Robertson Davies

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I read the Deptford Trilogy over a year ago and still think back on it. A Mixture of Frailties (read late last year) was simply resonant, wonderfully funny and spot on in the transformation of a simple, small-town girl into a self-possessed urbane talent. His characterizations of small-town characters are witty and unflinchingly honest - I grew up amongst people so very like these folks. I have a book of Davies' letters, unread as yet, and several books that are parts of trilogies that I'm hesitant to read out of sequence, but I am a fan. It's too bad he's out of fashion, because his work is most excellent. I hadn't realized he's also a playwright!

JS Myers, Saturday, 14 February 2004 22:29 (seventeen years ago) link

For most of his writing career he thought of himself as a playwright who wrote novels, rather than the other way around. Most of his plays are obvious and dated, but for their time they were about as successful as Canadian plays got (some of them are quite good, though, like Question Time, and Hunting Stuart).

I find his third trilogy to be the best (The Cornish Trilogy), although it's not as tightly wound as the Deptford Trilogy.

Davies breadth of knowledge, and how well his understanding assimilates into his work is one of the things I love most about his writing. I was talking with a professor recently about Margaret Atwood (can't stand her), and we came to the conclusion that in Atwood's novels it's fairly obvious when she does 'research'; when she goes and looks up things she doesn't really care that much about because it fits with her novel. Her 'knowledge' is cold, because it's obviously just there on the most basic intellectual level. With Davies everything he includes feels like it's a deep-felt, and deeply-understood passion. You and I may not know or understand the nuances of his references and subjects, but unlike Atwood, you can be sure that Davies *does*.

August (August), Sunday, 15 February 2004 15:39 (seventeen years ago) link

four years pass...

I am reading The Manticore right now, having just read Fifth Business. The opening of The Manticore makes not reading the entire first chapter pretty much impossible.

roxymuzak, Friday, 29 February 2008 19:58 (thirteen years ago) link

Wow - I believe that might be my first post ever on ILX up there. I read the Cornish Trilogy in Nov/Dec last year for the first time, thoroughly and completely lost myself in it.

Jaq, Friday, 29 February 2008 21:57 (thirteen years ago) link

thirteen years pass...

What's with some of these clip art covers? I guess it is a picture of RD himself, but still kind of cheesy.

Working in the POLL Mine (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 21 May 2021 16:21 (six months ago) link

I acted in a production of Hunting Stuart about 20 years ago; it was surprising how lively his dialogue was onstage, even with amateur actors, when it seems so baroque on the page.

Halfway there but for you, Friday, 21 May 2021 16:24 (six months ago) link

The whiff of 'the stage' and what the Greeks called 'the smell of the lamp' does pervade his books. My early life as a high school theater nerd and subsequent rejection of that niche probably accounts for my general lack of delight in his otherwise very well devised novels. When I read him, I can see what a good writer and storyteller he is, but what ought to excite me about him fails to connect on any visceral level and on the intellectual level I resist him.

I like his essays much better.

What's It All About, Althea? (Aimless), Friday, 21 May 2021 17:41 (six months ago) link

Not to mention the roar of the greasepaint.

Working in the POLL Mine (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 21 May 2021 19:17 (six months ago) link

Hah! V pleased w/ this revive - just yesterday I was literally blowing the dust off a pile of books and on top, requiring a wet wipe, was my (unread) copy of the The Cornish Trilogy and I was thinking, "Am I ever going to read this fucking thing? Does anybody in the world give a shit about Robertson Davies now?'

I think I have it because Burgess included it in his mad 99 Novels list, where he concludes that RD is 'prime Nobel Prize material'! But now I want to read him after looking through this thread

Ward Fowler, Friday, 21 May 2021 19:41 (six months ago) link

I loved the Cornish and Deptford trilogies. I came to Davies through 99 Novels as well, was led to a lot of good reading by that book.

In my house are many Manchins (WmC), Friday, 21 May 2021 19:46 (six months ago) link

Yeah, that is a lot of fun, 99 Novels.

Working in the POLL Mine (James Redd and the Blecchs), Friday, 21 May 2021 20:11 (six months ago) link


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