Interviewed by Jane Campbell
Douglas Glover is an itinerant Canadian, author of six story collections, four novels, two books of essays, and The Enamoured Knight, a book about Don Quixote and novel form. His bestselling novel Elle won the 2003 Governor-General’s Award for Fiction and was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In 2007 he won the Rogers-Writers’ Trust of Canada Timothy Findley Award. His most recent story collection Savage Love (Goose Lane, 2013) was a Quill & Quire Book of the Year and also named to the Globe Books 100: Best Canadian Fiction list. Steven W. Beattie in the National Post called it “hands down, the best book I read in 2013.”
Glover teaches in the MFA in Writing Program at Vermont College of the Fine Arts, and he is the 2013-2014 Writer-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick. He is the publisher and editor of the online literary magazine Numéro Cinq.
In your essay “Nihilism and Hairspray,” in your collection Notes Home from a Prodigal Son, you argue that being a writer is a calling or vocation rather than a career one consciously chooses. I agree with this, yet in my experience, there are many people who feel called to be writers, but instead choose to be become doctors or engineers or farmers in Southern Ontario. How did you decide to make writing your career?
That’s an interesting question. “Nihilism and Hairspray” is a polemic; I was setting up an antithesis: vocation against the institution-based professionalization of writing. The larger argument of the essay is an attack on words, categories, and forms deployed to control and define behaviour. Words like “writer,” “Canadian,” and “career,” often represent a set of values and expectations, a box, as it were. I think words like this have much the same effect on everyone. Like commercials on television, they make you, at the very least, anxious because suddenly you have entered the field of someone else’s desire.