The Pulse: Western Canada

The Collected Works of Humpty Dumpty 

Matthew Leclerc was a fourth-year student at The University of British Columbia. He was born in the conservative province of Alberta, yet his father was a lawyer for a French oil company, and this allowed their family to live in Paris and Geneva for several years. This is where he learned that throwing rocks at policeman could be considered a viable form of political expression, and that it wasn’t necessary for him to act like an idiot in order to impress girls. Coming back to Calgary from Paris and Geneva wasn’t easy. One year he was having desert with a Russian girl on the Champs-Elysées, and the next year he was at a keg party in the bush somewhere near Okotoks, acting like an idiot. 

His mother was the belle of the Saskatchewan plains. She was from a town so small that aliens mistook it for a tiny insect that had landed on their screens. She would do anything to get out of this town, which was rife with aggressive cowboys and bitter Indians. She was ready to make a deal with anyone who would sweep her away in his carriage — a prince, a doctor, a lawyer, any man who lived in a place without a grain elevator or a Sears catalogue store.

Upon retirement, Matthew’s parents moved to Victoria, a blue-rinse paradise complete with Edwardian buildings, a university, leafy suburbs, and a provincial legislature. Matthew visited his parents as often as he could, in between working and studying. After a year of university out east, he found himself drawn to Vancouver, across the Georgia Strait from Victoria. He loved its mix of grit and polish, beaches and skyscrapers, mountain vistas and funky cafes. He enrolled at UBC in the Fall of 2014, hoping one day to be an English teacher.

In Matthew’s spare time he wrote stories about angels and devils, epic journeys and existential wastelands. The main reason he did this was because he’d been traumatized by a first-year course he took at Queen’s University: Intellectual Origins of the Contemporary West. This course explored a staggering range of primary texts, starting with Plato’s Republic and ending with Sartre’s Nausea. It was taught in a small square room in the basement of the Physics Building by a visiting professor from Paris, Brigitte Dupont.

In 26 weeks Madame Dupont took her students from myth to quantum mechanics. One week there was Greek democracy and the next there was war with Sparta. One week there was Reason and a Chain of Being, the next there was riot and the Plague-Journal. One minute DNA brought human evolution into focus, the next an alienated Frenchman was staring at a slithering black tree root that he refused to call Satan.

This course blew Matthew’s world apart. Everything he did after it was a vain attempt to put it back together again. He called his writings The Collected Works of Humpty Dumpty.

There were other reasons Matthew wrote about demons and wizards, epic journeys and existential wastelands. One was that he read The Lord of the Rings at the age of thirteen — a trauma magnified by the movies, where the orcs of his imagination became Uruk-hai birthing from within the inner membrane of his nightmares. Another reason was that at the age of eleven he went to a summer camp where the counsellors professed to know all about angels and devils. They also professed to know about Jesus. At this delicate point in his life, Matthew also wanted to know about Jesus. Yet some of the counsellors also wanted to get to know the boys too. Yet Matthew didn’t want anything to do with them. It wasn’t long after this experience that Matthew revolted against the entire system — Heaven, Jesus, Hell, George Bush, the State Department, and all the other golden-tongued liars. He was soon drinking boot-legged cooking sherry, smoking pot, dropping assorted chemicals, arguing with Saruman, and thinking that the departing Elves had a point. The heroes of fantasy became his personal heroes. At least no one pretended they were real. Because Tolkien didn’t lie to him, he willingly humbled himself before Strider, who sat hidden beneath a dark hood, the unrecognized King, in some dark corner. 

The first story Matthew wrote was about an ant-like creature who was piloting a spaceship through the utter darkness of deep space. The alien had come from a planet so far away from everything that even things like sunlight were a mystery to him. But the alien came from a tough background and he knew how to survive. Like the rest of us, he told himself stories.

His second story was about a bar in the universe of Aatari Lok.

——

Next: Antiny the 23rd

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