John Glassco: An Essay and Bibliography


121 pages
ISBN 0-920802-78-8





Reviewed by W.J. Keith

W.J. Keith is a retired professor of English at the University of Toronto and author A Sense of Style: Studies in the Art of Fiction in English-Speaking Canada.


John Glassco established at least four discrete reputations in different areas of literature: as the writer of quiet, elegant, sophisticated poems; as a sensitive and skilled translator, especially of poetry from French Canada; as the author of Memoirs of Montparnasse, a superb semi-fictional evocation of Paris in the late 1920s; and (an area in which the present reviewer has not followed him) as purveyor of high-class pornography and erotica. Perhaps because of this variety of interest and production, Glassco has not aroused a great deal of literary-critical attention until very recently. But reassessment began soon after his death in 1981, and Fraser Sutherland now provides some essential background to enable the process to continue.

As the title suggests, Sutherland’s book is divided into two parts. The initial essay offers useful biographical information and attempts to present a consistent, credible portrait of its many-sided subject. It is clear, elegantly written, and decidedly helpful (although a little disappointing, I thought, on Glassco’s poetry). The second section, devoted to bibliography, appears to be full and comprehensive. It is especially useful in offering notes on certain suspicious and elusive items from Glassco’s earlier career that have troubled serious readers for years; and it also casts light on the various pseudonyms employed in his pornographic writings and on the series of smoke-screens that he raised in this area. This bibliography is modelled on those that ECW Press are issuing for “Major Canadian Authors”; the same publishers should be congratulated on this attractively produced book that appropriately celebrates a minor one.


Sutherland, Fraser, “John Glassco: An Essay and Bibliography,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 22, 2024,