We all live with monsters. Some are cute. They giggle when we tickle them. Monsters in literature and film terrify us, but we love the adrenaline rush they provide. And, then, there are the monsters, real and imagined, that threaten to destroy us. Like it or not, we must all learn to live with monsters.
“Living with Monsters” is the title of the free public lecture to be presented by Kathy Page, of VIU’s Creative Writing department, on Jan. 18 at the Malaspina Theatre from 10–11:30 a.m. Part of VIU’s on-going Arts and Humanities Colloquium series, Page’s presentation will examine our fascination with monsters through the lens of her recent novel The Find.
Exploring the monsters within us is a theme in much of Page’s work. “Several of my novels and short stories have included characters who appear, at least at first, to be monstrous,” Page says. She believes that fiction should “explore the terrifying extremes of experience, the places we’d prefer not to go in our real lives. In my fictional worlds, monsters, once truly known, often turn out not to be monsters at all: I’m thinking, for example, of Alphabet, the protagonist of which is a man who has committed a monstrous crime, and of Frankie Styne and the Silver Man, which alludes to Mary Shelley’s creation, and features both an embittered writer of horror stories who is contemplating a murder, and a baby suffering from a very rare syndrome, which makes him different to the rest of us. My interest is very much focused on human beings and what the limits of being human might be.”
The Find is unique in Page’s work in that it is her only story to feature a real monster, a fossilized pterosaur—a huge, winged beast. Published in 2010 by McArthur & Co., and short listed for the 2011 ReLit Novel Award, The Find was inspired in part by a visit to the Courtenay Museum. The main storyline centres on the fictional discovery of a huge pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous epoch that is discovered near a small, fictionalized, Vancouver Island town. More particularly, Page explains, “the book explores the meaning this find has for the paleontologist who discovers it, its impact on other major characters, and its competing political and spiritual meanings.” Reviewers praise the book as both complex and entertaining. In the words of one, “The Find offers the best of all worlds: descriptions that draw you in without distracting from the story, realistic characters who face difficult choices, and a complex plot that keeps you turning the pages until the very end …”
Page’s “Living with Monsters” talk builds on a similar presentation she made in Toulouse, France, in 2011, at a multidisciplinary conference entitled “Lost and Found.” This academic gathering focused on the way extinct species and past ecosystems have been represented and sensationalized from the 19th century to the present time, and how awareness of species extinction and/or the threat of extinction have informed the arts.
Those who attend the Colloquium on Jan. 18 will be intrigued and fascinated as Page will juxtapose selected readings from The Find with thoughts on her own fascination with monsters, both real and imaginary. Page explains that her aim is to give a sense of the kind of research she undertakes for a creative project such as this. “This is where research and imagination come together.”
A time for questions and discussion will follow Page’s presentation. Everyone is welcome to attend and join in the conversation. Refreshments will be provided, and, again, there is no admission charge.
Now in its fourth year, the Arts and Humanities Colloquium provides free public lectures by VIU faculty members on a range of interesting topics. The Spring 2013 series continues on Feb. 15 with a presentation by Dr. Laurie Meijer Drees of the First Nations Studies department. Her lecture “The TRC, Missing Children, and Academic History” will highlight new findings on Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, revealed by formerly restricted documents recently made available to the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The concluding session, on Mar. 22, will feature Dr. John Lepage, from the English department, who will present “Renaissance Art and the Ancient Philosophers: A Study in the Representation of Ideas”.
For more information, contact Dr. Daniel Burgoyne at 250-753-3245, local 2126 or <Daniel.Burgoyne@viu.ca>