you look for other instances of the pattern in the chaotic flux of sensation; and eventually you decide the pattern is real. This is the procedure of reason and science. But, of course, in Cosmos what seems real to the narrator is in fact utterly contingent and often ridiculous or even murderous.

Form cannot enclose reality, but form always threatens to become reality. That is the antinomy of the novel: you can’t fit the world into a book, and yet form (read: custom, tradition, ideology, inter-personal expectation, etc.) is always threatening to derail the life of the individual, that is, there is always someone or some thing trying to fit you into his book. Cosmos is, in part, a horror story in which the monstrous evil is a form (in this case, a literary device) that haunts the narrator and eventually takes over his life. Instead of Godzilla or the mad slasher moving ineluctably toward its victim, the villain of Cosmos is an image pattern.

There are two other forces working on the human mind besides reason. One is the dark and unknowable current of desire; the narrator, whose name is Witold, can’t sleep with the girl he’s attracted to so he suddenly and incomprehensibly kills her cat (it’s a sick joke, right? He orgasmically strangles her pussy). The other force is the desire or gaze of the other. As soon as you enter a relationship (however trivial), you begin to bend yourself to fulfill, oppose or circumvent the desire (expectation, form) of the other. Even if you resist, the purity of selfhood has been corrupted. So you construct another self in secret, the masturbatory self, the self who doesn’t have to relate or unmask himself before the eyes of the other (but who is corrupt, seedy, infantile, trivial and evasive in any case).

Out of this triangle of forces, Gombrowicz creates a truly awe-ful, hilarious novel. The narrator discovers patterns and deduces meaning; his own sexual violence betrays reason; he discovers that the secret life of the adult male patriarch is one of chronic secret masturbation (the creation of private, obsessive cosmos).

Read the rest at Consciousness & Masturbation: A Note on Witold Gombrowicz’s Onanomaniacal Novel Cosmos » 3:AM Magazine.


Jul 222014

dg & dog2DG (right) and Lucy (left) on the farm (art shot — yes, I know it’s annoying).

DG and Lucy were just on the farm in Ontario, you know, for a brief visit, a drug intervention with his mother, a fight with a young gun investment advisor trying to get his hands on his mother’s cash, a movie with Jonah (we went to see the latest Planet of the Apes extravaganza; very funny since he is moving to San Francisco in the fall and dg would keep saying, See, there’s your BART station and there’s your apartment without a roof), flea bombing the tenant house, and dinner with a dear old friend who had a heart attack a month ago and was put in an induced coma and quick frozen, apparently, with no ill effects. (The part about the drug intervention is a joke. Do I have to tell you everything?)

Jean w the girlsJean communing with her hens.

He found a treasure trove of old negatives and discovered that you can make pictures from old out-size negatives by using a laptop screen as a light box and taking a picture of the negative. Then he used photo software to invert the negative to a black and white photo. You should be impressed with his ingenuity.


Jean at beach from negativeJean somewhat earlier in life.

The nearest town is Waterford, where dg went to high school, about two miles from the farm.

DSCF8150Alice Street, Waterford, rush hour. DG’s bank since childhood on your immediate right.

Here’s one of the town appliance stores. What’s interesting is that this used to be a movie theater. You can tell by the shape of the building. DG saw his first ever movie here, a documentary about Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. The fact that this was the first movie he ever saw and that it is burned into his memory tells you a lot about what is wrong with him.


After it was a movie theater, it was a pool hall, den of sin (according to Jean). Nothing but failed individuals and juvenile delinquents frequented pool halls. Then it was a lunch restaurant where farmers used to convene to drink coffee and talk about bad weather. DG can remember going there with his father and having hot turkey sandwiches with french fries and chocolate milkshakes. No better food has been invented since (he avers, nostalgically).

DSCF8133-002The old movie theater.

Another major landmark, sign of long gone industrial prosperity, is the old knitting mill (underwear factory), now given over to antiques.

Old Knitting Factory

Alice Street runs east-west. The movie theater was at the east end and the knitting mill was at the west end hard by the train station. The train from New York to Detroit used to run through Waterford parallel to Alice Street behind the bank and the theater. Now the former rail line is a hiking trail, and next to it is a rather peaceful series of ponds and lakes.

DSCF8156About 100 yards from the knitting mill.

While dg was taking pictures he ran into a nice, depleted young man in a black leather pants, a Harley t-shirt and a black leather vest who opened up the conversation by saying he had a brain tumor but that his life had turned around recently when he began seeing UFOs. Apparently, crowds have gathered to watch the fiery lights go up and down the Grand River in Paris, Ontario, a nearby town. But even Waterford has had its visitations. (DG has always had a suspicion that he is not of this world. They are sending ships back for him.)

Capture3A recent local sighting.

New word learned on this trip: earthing. It means to walk barefoot.

tomatoesField of tomatoes on the farm.

DSCF8284 cropped twice bwOne of the chickens, looking a bit like an alien.

Lucy2 w curvesLucy.


more dg among the chickensDG with the chickens (photo by Jean; this is her first photo credit, a milestone at 93).


Apr 182014

DG is on his way home, though at this stage of life home is a moving target, indeterminate and scattered, more like a field of destinations than a particular place. Let’s just say he gets mail at a lot of different addresses.

But his sojourn as Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick is over and on April 16, as new snow blanketed Fredericton and the St. John River continued to rise across the street from Mark Jarman’s house, he left town (and was subsequently nearly swept away outside of Lancaster, NH, where the Connecticut River had flooded over Bridge Street in two places).

Last events included a reading at Odd Odd Sunday’s on Friday at Molly’s (postponed from the week before due to a blizzard) on April 11 and another reading at the Qwerty Reading Series at the Grad House Pub (which used to be Alden Nowlan’s house where dg, in a different incarnation, went for dinner a couple of times in the early 1970s) on April 14.

Most fun in the last weeks? Shoveling water with Mark in the flooded backyard where the cars were parked. Yes, shoveling water. Don’t ask. Just think: a couple of guys, estimable writers, trying to avoid work, shoveling water and drinking beer in the sun. Clarissa’s response? Irrepressible disbelief and glee at the strangeness of men. Rob’s response? This will go away if I ignore it.

What does dg feel like leaving? Time to move on but lots of regrets. What does Lucy feel? No, I don’t want to go. This is the best place ever. I have friends. I have put down roots. You can’t make me leave.

For anyone wishing to review the whole unseemly chronicle of events since last September, you can click through the Writer-in-Residence Blog.


Jack Lucy and FifiJack, Lucy and Fifi

DSCF7573Mark on top of the snow mountain in the backyard, April 3


mMark Anthony Jarman


DG at gradhouseDG’s last reading as Writer-in-Residence at the Grad House (formerly Alden Nowlan’s house), April 14 (Photo by Stephanie Doucette)

DSCF7651-002Lucy and  Clarissa go for a last run together

Back yad Apr 16Backyard from second floor window, April 16

DSCF7654Lucy refusing to get in the car, tucked in her favourite spot on the loveseat, where she spent many happy hours watching television, reading and offering editorial advice to Mark and Clarissa