Welcome to this cyberplace, set up as a space for news and reviews of A Gentleman of Pleasure and occasional jottings about John Glassco. Five years have now passed since publication, and I've moved on to other projects, but I'm leaving this up with the thought that those drawn to Glassco's writing will find something of interest.

28 July 2011

A Canadian Bookshelf Conversation

My recent conversation with Julie Wilson. The Edwardian Glassco, the naked truth in Memoirs of Montparnasse, thoughts on the James Frey controversy, and Canada's neglected and forgotten literature – you'll find it all here at Canadian Bookshelf.

24 July 2011

Harriet Marwood Stories

From time to time I receive correspondence from people seeking further information on John Glassco and his writing. I'm always happy to respond privately, but thought that I might address a recurring query here. The most common comes from those hoping that there might be more Harriet Marwood stories. I have very good news: the beautiful, brunette disciplinarian exists outside the pages of The English Governess and Harriet Marwood, Governess. We find her first in The Augean Stable, a 124-page, three-act play composed in 1954. Unproduced and unpublished, you'll have to consult Glassco's papers at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa in order to read this alternate, rather polite version of her romance with Richard Lovel.

Much more accessible is "The Black Helmet". Published in The Fatal Woman (Anansi, 1974) as one of "Three Tales by John Glassco", this is the novella that he struggled with – forever revisiting and revising – for most of his 71 years. Here Harriet is mentioned frequently, if fleetingly, by her former charge, Philip Mairobert. In this passage, our hero recalls the the arrival of the governess at his family's estate in rural Quebec:
Today I will think of her as the person to whom I owed everything, not as a woman I loved – and think of my life here before she came, with no one but those two old servants in the twilight of dotage who were so terrified of me. I must have been like a wild animal then, with those fits of rage – screaming, biting, breaking things, rolling on the floor. I remember almost nothing of that time: it seemed to be mostly walking through these ruined gardens and in the woods where I set my ineffectual little traps for birds and rabbits, hoping to catch them alive. How desolate and wild a life! Yet when mother left to live in Paris for good, and Miss Marwood came, I was furious. I thought I would lose me freedom. Freedom! As if it ever mattered to me.
Well I lost it certainly – the child's freedom to be lonely, bored, idle, frightened. And I found, quite simply, happiness. A week after she arrived I could sleep without nightmares; and I had stopped stammering: I simply hadn't time! As for my rages, I really think she enjoyed them. as if they offered a challenge to her methods and muscles, to the very strength of her arm.
Though The Fatal Woman enjoyed just a single printing – likely 3000 copies – for a good many years it seemed quite common. No more. I note that only five, one a crummy library discard, are currently being offered by online booksellers.

Fans of the governess are advised not to hesitate.

The author's bio on The Fatal Woman errs in stating that Glassco won "the Governor-General's award [sic] for both poetry and non-fiction." In fact, he received only the former. I'll step out on a limb here and say that Anansi's mistake is borne of a common misconception that Glassco won a Governor General's Award for Memoirs of Montparnasse (his only "non-fiction" book). No Governor General's Award for Non-fiction was awarded for 1970, the year in which it was published.

Incredible, yet oddly appropriate.

Cross-posted in a mildly less mature version at The Dusty Bookcase.

12 July 2011

Peter Dubé in The Montreal Review of Books

Busby's biography is meticulously researched and catches many questionable details and variant accounts of events while never losing sight of the overarching structure of his subject's project as an author. That's no small strength when the project includes much playful self-mythologizing, because, however charming Glassco's delight in fabulation and light touch with mere fact may be, it complicates things for biographers.
The entire feature review – along with an excerpt from The English Governess – can be found in the Summer 2012 issue (#35), just beginning to arrive in bookstores.

06 July 2011

Fraser Sutherland at Open Book Toronto

High praise from Fraser Sutherland, who describes A Gentleman of Pleasure as 'probably the best literary biography ever to appear in Canada.'

More at Open Book Toronto.

03 July 2011

Celebrating the Foster Horse Show

Not today, of course, but one of many Sundays past in which thousands would gather at John Glassco's Jamaica Farm. From the same article, published in the 28 July 1966 edition of the Eastern Townships Advertiser:

The Foster Horse Show began sixty year ago as a bit of a lark, but grew to be one of the largest equestrian events in the country. At its height, the show nearly overwhelmed Glassco's grounds. It was estimated that as many as 5000 people attended in 1964, all to the benefit of the Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins Hospital in nearby Sweetsburg.

Eastern Townships Advertiser, 15 July 1964

Eastern Townships Advertiser, 29 July 1964

Glassco played host to the show for more than two decades, before age and concerns over insurance and liability forced him to give up the role. It was moved nine kilometres down the road to the village of Knowlton, where it lived until 1998, when it was moved to Bromont's Olympic Equestrian Centre.

Saturday, July 16, will see the unveiling of a plaque honouring Glassco, Graeme Taylor and the other founders of the Foster Horse Show: Harry Wallace, Miles Rhicard, Gilbert Rhicard, Ann Johannson and Stan Fewster, along with announcer James Blackwood and ringmaster George Rogerson.

This comes as part of the Knowlton Wordfest – still in its infancy and already one of the very finest Canadian literary festivals. I'll be in the audience... it is not to be missed.