Up on the Roof

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The Porcupine's Quill, 2007 - Fiction - 140 pages

The nature of truth in art, and most particularly in fiction, is reconsidered in the (imagined) autobiography of an Australian girl from Waggawagga who assembles pinion feathers from pigeons to create dioramas mounted behind glass and framed by old newsprint; a waif from the outback for whom the very notion of the cobblestones on St Mark's Square in Venice is both olfactory, and repugnant. Then Michelangelo himself takes a cameo turn after dark, a silhouette faintly circumscribed under the light of the Southern Cross.

One imagines the night sky above Alice Springs is very black.

It is not difficult to divine the source of these eleven short fictions. P. K. Page accompanied her husband Arthur Irwin to the Antipodes when he served as High Commissioner to Australia in the 1950s. Some of this same material appears in P. K. Page's own autobiography in verse "Hand Luggage" (PQL 2006), but it isn't so much where these stories come "from" that captures our interest and snares it in thrall, as it is where the fictions go "to."

The challenges of the diplomatic service exercised in the Southern Hemisphere were well documented by P. K. Page in her "Brazilian Journal" (1987), but that work was non-fiction, published by the late and much-lamented house of Lester and Orpen, Dennys. "Up on the Roof" is fiction, which is not to say that it is any less true, or more so. Here a female writer discovers that Genghis Khan and Barbie share a predilection for intricately-woven brocade, only to be thwarted in her journalistic endeavour by the guile of a conspiratorial domestic with attitude, fallen arches and an aversion to household appliances which complements perfectly her inability to consider orthotics or the ministrations of a podiatrist.


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About the author (2007)

P. K. Page 1916-2010 P. K. (Patricia Kathleen) Page was born in Dorset, England on November 23, 1916 and moved to Canada in 1919. She was a founder of the magazine, "Preview" and a scripwriter for the National Film Board. Her work "the Metal and the Flower," won her the Governor General's Award. She has also won the Oscar Blumenthal Award for Poetry, the National Magazine Award, the Canadian Authors' Association Literary Award and the Hubert Evans Prize for "Brazilian Journal." In addition, she was the recipient of the Banff Centre of Fine Arts National Award in 1989 and she is a Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets. Although most known for her writing, Page is also an artist. She exhibits her paintings under the name P. K. Irwin (as she is the wife of diplomat Arthur Irwin). Her works are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario. She died on January 14, 2010

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