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Mr Davies is the Magus, the Magician I m sure this must be at least the third time that I ve read Fifth Business, and it never palls He has such an ease and breadth of narration, such elegance and gentle irony You relax into this kind of authoritative voice, luxuriate in its reassuring comfort And all the while the magic spell silently twists into position, so that you swallow the most unlikely of coincidences, the slightly one sided female figures, the rather too obvious a contrast between Dunstan and his materialist counterpart, Boyd Staunton, the odd idea of Dunstan writing such a long letter to his headmaster None of that matters It flies, a magic carpet ride about guilt, responsibility and recognizing all the parts of your personality, the rational and the irrational Deeply satisfying. From the snapshots you can find online, Robertson Davies looked like Charles Darwin with a touch of Santa Claus The Canadian author had a long white forked beard that was strikingly demode in the 1970s when he delivered the three books of this excellent Deptford Trilogy And yet, don t be fooled by the first appearances You better look carefully at the photos of Mr Davies If you do that, you will perceive genuine wit and an eager inquisitiveness in his eyes as well as the intimidating irony of his slightly raised eyebrows This man knew what he did and always kept himself up to date with the long times he lived in If Robertson Davies chose to look from another age deserting the barbershops of Ontario, that was not a sign of personal carelessness but very much a deliberate intellectual disguise.Davies old fashioned long white forked beard had at the same time the gravitas of the British born naturalist and the bonhomie of the popular gift bearer And in between Darwin s meticolous but revolutionary cataloguing and classifying specimens and Father Christmas magic but punctual efficiency in delivering airborne gifts, Robertson Davies prose might be found No surprises that reading The Deptford Trilogy to me has been like embarking on the Beagle with a flying open sleigh on the deck ready to take off at the author s call Captain Davies led our brig sloop time machine through his story with remarkable confidence and ease leaving the Canadian shores behind with the occasional brat throwing a snowball at us from the quay During our navigation he always had the first and the last word on board and to his credit he managed to keep his whole crew of characters under control without neglecting the needs of his only reader and passenger We followed a circular route with a stopover between Fifth Business and The Manticore to welcome on board a new first narrator looking for psychoanalysis Then, thanks to the flying open sleigh we brought along on the Beagle, we left the poor fellow on the Swiss Alps between Jung and the Jungfrau Just in time to begin the exploration of the third stage of our trip leading us to the illusive borders of the World of Wonders together with a film troupe and eventually back to Deptford Believe me, folks You will suffer no seasickness sailing and flying with Robertson Davies This guy never loses the control of his helm and as a plus is not afraid of pointing straight into the whirlwinds of history, politics, religion and love That and the difficult art and consequences of dodging a snowball thrown by a brat The magical realism and real magic you will bring back home after embarking on a journey on The Deptford Trilogy with Captain Davies are equally haunting. A wonderful trilogy, by an incredible writer Each of the three novels looks back on a man s life The first, Fifth Business, is a letter from a school teacher to his old headmaster, attempting to show that his life was much than anyone ever saw at school, and it touches on saints, war, madness and artificial legs The second book, The Manticore, is notes from the Jungian analysis of a wealthy Canadian lawyer, touching on archetypes, alcoholism, first love and death masks.The third, World of Wonders, is the life story of a performer, told to a film crew as they search for a subtext to their film, touching on circuses, kidnapping, clockwork, and a very British theatrical tour.All three books are linked by Deptford, the home village of two of the men, and also the home village of Boy Staunton, the lawyer s father, and linked by the death of Boy Staunton under odd circumstances And each book contains unhappy men powerful in their own ways, and women who are influential but rarely comforting However, you don t have to be interested in saints or Jung or British theatre to love these books The most notable thing about any Robertson Davies novel is the generous and intelligent spirit which gleams out of them Some books make you feel the author s intellect and learning but also make you very aware of your own lack of learning these humane erudite books make the reader feel clever too I didn t feel patronised as a teenager when I read these, though I am now aware that I must have missed at least 90% of the references As I reread them every new decade of my life, I get new mythical, religious, literary and historical references every time I wonder if I will ever live long enough to get every single one of them These are fabulous books, by an amazing writer Please discover him for yourself Read most of this book under the shadow of Cortez s Cathedral in Mexico sitting by a pool and smoking really bad pot Anyways, somebody I barely know suggested it I m glad he didit got me through a tough time Took my mind to another place when it was in another place to begin with Something quaint and imaginative about the way he writes, like a master storyteller with no other agenda than the story at hand. Who Killed Boy Staunton Around This Central Mystery Is Woven A Glittering, Fantastical, Cunningly Contrived Trilogy Of Novels Luring The Reader Down Labyrinthine Tunnels Of Myth, History, And Magic, The Deptford Trilogy Provides An Exhilarating Antidote To A World From Where The Fear And Dread And Splendour Of Wonder Have Been Banished FIFTH BUSINESS This is a good book It doesn t belong to my favorite class of artistic works, which I think of as the Fire and Forked Lightning variety But it s quite good Roberston Davies tells his tale in a slightly detached, leisurely pace that I m tempted to attribute to his being from Canada The story certainly doesn t hit you like a hollywood movie plot ride It s thoughtful and takes it s time, but it s a good story basically the entire story of one man s life, with scope and interest and some lovely and truly felt imagery burned into the center of it.The emotional detachment author or the narrator, but the difference