Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Book Review #13: The Life and Times of Captain N. by Douglas Glover

(Douglas Glover is a writer of uncommon power and should be better known.)

The forest stands for fear, an ancient nightmare come alive. In Douglas Glover’s novel set on the Niagara frontier during the American Revolution, the vast brooding forest itself is a character, a dangerously fertile, darkly chaotic womb that spews forth bodies and heads.

This is the compelling story of Hendrick Nellis, a Tory fighter, and his eccentric son, Oskar, who lives half in dream, half in books. Like all pioneers of their day, they feared that darkness running for thousands of miles in all directions, the Great Mother and provider as well as the source of Indians ripping scalps and cracking skulls.

Glover sees clearly into the disturbing depths of the pioneer mind and the sometimes horrific mind of the native, as well, with its raw primeval grasp of magic.

In one gut-wrenching scene, the sorcerer, Crow, tortures a white soldier as a magic offering to the Iroquois sun god, “Boyd and the sorcerer are having a conversation, a dialogue of pain, a dual prayer. Crow…cuts a strip from Boyd’s forearm, inserts a stick, and pops out the tendons….”

What really sings in this book is the world Glover has envisioned. No noble savages here, no Little House on the Prairie, but a coarse reality steeped in violence, bad smells and rampant disease. Blood is spilled and brains splattered with abandon. This is war on many levels: territorial, political, racial, psychic.

With writing of breathtaking power, relentless and unflinching, Glover places the reader square in the middle of that nightmare world that is our common past.

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