Thursday, 4 August 2011

Brian Busby

Interviewed about his blog The Dusty Bookcase and its "attempt to save Canadian books that are in danger of disappearing," Brian Busby reveals why -- especially when it comes to John Glassco -- he's one of the sharpest literary minds in the country:
JW: What do you think Glassco would make of the James Frey controversy and the rise in popularity of creative non-fiction? Did Glassco consider himself a made-up self? I'm also trying to imagine what Glassco would do with social media, if he would subvert or embrace it.

BB: It's interesting to consider what relationship, if any, Glassco might have had with social media. He was, at heart, very much an Edwardian... We see this in his final fantasy, Guilt and Mourning, an unpublished novel set in a Montreal that has somehow avoided the technological advances of the 20th century. Had Glassco lived to be a centenarian—or even a mere nonagenarian—I very much doubt that he would have taken to social media except in one key area: his sex life. Here, the world would have become a less lonely place. I dare say it would be much easier to meet people who shared his interests over the Web than through personal ads.

As to Frey, I wonder how much attention Glassco would have paid the controversy; he had so very little interest in the prose of his own time. That said, he did enjoy a good hoax—and perpetrated some of the very best. We might get a sense of his reaction to the Frey controversy through his own memoirs. In a letter to Kay Boyle, he writes, "I look on the real value of 'memoirs' as being not so much a record of 'what happened' as a re-creation of the spirit of a period in time." So he telescopes and rearranges time, invents dialogue and encounters, dresses "naked facts" and in the end produces a work that Malcolm Cowley considered "the most accurate picture of Montparnasse".

One might say that he did something similar in life; choosing what and with whom to share specific details. We all do the same thing—though perhaps not to the same extent. Glassco wrote a beautiful and insightful passage about this very aspect of human life in writing about Casanova:

"We end, in other words, by loving him as much for what he really was as for what he tells us he was, and discover that the two characters complement each other and make an intelligible whole. In this way we grasp the truth that man is not only a living creature but the person of his own creation"
Read the rest here.

No comments: