A dozen stories, culled from collections first published in Canada, that straddle the line between sadness and sadism.
The recurring theme is the carnal appetite of the lonely—and the inevitable poor consequences that result when that appetite is sated. “Iglaf and Swan” follows the bitter, failed careers and marriage of a pair of poets caught up in their own lusts and intellectualisms as they give birth to a daughter doomed to suicide: “They only wished that the moment could go on, that they could always feel this important, tragic and redeemed.” The same story warns: “This is a dark story, growing darker still,” and so goes the collection. The failure of tortured romance may find its best metaphor when a blind man falls into a river and a dog tries to save him (“Dog Attempts to Drown Man in Saskatoon”). “A Guide to Animal Behavior” is a brief account of lives and morals so mislaid they can only be represented by fragments and non-sequiturs. The title piece consists of “the eternal triangle: recently released mental patient, woman and other woman from down the hall,” but the dynamics are unusual, with the group finding redemption as the mental patient narrator seduces his two women with stories of a life not lived. A family’s ghosts, meanwhile, in “A True Piece of the Cross,” take on tangible character as an old summerhouse comes to represent all the unspeakable secrets attendant upon filial love. Glover’s (The Life and Times of Captain N., 1993, etc.) mannered tales are often quite self-conscious in their telling, aware that they are fabrications of an emergent truth stronger than simple fact. Perhaps the author is too often reliant on aberrant sexual behavior for tension, but needlessly—these stories draw their power from a deeper source.
Sad, sexy, and significant.