Top honor could open new chapter for author

Douglas Glover of Wilton expected to gain notoriety after earning Canadian prize

First published: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

After decades of toiling in relative obscurity, novelist Douglas Glover, 54, of Wilton, will receive Canada's oldest and most prestigious literary prize for fiction today.

Glover, who has lived in the Capital Region for well over a decade but retains Canadian citizenship, will be presented with the Governor General's Award for fiction. It carries a $15,000 check and has been likened to the Pulitzer Prize.

Glover's historical novel, "Elle," beat out "Oryx and Crake" by bestselling author Margaret Atwood and three other novels.

The prize is chosen by a jury of authors and has been given since 1936. Past winners include Michael Ondaatje ("The English Patient"), Carol Shields ("The Stone Diaries"), Alice Munro ("The Progress of Love") and Robertson Davies ("The Manticore").

"It's very nice," Glover said Tuesday afternoon from a hotel in Ottawa, where he attended a reception Tuesday night before this evening's black-tie awards ceremony at Rideau Hall, the queen of England's residence.

Glover will receive his award from the governor general of Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, the queen's representative.

"You just work along and you work along and then you get this kind of recognition and it launches you into a different level of acceptance and notice," Glover said.

After publishing a half-dozen novels and two short story collections with limited commercial success in Canada and even less notice in the United States, Glover compared his sudden, mid-career breakout to that of his friend, William Kennedy.

Glover has taught at the New York State Writers Institute that Kennedy founded at the University at Albany. He's a former host of the "Book Show" on WAMC-FM in Albany. He also taught writing at Skidmore College and Colgate University and currently teaches in the MFA writing program at Vermont College in Montpelier.

He dedicates "Elle" -- a Robinson Crusoe-type adventure set in the 16th century during the colonization of Canada, in which a young woman was marooned on the Isle of Demons in the St. Lawrence Seaway -- to his mother.

"I'm so thrilled for him," said Jean Glover, who will attend the prize ceremonies with her son.

At 82, a widow for 20 years, she continues to run a vegetable and ginseng farm in Waterford, Ontario, where she raised three sons. The farm has been in the family for six generations. She drives 40 miles to pick up a copy each time her son publishes a new book after placing a special order at a bookstore.

Glover has turned his imagination and fiction powers on some of his family's history and the harshness and isolation of rural Canada where he grew up.

"His work is arduous and painful at times, but artists don't expect a payoff or to make a lot of money like businessmen," his mother said. Glover was a finalist for the Governor General's Award in 1991 for "A Guide to Animal Behaviour." Glover is published in Canada by Goose Lane Editions, a relatively small publisher distributed by the University of Toronto Press.

As a result of the literary prize, his first two novels, "Precious" (1984) and "The South Will Rise at Noon" (1988), long out of print, will be reprinted. Glover, who is divorced, has joint custody of two sons with his former wife, Helen Edelman. The boys divide their time between their parents' houses and ride bikes back and forth between Glover's house on the outskirts of Saratoga Springs and Edelman's in town. Glover said he's "the consummate soccer dad."

"I think it's really cool that he's winning the award. It'll bring a lot of prestige to the books he's written," said Jacob, 12.

"I'm really happy for him," said Jonah, 9. "I'll walk in when he's writing and he said some times are good times and some times are bad times when he's working."

For a tuxedoed Douglas Glover in Ottawa, today will be one of the good times.

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2003, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

Douglas Glover