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Attack of the Copula Spiders: And Other Essays on Writing [Paperback]

Douglas Glover
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Feb. 27 2012
“Glover is a master of narrative structure.”
—Wall Street Journal

In the tradition of E.M. Forster, John Gardner, and James Wood, Douglas Glover has produced a book on writing at once erudite, anecdotal, instructive, and amusing. Attack of the Copula Spiders represents the accumulated wisdom of a remarkable literary career: novelist, short story writer, essayist, teacher and mentor, Glover has for decades been asking the vital questions. How does the way we read influence the way we write? What do craft books fail to teach aspiring writers about theme, about plot and subplot, about constructing point of view? How can we maintain drama on the level of the sentence—and explain drama in the sentences of others? What is the relationship of form and art? How do you make words live?
Whether his subject is Alice Munro, Cervantes, or the creative writing classroom, Glover’s take is frank and fresh, demonstrating again and again that graceful writers must first be strong readers. This collection is a call-to-arms for all lovers of English, and Attack of the Copula Spiders our best defense against the assaults of a post-literate age.

Praise for Douglas Glover

"A master of narrative structure."—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, Wall Street Journal

"So sharp, so evocative, that the reader sees well beyond the tissue of words into ... the author's poetic grace."—The New Yorker

"Glover invents his own assembly of critical approaches and theories that is eclectic, personal, scholarly, and smart ... a direction for future literary criticism to take."—The Denver Quarterly

"A ribald, raunchy wit with a talent for searing self-investigation."—The Globe and Mail

"Knotty, intelligent, often raucously funny."—Maclean's

"Passionately intricate."—The Chicago Tribune

"Darkly humorous, simultaneously restless and relentless."—Kirkus Reviews

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Attack of the Copula Spiders: And Other Essays on Writing + How To Write A Sentence: And How to Read One
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Review

"For the budding writer, Attack of the Copula Spiders offers an excellent primer on the basics; the practiced writer will glean so much more from Glover’s wonderful literary experience."—The Los Angeles Review of Books

"Douglas Glover, the award-winning Canadian writer of fiction, short stories and essays carries within him a huge sense of duty both to the craft of writing and to the language ... I stand before it in awe ... This is a book for all writers and for any creative writing class syllabus."—Telegraph-Journal

"Every literate person in the country should be reading Glover’s essays"—The Globe & Mail

About the Author

Douglas Glover is the award-winning Canadian author of five story collections, four novels (including Elle), and two works of non-fiction. In 2003 he won the Governor-General's Award for Fiction; in 2005 he was shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award; in 2006 he won the Writers' Trust of Canada Timothy Findley Award. His critically acclaimed novel The Life and Times of Captain N. was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the best books of 1993 and as a Globe & Mail top-ten paperback of 2001. He was recently the subject of a TV documentary in a series called The Writing Life and a collection of critical essays, The Art of Desire, The Fiction of Douglas Glover, edited by Bruce Stone. And he appeared in several segments of the TV series Writers' Confessions. Since he washed up in the hinterlands of upstate New York in the early 1990s, Glover has taught at Skidmore College, Colgate University, Davidson College, and the State University of New York at Albany. In addition, he has been writer-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, the University of Lethbridge, St. Thomas University and Utah State University. He is currently on the faculty of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing program.

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5.0 out of 5 stars A Game Changer March 27 2014
Format:Paperback
I asked the author about whether I should attend an MFA program. After all, he does teach at Vermont. He didn't know, but suggested I read this book of his. It is his collected wisdom of his lifetime of research into writing.

Others have commented on how only the writing chapters are any good or how it loses value if you haven't read all of the works he writes about. Pfft. If you are an aspiring writer with a huge ego like I am, don't let that put you off. You are more than capable of absorbing the knowledge he sets on the plates for you to consume. And this knowledge is oh so worthy, oh so vital, if you wish to write interesting prose.

Several chapters slapped me very hard -- the Copula Spiders essay, The Drama Of Grammar, The Mind of Alice Munro, Novels and Dreams, and A Scrupulous Fidelity. I now read with a pencil in hand and a notebook by my chair. I now read Alice Munro with utter fascination of her now obvious techniques. I now read novels and understand why the grammar excites me (or puts me to sleep). Most of all I now feel like I know what I am doing when I am writing. I now know the images I am trying to paint and some of the brushes I need to paint them with. I am love with the Stephenson knot! With Munro's image matrices. With Doug's excessive listing. When editing I now color-code my verbs for a visual image of effectiveness. Pedantic? No, very effective. Yet I am only getting started. This book is only a preview of his technical catalog. Pencil in hand.

This is a book for an intermediate to advanced writer with significant words under their belt. If you are a beginner, by all means read it, but read it again later.

And if you ever get a chance to take a workshop from Douglas Glover, don't hesitate. The man is a blast.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sets a New High Bar for Writing Craft Books April 5 2012
By Wendy Voorsanger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For writers attempting to craft a novel, Attack of the Copula Spiders is a must! Douglas Glover sets a new high bar for craft writing books by demystifying the novel's narrative structure. Glover explains the elements and patterns necessary for creating an engaging, thoughtful plot. Attack of the Copula Spiders isn't a book for beginning writers. Glover assumes the reader already understands the basics of fiction writing, and tackles the more elusive elements that elevate a novel to art, such as image patterning, novel thought, and plot development at the sentence level. Having achieved many awards for his own fiction, Glover is also a master of literary criticism. In Attack of the Copula Spiders, he analyzes the works of Alice Munro, Mark Anthony Jarman and others to illustrate solid narrative elements. He also provides his academic and philosophical insights into the post-litearate age and the history of the book. Attack of the Copula Spiders should have a place alongside Forester and Gardner on all writer's bookshelves!

The Wall Street Journal calls Glover, "...a master of narrative structure."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Scrupulous Fidelity March 17 2013
By William S. Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A terrific collection of essays on writing and reading. Glover outlines why and how good writing works at the atomic level - at the level of the sentence and phrase. Glover - referencing Hegel, Wittgenstein, Kant, and Canadian neuroscientist Merlin Donald - deftly handles how writing and story-telling shape our communal and individual realities. Standouts in my opinion are "The Mind of Alice Munro," "A Scrupulous Fidelity (on Thomas Bernhard's The Loser")" and "Before/After History and the Novel." Highly recommended.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A few insights but a lot of padding March 25 2013
By Laurel Halbany - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I wanted to like this book. Glover obviously loves writing and has thought about it a great deal. He also has a few excellent observations; I know I will never look at my own writing again without a check for the "copula spiders" of the title. The rest of the book, unfortunately, suffers from the kind of writing style that is endemic to academia, and if you don't enjoy English-department essays you won't like this. It's an example of the fact that you can be excellent at fiction writing and not very good at nonfiction; it's full of sentences like "In a sense, every novel, at its thematic base, is the story of a human infant encountering the grim reality of other wills, scarcity, work, choice, loss and evil." Well, okay, but I was looking for interesting thoughts on how to make writing better, not tips on the kinds of arguments I should be using to impress my English Lit TA.

While it doesn't detract from the value of his advice per se, Glover also spends a wince-inducing amount of ink ranting about our "post-literate" society. By "post-literate" he means that people nowadays (i.e., his students) don't think, don't read any Important Literature....you've heard this before and so have your grandparents when they were your age, I doubt I need to repeat it. Particularly hilarious is his tantrum in the title essay where he asks how long it's been since the reader "note[d] the elaborations of image patterns on a single page" or "forced yourself through a difficult work" and then flounces "Don't answer." (Well, Professor, I was going to say "last Thursday actually", but far be it from me to interrupt your mic-drop.) It's an annoying and distracting verbal tic that pops up throughout the book. If a fiction writer were inserting his pet peeves so clumsily throughout a novel or short story, I doubt Glover would hesitate to call it out.

Worth a skim, but there are many better books on both writing and reading out there.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent April 4 2014
By Kristin Ohman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the most useful books I have come across for a novice writer. I plan to try and get Glover as an adviser next semester at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Recommend to anyone interested in literature.
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