The cover of this slim book prints “Monstrous” and “Highway” at the top and bottom in the same 44-point sans typeface, in contrast to the 12-point and 9-point non-sans of the remaining text. Monstrous Highway. In the cover photograph Highway is striking a head-back Elton John pose while singing to his own piano accompaniment. A similar vocal-piano photo of him appears on page 3 – perhaps a metaphorical substitution for one of him speaking.
The text is Highway’s lecture in the University of Alberta’s Henry Kreisel Lecture series in March of 2014 – a lecture that was, as the photographs suggest, also a performance. The typographers have worked with some success to enliven the text symbolically with contrasting fonts and music symbols, and to present its delivery as – and as it deserved to be – a career-celebrating moment.
The lecture itself is essentially a narrative of Highway’s life from birth in a tent pitched by his Cree parents on a Nunuvut snowbank some hundred kilometres north of their home Brochet, Manitoba, to his current career as an internationally productive playwright, novelist, and entertainer who along the way has become fluent in possibly seven languages (eight, he implies, if one includes that of music notation). His performance of the lecture – mostly in English but also in Cree and French – makes this journey seem amusing, pleasant, enriching, and paradoxically both unlikely and easy. Highway builds the unlikeliness of his story on the cultural