Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Our Man in the Attic

Those of us based downstairs in the United States often neglect our upstairs neighbors in Canada who take a lot of ribbing from us for being from, well, Canada. The land of maple leaves has, however, produced some great literature, in addition to being a fertile breeding ground for comedians (think SCTV and the initial cast for Saturday Night Live).

We do not, alas, hear enough about the Canadian literary scene. Brian Busby is doing something about it.

"A writer, ghostwriter, écrivain public and bibliophile, I'm the author of Character Parts: Who's Really Who in Canadian Literature (2003), and editor of In Flanders Fields and Other Poems of the First World War (2005) and Great Canadian Speeches (2008). There are several other odds and ends, some of which I dare not speak."
"The odds and ends, some of which [Brian] dare not speak"  refer to his interest in the far and curious shores of Canadian literature. Brian's blog, The Dusty Bookcase: A Very Casual Exploration of the Dominion's Suppressed, Ignored and Forgotten, is not the place to go to find information about Robertson Davies, unless Robertson Davies has a hidden, heretofore unidentified, pseudonymously written pulp novel in his past, or - I shudder at the thought! - wrote anonymous porn. (In truth, Brian wrote a fine post regarding Davies' essay on fellow Canadian, Stephen Leacock)

Brian is also the author of a new, exhaustively researched and soon to be published biography of Canadian poet, novelist, eccentric, con man, and literary provocateur, John Glassco. This biography, to which I contributed a few tidbits of info, is a must read - Glassco is one of the most colorful characters you'll ever meet, an author incubated in high culture and weaned on the low brow, much like Busby himself (full disclosure: Brian Busby and I were separated and cast out of the asylum for warped neonates soon after transitioning from mother's milk to Kool-Aid). Glassco wrote, amongst other novels, the classic Olympia Press volume, The English Governess by Miles Underwood (1959), and Fetish Girl by Sylvia Bayer (Venus Library,1972. Venus Library evolved from Girodias's Olympia Press - New York imprint), the first edition of which the analgesic Ms. Bayer dedicates to John Glassco  !

But Glassco was also a practical joker, one who perpetrated more than one delightful literary hoax. As I promised Brian not to spill the beans until the book is released, I must keep these a secret.

It's no secret, however, that if you want to stay on top of the wonderful and often weird past and present world of Canadian literature, Brian, our man in the attic, is the go-to guy.

Originally appeared in Fine Books & Collections on this date.

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