Savage Love

SAVAGE LOVE by Douglas Glover (Goose Lane), 251 pages, $29.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN

Douglas Glover always pushes the envelope. Every story in Savage Love is outrageous, creating farce – and something beautiful – out of human foibles.

Sexual passion features prominently, no surprise given Glover’s lusty preoccupations. The title story is an entertaining portrayal of a love triangle in which two men can’t resist competing with each other.

Shameless, the story of a teenage girl’s obsession with a butcher’s son, turns into a meditation on pornography, violence and serendipitous sex. Pointless, Incessant Barking In The Night, the last story and one of the best, is a rollicking tale of infidelity and redemption.

In Glover’s world view, love can be very dangerous. A boy in Crown Of Thorns becomes so hopelessly in thrall to his babysitter that his mental health suffers. And many of the stories put lovers in perilous situations.

Glover doesn’t shy away from brutality either. Opener Tristiana is an operatic tale of two mid-19th-century lovers who become serial killers after they survive a devastating winter freeze. Call it Natural Born Killers After The Snowstorm.

But even when his characters behave appallingly, Glover keeps a light touch. The exception is A Flame, A Burst Of Light, about the terrible wages of the War of 1812, which seems not to belong in the collection. The rest of these stories have either a needling quality or the elements of a comic romp. The Lost Language Of Ng is a hilarious all-out send-up of academic values, complete with fake footnotes.

The inventive language makes everything – even the ludicrous Uncle Boris Up In A Tree, about a way dysfunctional family, and A Paranormal Romance, an exercise in speculative fiction – believable. Some paragraphs are so gorgeously vivid, I wanted to read them twice. The micro-stories in the middle of the book strike me as incomplete flashes of brilliance Glover couldn’t bring himself to discard. But the rest of the tales are riveting.

This is the kind of audacious work our literary juries should be acknowledging. Where were they on this one?

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