October 7, 2008

Robertson Davies - Fifth Business

My knowledge of Canadian literature is admittedly weak, which has recently spawned a trek down must-read lane. My fave so far has got to be Chester Brown's decision to tackle Louis Riel's life story as a graphic novel.

Fifth Business, which I finished reading today, was my first foray into the good work of Mr Robertson Davies, and I have to say it was rather enjoyable (from a dusty-academic-reading-obviously-dated-classic point of view). 

Dunstable (really, "Dunstable"?) Ramsay is, well, a dusty academic writing his life story in an obviously dated way. His life is unremarkable, insomuch as the average person is unremarkable. He went to war, where he lost his leg and fancied that he witnessed a miracle. He returned to Canada lead the life of a bachelor, witness to his best friend becoming both a womanizing adulterer and an astonishingly wealthy man. He followed his passion to write a couple of academically successful books, and subsequently to meet a few eccentrics along the way. Oh, and he just happened to inspire the greatest magician of the modern age. Dan Brown this ain't. But that's a good thing.

Davies's work, at least here, is wonderfully complex in its layering; repeated readings will no doubt present miracles of interpretation. I look forward to the next tome in the trilogy, The Manticore.

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