Sep 012013

Douglas GloverAdam Segal at Whole Beast Rag in Los Angeles read Savage Love in manuscript (how he got the ms. is a story for another time) and emailed me his admiration (always appreciated) and an invitation to do an interview. It turns out to be one of the best interviews I’ve done in ages. Adam gives great prompts; he’s got a literary spirit; I get to say some things that are new even to me — I like it when the long string of arguments that is my mental life take a new turn.

Here is Adam’s introduction; click the link beneath to read the interview.



I was introduced to the work of Douglas Glover earlier this summer when I was given the unique opportunity to read an early manuscript for Douglas Glover’s forthcoming collection of stories, Savage Love. It’s a gorgeously vivid, inventive, and occasionally brutal collection, steeped in blood, familial affection, and North American history. If you’re a fan of short fiction, it’s not one to ignore.

Glover, who holds a Master of Letters in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been writing stories, novels, and essays for over thirty years. He is also the founder of the online literary magazine Numéro Cinq. Douglas Glover is, as Maclean’s Magazine suggested in a review of his 2003 novel Elle, “the most eminent unknown Canadian writer alive.” Indeed, Elle won the Governor General’s award for Fiction, Canada’s most prestigious literary award. But let’s not listen to the awards for a moment, and instead listen to the man himself.

I recently spoke with Glover about the flickering quality of ironic language, about the proper ways of approaching historical fiction, about talking corpses and strangled cats, and finally about the massive importance of human self-delusion. Read on, read on:


Editor’s Note: The magazine is not defunct, but you can read that issue and the interview here.

Nov 012011

Herewith a brilliant, provocative, obstreperous essay outlining ten reasons why we should burn books. Yes, yes, this seems vaguely counter-intuitive, Numéro Cinq being a literary magazine and all. But two things need to be said at the outset. First, book burning and books, together, have always been the signal marks of an emerging modernity. They co-exist as sign and substance of the new. This is why, of course, there is a book burning in Don Quixote; Cervantes had his finger on the pulse. In my book The Enamoured Knight, I make a side argument that, in fact, book burning is one of a “basket” of themes that supply the discourse of the novel as a form. And, second, inversion is perhaps the most elegant of rhetorical devices; instead of arguing (tediously and correctly) for the right, you take the opposite view and find occasions for wit, comedy, and trenchant critical thought. In this case, our author, Noah Gataveckas, uses inversion, his own wide reading, and a radical logic born of Jacques Lacan and Slavoj Žižek to mine the contemporary chaos of our late literate age and say very smart and inflammatory things (which is the point, right?).

Noah was born in Oakville, Ontario, in 1985, and educated at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. After moving to Toronto to work as a DJ in the entertainment district, he rediscovered his love of reading and writing. He is the author of poetry (“Silence”, “The King of the River”), journalism (“Hijacked: The Posthumous Reinscription of a Socialist in Canadian Consciousness”, “Digital Theft in a Digital World”), polemic (“Why Occupy? An Approach to Finance Capital”), theatre (Five Star), and a book-in-progress entitled Symposium: A Philosophical Mash-up. He lives and works in Toronto.



Why do we burn books? or,

The burning question of our movement

 By Noah R. Gataveckas



 The “we” in question refers specifically to the Angry Young Readers Anonymous (AYRA) book club. You know who you are; you know what’s at stake. In order to commemorate our one-year anniversary of successful self-pedagogy, we have dared to consider the inconsiderate: a quaint little book burning, with drinks and snacks being served around 8. This has – understandably – unnerved some of us. After all, Hitler. Enough said. So, to help us understand why we are doing this, I have prepared a list of ten possible reasons why one might justifiably “commit it then to the flames”, as David Hume once put it.[1] Be aware that they are inconsistent: that is, at least one reason presumes some form of spirituality (3), while others are specifically atheistic (4 and 7), and so on. We don’t need to have the same reasons; de gustibus non est disputandum. This is just a compendium of some of the answers that have been given over the years to explain why some books got fired.

(1)   Kill what you love.

We bookclubers—we love books. Do we not? Why oh why are we setting (some of) them on fire when they’re what we’re about?

After all, we more than most people should see their value: think of the many excellent texts that we’ve had a chance to read and discuss this past year, and how these readings and conversations have enriched our lives. Starting with Findley’s The Wars, including Horkheimer and Adorno, Žižek, “Junkspace”, Reality Hunger, Chinua Achebe, To the Lighthouse, Baudrillard, Ondaatje, “The World as Phantom and as Matrix”, Serge Guilbaut, “Politics and the English Language”, The Wretched of the Earth, Melville, The Master and Margarita, Chekhov, Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, McLuhan, and so many other texts that I can’t even remember, we’ve learned a hell of a lot this year from books.

Furthermore, they have provided us with the grounds for having excellent conversations. We have applied Marxist, Freudian, Lacanian, Žižekian, etc., theories to them in our efforts to maximize our minds. Note that theories apply to their texts like bees to blossoms: once pollinated, they bloom with mucho meanings, full of information and insight. This literary entomophily has rewarded us, nudging us ever closer to Enlightenment.

So how can we turn our backs on them now? They’ve been so generous to us in the past. Why oh why burn books?

