Thursday, November 01, 2007

Short Story Week, #5

Up on the Roof / P.K. Page
Erin, ON : Porcupine's Quill, c2007.

This is the latest collection of short stories by Canadian literary doyenne P.K. Page. At 90 years of age she is a master of her art. She is best known for her award winning poetry, but has published story collections as well. This one includes 11 selections, most of which first appeared in various Canadian literary journals.

The title story is that of a man who moves up to his roof to get away from his wife, but his wife does him one better - she moves out and installs an alarm system so he can't get back in. Despite its being the title story, it wasn't the one I found most interesting. I liked "Stone", the tale of Cass Stone, a sculptor with family issues; I found it very rich and dense. The characters and their motivations were well drawn, and there was a positive resolution at its conclusion, something often missing in the short stories I've read in the last while. Another favourite here was "Birthday", the story of an old woman who is about to experience a birth of another kind -- the final sentences are beautifully wrought.

Because P.K. Page is 90, and because she's been writing for 60 years, she has a definite voice. I found it refreshing to read; her style and her subjects are not constrained by themes common to young writers who've gone though creative writing classes, or even by current literary fashions. Her writing is not at all old fashioned, it still reads as relevant and current, but I think her long experience gives her the ability to write as she wishes to and it is her outlook as an elder which makes her different. I'm trying to think of how to say this properly - so many writers as they age stop writing, unable to produce anything truly creative or original. P.K. Page doesn't seem to have that problem, she is creating new work, not rehashing her old. I hope if anyone else has thoughts on this topic they will weigh in.
In any case, this is a collection I will likely reread, and learn from.


  1. This sounds like a really good collection; I love reading older writers. :)

  2. I'm a fan of her poetry but didn't realize she also wrote short stories. I'll have to give it a try.

    As for older writers losing their creativity, I think much of the problem comes with the editors. Once the wroter has established themselves as much as Page, it must be hard to find editors who aren't a bunch of yes-men.

  3. John - that's a good point. How do you tell an artist like PK Page that you think her story needs work? I'd like to talk to some older authors and see if they have any insights to offer; does the need to record everything diminish once you've written for 50 or more years?

  4. Speaking of editors, how about "wroter"? (Insert blushing emoticon)


Thanks for stopping by ~ I always enjoy hearing your comments so please feel free to leave some!