Abandoned Books

Reviews of books and authors not much discussed on the web.

Name:
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Friday, December 15, 2006

Robertson Davies

I’ve talked elsewhere here about how one of the things that people want out of a book is knowledge. People want to learn things – it’s the only way to explain the popularity of somebody like Arthur Hailey.

Let’s push this a bit further. I think lurking at the heart of this is the notion, deep in the reader’s soul, that the writer has wisdom. (The way that there’s a deep, almost unacknowledged sense that the musician or, to a lesser extent, the artist has passion). Now, of course a moment’s sober reflection is enough to bring to mind countless foolish or silly writers. Yet the notion continues. I think deep in Western civilization’s soul lies this idea that the writer, if not exactly a better person than the common Joe or Jane, is at least a different sort of person, set apart in some kind of fundamental way.

Thus the higher end version of somebody like Arthur Hailey, who tries to teach you how an airport works, is somebody like Robertson Davies, who tries to teach you how to live.

Davies was once well-known – so well-known that he was seriously bandied about for the Nobel Prize. Nowadays – not so much. Although a cult-like following persists, and I rather expect some of his books, most notably Fifth Business, will survive.

Davies was an Anglophile, and like a lot of these sorts – John Dickson Carr leaps to mind – he was more British than British. Although theoretically taking place in Canada, you could change the place names to English ones and it wouldn’t make much difference. For all of his fussing about Canada and what it is and what its people are like, none of his books feel exceptionally Canadian to me. Of course, considering I’ve actually never been to Canada, don’t know any Canadians, and have not even really thought all that much about Canada, you might fairly ask what I think “authentically Canadian” really is. And honestly, I don’t have an idea.

But I know this ain’t it.

Davies’s reputation is based on three trilogies. He started out with the very cautious Salterton trilogy: Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, and A Mixture of Frailties. These are small city comedies in what I suspect was intended to be the Trollope mold: that is, while they have their humorous moments, they’re mainly meant to be gentle meditations on life. There’s a happy ending, but you’ll get some painful moments too – that kind of thing.

They’re basically early efforts, Davies learning his voice and craft. Tempest-Tost centers around a small-town production of, um, The Tempest. A lot of interesting details of how one puts together this kind of production, and some good pictures of the local townsfolk, but it doesn’t have much by way of a story. Leaven of Malice actually has a plot – it even ends with a marriage (or at least an announcement of one) – but it’s not a particularly interesting plot, and it’s not hard for the reader to detect the locus of authorial interest and energy in the accounts of a smallish newspaper, sort of the sideshow of the thing.

The most interesting of the three is A Mixture of Frailties, which is the first appearance of the “biography of the artist seen as a spiritual exploration”, a kind of thing Davies would tackle again (What’s Bred in the Bone, most interestingly in World of Wonders). I think Davies is pretty good as this notoriously hard-to-manage kind of thing, and I think the secret is that he focuses on the performing arts (magic, acting, singing, interestingly, connoisseurship). This enables him to dramatize the kind of things that, for an artist, are usually pretty internal. And, more basically, these kinds of people just generally get out and do more interesting things, inherently.

I don’t think Frailties is a great book, it still feels hesitant to me (like this whole series, actually) and female characters are not Davies strong suit, but it’s the best of the Salterton Trilogy and would most clearly show Davies’s path.

End of Part One.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thank you so
much, However I am experiencing difficulties with your RSS.
I don't understand why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anybody having similar RSS problems?
Anyone that knows the solution can you kindly respond?
Thanks!!

Here is my blog ... Psychopath test Salon

10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need to put your password in our Cheat/Hack Program.
All you have to do is choose Hack Attributes and discover or choose your
device!

Also visit my homepage; brave frontier hack no survey online

4:30 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

nike outlet, polo outlet, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, prada outlet, michael kors outlet, nike free, tory burch outlet, michael kors outlet store, uggs outlet, christian louboutin outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses wholesale, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, nike air max, longchamp outlet, michael kors outlet online, michael kors outlet, prada handbags, polo ralph lauren outlet online, louis vuitton outlet, longchamp outlet, christian louboutin, burberry outlet, louis vuitton outlet, ugg boots, gucci handbags, nike air max, michael kors outlet online, louis vuitton, tiffany and co, louis vuitton, christian louboutin shoes, uggs on sale, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, oakley sunglasses, ugg boots, replica watches, christian louboutin uk, burberry handbags, michael kors outlet online, tiffany jewelry, uggs outlet

