Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Douglas Glover

"All art is against the Anglicans of the spirit."

This quotation comes from Douglas Glover's Notes Home from a Prodigal Son (Oberon, 1999). It sums up, inadequately, Glover's rebellion against certain Canadian historial and cultural norms. The norms of United Empire Loyalist rural Ontario.

I recently wrote a biography of Glover on assignment. It is posted below.


Douglas Glover, writer (b. 1948, outside Waterford, Ontario). Born and raised on his family's tobacco farm, Glover grew up minutes from the Six Nations reserve outside Brantford, Ontario. His family had United Empire Loyalist roots and a multi-generational interaction with their First Nations neighbours. As a result, Glover gained a self-awareness at an early age that history is a conversation that never closes.

Glover told an interviewer: "There’s a historical conversation that goes on, even within my family, we remember how we interacted with [our native neighbours] through the years." His grandfather attended Iroquois longhouse ceremonies, and whole native families would come to the farm to pick strawberries. Self-awareness of history being perpetually remade through language is a prominent feature in his short stories and novels, such as Elle (Goose Lane, 2003).

ELLE won the Governor General’s Award (2004) and received a nomination for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2005). The Governor General’s jury praised the novel for combining "humour, horror and brutality with intelligence and linguistic dexterity to forge a revised creation myth for the New World."

The novel chronicles the story of a young French woman marooned on an island in the St. Lawrence River in 1542, during Jacques Cartier’s final attempt to colonize Canada. Partly based on real events, the novel tells of its teenaged narrator’s time in the wilderness and her possible transformation into a bear and later return to France.

Glover has speculated that "there’s something about the beginning of Canada [that] happens to be flowing through my mental make-up." As United Empire Loyalists, Glover’s family came to Canada from the United States following the War of Independence. The historical conversation behind that armed conflict forms the subject of The Life and Times of Captain N. (M&S, 1993; Goose Lane, 2001).

That novel is set in upstate New York at the end of the American Revolution. Oskar Nellis, a young man who writes admiring letters to George Washington, is kidnapped by his father and forced to fight for King George’s army. Oskar lives into old age, and the novel includes his memories and parts of his "Book on Indians." The novel captures the multiple points of view of an ongoing historical conversation.

As Glover told an interviewer: If "you pay attention to what really happened and you start to say, ‘Well that still is going on now. That’s a conversation that started then, it’s going on right now.’ People may define it in terms of colonialism, or they define it in those terms, and every time you confine it in some box you do a disservice to the actual people and the actual conversation because if you say that they were beaten, you’re wrong, because they’re still there and they’re talking back."

Glover is the author of four novels, five short story collections and two books of nonfiction. He has also played a prominent role nurturing developing writers as an editor of anthologies, including BEST CANADIAN STORIES (Oberon Press) from 1996 to 2006. He has cited as influences writers known for subverting convention, among them Christa Wolf, Milan Kundera, Leon Rooke and Hubert Aquin. His nonfiction, such as his book-length essay on DON QUIXOTE (2004), demonstrates a broad knowledge of literary history and a rare flexibility about different aesthetic approaches.

Glover wrote his first short story in 1968 while training to make a bid for the Canadian Olympic track team. He received a BA for philosophy from York University (1969) and a graduate degree in philosophy from the University of Edinburgh (1971). Following jobs at newspapers throughout Canada, he attended the University of Iowa’s Iowa Writers’ Workshop and received an MFA (1982).

Since the early 1990s, Glover has taught at Vermont College. He has two sons Jacob Glover and Jonah Glover and is divorced. In 2007, the Ontario Provincial Police Awarded Glover and his sons special citations for helping to save the lives of canoers in Algonquin Park in July 2006.


Douglas Glover links:

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