Guppy, Stephen (Anthony) 1951-
GUPPY, Stephen (Anthony) 1951-
PERSONAL: Born February 10, 1951, in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada; son of Anthony W. and Mavis R. (Turner) Guppy; married Nelinda Kazenbroot, 1986; children: Sebastian Rhys, Isabel Jane. Ethnicity: "Canadian." Education: University of Victoria, B.A., 1971, teaching certificate, 1982, M.A., 1988. Hobbies and other interests: Guitar, "playing with my kids."
ADDRESSES: Home—2184 Michigan Way, Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 6S1, Canada. Office—Department of Creative Writing and Journalism, Malaspina University College, 900 Fifth St., Nanaimo, British Columbia V9R 5S5, Canada. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: School District #69, Qualicum, British Columbia, Canada, teacher, 1982-85; Malaspina University College, Nanaimo, British Columbia, instructor in English and creative writing, 1986—. Also worked for publishing companies early in career.
AWARDS, HONORS: Second Prize, Scottish International Open Poetry Competition, 1997; shortlisted for Dorothy Livesay Award for Poetry, British Columbia Book Prizes, 2002.
Ghostcatcher (poetry), Oolichan (Lantzville, British Columbia, Canada), 1979.
(Editor, with Ron Smith) Rainshadow: Stories from Vancouver Island, Oolichan/Sono Nis (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1982.
Another Sad Day at the Edge of the Empire (short stories; includes title story, "The Catch," "A Rural Tale," "Icthus," and "The Tale of the Ratcatcher's Daughter"), Oolichan (Lantzville, British Columbia, Canada), 1985.
Blind Date with the Angel: The Diane Arbus Poems, Ekstasis Editions (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada), 1998.
Understanding Heaven (poetry), Wolsak & Wynn (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.
Contributor to anthologies, including Best Canadian Short Stories, 1995; The Journey Prize Anthology, McClelland & Stewart (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998; Prentice-Hall Guide for Student Writers; and Islands West.
SIDELIGHTS: Stephen Guppy once told CA: "Much of my fiction and poetry has been concerned with the landscape, history, and people of Vancouver Island." This includes the anthology Rainshadow: Stories from Vancouver Island. The stories that Guppy includes in his first fiction collection, Another Sad Day at the Edge of the Empire, also concern life on Vancouver Island.
According to a critic in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Another Sad Day is characteristic of fiction from Vancouver Island-based authors; its stories portray their island setting as "an eerie place where people disappear into thin air or turn into birds, where magic and the supernatural are routine occurrences." Stories in Another Sad Day include the title tale, which features an alcoholic doctor who goes to the office every day in spite of the fact that he has no patients. He goes to meet his mistress. This illicit relationship is not the most sensational thing about the piece, however. Rather, it is the fact that the tide in the area continues to go out, but never comes back in. Eventually, the ocean can no longer be seen on the horizon, and the phenomenon is blamed by the local government upon the Japanese. The Globe and Mail reviewer labeled "Another Sad Day" Guppy's "most comic" contribution to the volume.
The same critic felt that "Guppy's views of religion appear most directly in 'A Rural Tale.'" The story is allegorical, and tells of the ways in which a farmer suffers when his brother is declared the messiah of a strange religious sect. The two men were both raised by a strict fundamentalist father, who at one time caused the destruction of the family farm because it was too prosperous to find favor in the eyes of God. In a somewhat similar vein, the story "Icthus" follows a teacher from Nanaimo, British Columbia—Guppy's own hometown—as he attempts to research the history of an area religious figure who claimed to be able to walk on water. The project ends badly.
Religion also plays a role in "The Tale of the Ratcatcher's Daughter," which centers on an alcoholic minister with the surname of Death who is forced from his calling and his lovely daughter, who bears the strange moniker "Pearly Death." Because he is barred from the ministry, Death tries his hand at catching rats in a local coal mine for a fee. "The meaning is elusive," noted the Globe and Mail reviewer. "It's better just to be led into the pit of Hell without asking why."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ARC, winter, 2002, review of Understanding Heaven, pp. 90-91.
Canadian Literature, autumn, 2000, Karen Mulhallen, review of Blind Date with the Angel: The Diane Arbus Poems, p. 175.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), July 6, 1985, review of Another Sad Day at the Edge of the Empire.