Sunday, November 16, 2014

I say to horror, 'What do you look like under your hockey mask, your bloodstained cocktail frock?' Elizabeth Knox

Elizabeth Knox writes movingly and insightfully on caring for a loved person through a long illness – and how caring for her mother has changed her world view and introduced her to the experience of despair. She talks too of how having a sister who was different from the norm made her write differently:  fantasy and horror instead of 'literature'. This from the inaugural Margaret Mahy lecture delivered this year and published by VUP
For instance, I say to horror, 'What do you look like under your hockey mask, your bloodstained cocktail frock? Show me your body. Your bones.' I walk into the house-of-horror-genre and melt away its grossly figured wallpaper, the shadow on the alcove of its stairs, its dirty glass, its shuttered windows. I melt away the walls themselves until what is left is the frame, a stark figure around an empty volume, and then I call into it my own storms; outer, other darknesses; the real things in life that aren't reconcilable with living rationally, happily and confidently. Such as what illness does to us – to our selves – before we die. And how, even with all the organisation and energy, and goodwill in the world, there is only so much effective help we can offer one another. And in the end how careless a world bursting with causes is with all those devoted to the long cause of care... 
.... So why do I write non-realist fiction now that I'm all grown up? Today's answer  has to be that I can best make sense of the sadness I feel by acknowledging what catches you when you're in despair – then laughs about it. 
Elizabeth Knox read at the wonderful Litcrawl in Wellington last night. People packed into venues around the a small area of the central city and heard poets and storytellers read their work, and then walked to the next event and the next. Yes, packed!

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