Continue reading »

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. L. A. Selby-Bigge (Commons), ch. XII.
Aug 242011

The ascendant, cheerful, dapper Canadian leftist politician Jack Layton died at 61 Monday morning. He died just months after taking his party, the New Democratic Party of Canada, to amazing heights in the last federal election. The New Democrats—always the bridesmaid, never the bride—thrashed the separatist Parti Quebecois in Quebec, left the once powerful Liberal Party a rump in the rest of the country, and earned the right to form what we call the Official Opposition to Stephen Harper’s Conservative government. Now he is being eulogized (mostly) in the press, a state funeral is in order, and, in many ways, his memory is already being co-opted by people who once dismissed him, derided him or even hated him.

Here’s a link to a smart little essay by Noah Gataveckas (published in the online magazine The Mass Ornament) that seeks to insert some logic and realism into the tangle of emotion and pop journalistic burbling and political re-remembering that is, yes, not just a characteristic of Canadian politics.


It is important to remember the past, compare today to yesterday, if one wishes to gain an understanding into any (historical-material) situation. This holds true for the Canadian political landscape.

Various newspapers and ideologues are now posthumously celebrating noble Jack Layton as a hero of humanity, who “More than anything else, stood for Canada”. Yesterday, these same papers otherwise portrayed him as a socialist traitor who had “an almost pathological hostility to the corporate sector [that] would quickly turn Canada into a North American Zimbabwe”. Or: a “champion of elite privilege”. Or: a “Shameless Socialist Opportunist”.

Now that his legacy is up for grabs, Layton is being spun into some kind of watered-down New Liberal. While in the past he was portrayed as the Leftist Enemy (under the spooky banner of ‘socialism’), now he is being sold as a ‘good guy’ with “always a twinkle in his eyes”. The message here is: forget about who he was, what he did, and his politics, celebrate the mere ‘person’ of Jack once he has been abstracted from all the (real, living) political content that made him who he actually was (i.e. what he fought for, what “he gave his life for”). In other words, we are encouraged to celebrate a fiction of Jack Layton instead of his truth.

via The Mass Ornament | The politics of culture.

Aug 232011


Here’s a fierce and pyrotechnic little diversion on the subjects of capitalism, masculinity, violence, movies, Space Monkeys, Tyler Durden, and Fight Club, movie and novel, from Brianna Berbenuik, a 20-something misanthropist and student of Slavic Studies at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. Brianna is an avid fan of kitschy pop-culture, terrible Nic Cage movies, the philosophy of Slavoj Zizek, and Freud. You can find her at Love & Darkness & My Side-Arm. She is no mean hand with an AK47, and her last contribution to Numéro Cinq went viral, as they say, when Bret Easton Ellis read it, liked it and tweeted it around the world (it was about, um, Bret Easton Ellis).



We’re the All-Singing, All-Dancing Crap of the World, or:

You’re Doing It Wrong – The Fight Club Identity Crisis

By Brianna Berbenuik


Missing the point is pretty standard fare in life. People tend to get so pumped up about Fight Club that they miss a lot about the movie. Mainly that the “Space Monkeys” are the worst fucking part.

(Although I will admit that watching Jared Leto get his face beat to pulp is kind of excellent. Maybe even better than watching Christian Bale axe him to death in the film adaptation of American Psycho.)

Fight Club is one of those movies that pretty much everyone in the Western world has seen, and a novel that most people have read (and claimed to have read prior to the film — PRO TIP: Fight Club the novel is exactly like the movie, except for alterations to like, two scenes. So no, having “read the novel” doesn’t give you any fucking cred).

So most people think that is what is being criticized, and overlook the inherent satire within the bounds of Fight Club and Project Mayhem – it is set up within the film to look like a legitimate alternative to the capitalist machine, but it is being skewered just as much as capitalism is.

Thing is, people get really fixated on the ideology of the movie, and fail to distinguish that there are two separate things going on:

1) The obvious critique and satirization of a Capitalist society, and how it is inherently repressive and one must find solace ‘outside the system’ and

2) The satirization of masculinity, and critique of masculine violence as a “positive” venue or positive manifestation of nihilist philosophy.

There are a lot of people who genuinely believe that starting violent all-male “clubs” and committing acts of terrorism are actually being touted as a solution in the Fight Club world. A hell of a lot of fight clubs began springing up after the release of the movie – a cult phenomenon. Cult is a descriptor here for a reason. The “inside joke” about Fight Club is that if you worship the general philosophy and take it legitimately seriously, you’ve entirely bypassed the point and become exactly what the movie is satirizing. Quoting Fight Club excessively does not make you edgy or intelligent (“Sticking feathers up your ass does not make you a chicken”), it just proves that you’ll fall for anything that seems remotely cool and anti-establishment. Plus, Fight Club quotes are so quippy and simple – they really elucidate nothing deeper. Durden’s one-liners (and they are abundant) are like easy-to-digest commandments that everyone clings to as profound. Funny thing about profound stuff – once it saturates the mainstream, it tends to lose its kick.

Continue reading »

Feb 022010

Interestingly, from the point of view of a writer creating an objective correlative, there are places language can go that are impossible actually to think. They are like Black Holes in the text, haunting, uncanny. Fascinating to contemplate and try to get into a piece of fiction not just theoretical nonfiction as here.

“All theoretical projects require a subject that can conduct the project. At least this is a marker of all successful theoretical projects. One can imagine a theory which cannot be conducted by a subject, but any elucidation of this project would be–in Austin’s terms–infelicitous.” Geoff Wildanger See full post here.

“And this brings me to a possible Lacanian definition of auratic presence: it is simply the fantasm, the fantasm as – for Lacan – an imaginary scenario which stages an impossible scene, something that could only be seen from the point of impossibility.” Slavoj Zizek. See full excerpt from Lacanian Ink here.