11:16 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

coach outlet, sac hermes, nike tn, louboutin pas cher, jordan pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, true religion outlet, hogan outlet, michael kors pas cher, hollister pas cher, air max, nike roshe, longchamp pas cher, timberland pas cher, hollister uk, burberry pas cher, coach outlet, lululemon canada, nike blazer pas cher, true religion outlet, polo lacoste, ray ban pas cher, coach outlet store online, north face, michael kors outlet, nike air max, guess pas cher, kate spade, chanel handbags, ray ban uk, nike free run, kate spade outlet, true religion outlet, oakley pas cher, true religion jeans, north face uk, sac vanessa bruno, michael kors, converse pas cher, nike air force, coach purses, michael kors, vans pas cher, polo ralph lauren

11:21 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

polo lacoste, sac vanessa bruno, ray ban pas cher, hollister pas cher, nike free run, nike air force, michael kors, north face, hogan outlet, coach purses, oakley pas cher, new balance, sac longchamp pas cher, nike air max, coach outlet, true religion jeans, chanel handbags, north face uk, polo ralph lauren, kate spade, longchamp pas cher, michael kors, coach outlet, timberland pas cher, nike blazer pas cher, burberry pas cher, true religion outlet, louboutin pas cher, nike tn, nike roshe, sac hermes, air max, lululemon canada, jordan pas cher, guess pas cher, vans pas cher, true religion outlet, converse pas cher, true religion outlet, kate spade outlet, michael kors outlet, ray ban uk, coach outlet store online, michael kors pas cher, hollister uk

11:28 PM  
Blogger oakleyses said...

hollister, louis vuitton, montre pas cher, pandora jewelry, links of london, louis vuitton, thomas sabo, lancel, louis vuitton, coach outlet, louboutin, hollister, replica watches, nike air max, converse, vans, doke gabbana, michael kors outlet, ugg, ugg,uggs,uggs canada, supra shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, pandora uk, ugg,ugg australia,ugg italia, ralph lauren, swarovski crystal, swarovski, karen millen uk, juicy couture outlet, oakley, ray ban, converse outlet, ugg pas cher, louis vuitton, michael kors outlet online, gucci, michael kors handbags, ugg uk, iphone 6 cases, juicy couture outlet, timberland boots, pandora charms, wedding dresses, toms shoes, marc jacobs

11:34 PM  
Blogger 艾丰 said...

jianbin1208
nike soccer shoes
coach outlet,coach outlet online,coach outlet store
true religion jeans,cheap true religion jeans,true religion jeans wholesale,true religion outlet,true religion sale,true religion outlet online
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors handbags sale
ugg boots
oakley sunglasses cheap
ray ban sunglasses outlet,ray ban usa,ray ban sunglasses,ray ban,rayban,ray bans,rayban sunglasses,cheap ray ban,ray ban outlet,ray-ban,raybans,ray ban wayfarer,ray-ban sunglasses
barbour clothing
nba jerseys wholesale
oakland raiders
hollister shirts
michael kors handbags clearance
michael kors handbags wholesale
michael kors uk
canada goose outlet
true religion jeans
ysl outlet online
chanel outlet store online
pittsburgh steelers
san antonio spurs
louis vuitton bags on sale
longchamp outlet online
cheap ray ban sunglasses
canada goose sale
calvin klein,calvin klein outlet online,calvin klein wholesale,calvin klein shoes,calvin klein underwear,calvin klein coats,calvin klein handbags
michael kors outlet sale
tory burch handbags
prada handbags
puma shoes
michael kors handbags wholesale

12:58 AM  
Blogger mmjiaxin said...

coach outlet store
coach outlet online
nike free
tiffany outlet
instyler ionic styler
cheap nfl jersey
snow boots
snapbacks wholesale
oakley canada
adidas outlet
ralph lauren uk
uggs outlet
canada goose outlet
toms outlet
longchamp outlet
gucci,borse gucci,gucci sito ufficiale,gucci outlet
discount oakley sunglasses
parajumpers outlet
ugg outlet uk
nike air max uk
mm1214

1:12 AM  
Blogger Jianxiang Huang said...

jianbin1218
longchamp outlet
true religion sale
true religion outlet
fitflops shoes
fitflops sale
fitflops sale clearance
fitflops sale
fitflops shoes
michael kors outlet
michael kors outlet
michael kors outlet
tiffany and co
tiffany jewellery
beats by dr dre
beats by dre
oakley sunglasses
oakley sunglasses
ray-ban sunglasses
ray ban sunglasses
hollister uk
lululemon outlet
ugg outlet
ugg boots
ugg boots
rolex watches
mulberry handbags
mulberry bags
mulberry outlet
mulberry sale
mulberry handbags
mulberry handbags
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton handbags
toms shoes
omega watches
ferragamo shoes

8:28 PM  
Blogger Mie Helal said...


Keep up the good writing
http://www.kuwait.prokr.net/
http://www.emirates.prokr.net/

7:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home