here is academic is part of the book, but it also renders the tale in less vivid colors than I might have liked Or, let me say, if the narrator had been closer and emotional about the tale, it would have been a different sort of story, maybe in the Austen Bronte sort of vein The distance is interesting, it s not just bad In exchange for the heat and draw of the extremely personal, it asks you to step back and review a life.Which leads me to the last thing I d like to say about this book This book does something that I find quite interesting it deals with symbolism and significance as a subject in the book, but the story itself is much realistic Things that seem meaningful happen, and then instead of allowing that just to be a magic of the fiction, the Davies picks at them His characters wonder, investigate, explode, embrace the meanings of their lives, but their lives, like real lives, do not come with this meaning officially sanctioned Dickens or condemned Hardy Once again quiet realism instead of the magic of high drama. It s not much of a spoiler to tell you that the last sentence of this trilogy is a one word exclamation Egoist I mention this to introduce my probably highly unoriginal, but I have not as of yet read any criticism of RD s work pet theory that this, second trilogy of Davies is his psychomachia soul war , in which the author explores the various elements of his own personality and how, by conflicting with each other, indirectly reveal the drama of his own life Thus, the principal characters in these three books all of which are obsessed with the World As Stage metaphor, by the way can be said to be contending for the role of lead protagonist, when that part is already reserved, thank you very much, for the author himself.As one character says to another in the third installment in this series, World of Wonders, there comes a time in some lives when the urge to confess overtakes them, and it is a wise interlocutor who allows himself to be cast in the role of confessor in such a case, for then we can expect to hear some strange things out of them WW 19 In the first novel, Fifth Business, serious minded scholar Dunstan Ramsay recounts his life of saint hunting for the headmaster of the school which is celebrating his now ending pedagogical career In the second book, The Manticore David Staunton, son of Ramsay s frenemy Boy Staunton, spills all of his beans to a Jungian therapist in Zurich The closing volume, meanwhile, revolves a round a famous magician s Magnus Eisengrim, boyhood acquaintance of Ramsay urge to be telling of his own metamorphosis, that from a callow circus hand and provincial urchin into the great, revered, international showman of his age So here we have three possible aspects of Davies own personality set out for us in a classic Freudian dreamscape, in which condensation and displacement hide the latent spiritual content I would say psychological, but that would be insulting our august, learned author, who has much to teach us about archetypes, the consanguinity of good and evil, and of truth and illusion in the surface, manifest storyline the author, a serious scholar in his own right, pursues the truth ambivalently, both like the dogged historian Ramsay and like the reluctant analysand David Staunton, while he is also, qua novelist, merely a fine illusionist like Magnus Eisengrim But what is that A man who depends upon a lot of contraptions mechanical devices, clockwork, mirrors WW 6 The final novel has much to say about the mechanics of stagecraft, of course, as we peep inside the making of an illusionist s career and psyche, all of which is itself refracted through the lens of a film crew who are attempting to use Eisengrim s own backstory as a sub text for a film that they are all making on the life of the 19C French illusionist and watch maker, Jean Eug ne Robert Houdin.And so we have rooms within rooms reflected in mirrors within mirrors in these three novels, all of which are artfully plotted in meticulous detail, as a watchmaker might reassemble a delicate, antique timepiece, not merely with patience and skill, but with passion, even love, coaxing and humouring time worn mechanisms so as to re animate them, make their nineteenth century roman ce speak to a later, much hurried age so, too does this author invest these creatures of a different metal with so much vitality and charm of action , in a series of novels that, though it finally reveals itself for what it is a putative World of Wonders which hints at a spiritual existence while nevertheless remaining bound to the earth and constructed out of scraps, of bits, of preterite matter , nevertheless also thoroughly, unavoidably and even indescribably charms its readers This one s a keeper, then far than the sum of its parts , and one that will keep you thinking and wondering about it, perhaps even with some of that old fashioned, sublime awe, long after you have put it down e.g view spoiler nothing or less magical than a simple, yet unforgiving rock, hidden in a snowball, thrown at Dunstan Ramsay by David Staunton s father Boy Staunton, and which misses its target, which then strikes Magnus Eisengrim s pregnant mother instead, and thereby causes her to give premature birth to a son named Paul Dempster is just the first, humble, initiating cause of all their journeys in this series of novels, and yet was evidently magic enough for one SuperFan of Robertson Davies , one John Irving, to openly borrow for the key plot point of his own novel, A Prayer For Owen Meaney hide spoiler Whenever I mention this book the very few who recognize it ask me if I am Canadian.No, I am not Canadian.This book skirts a very fine line between the entirely possible and the gothically surreal Told in trilogy form the story sprawls in the best possible way The book is worth reading simply to gain the aquaintance of the narrating character I m not sure I have crushed so hard on a literary figure since Schmendrick the Magician His views and musings are so fresh and well put that I, heaven shrive my soul, broke my own golden rule of no book marking to capture and mark numerous passages for return perusal, and return I have. I know that is is supposed to be a fantastic trilogy but it really didn t do it for me Was I too young the first time around Perhaps If enough GR friends push me to do so, I ll give it another shot. Three volumes of the Deptford Trilogy each narrated by a different character by way of some form of memoir Fifth Business is narrated by Dunstable later Dunstan Ramsay, a schoolteacher who grows up in the fictional Deptford The novel takes the form of a letter Ramsay writes to the headmaster of the school from which he has just retired, wherein he recalls how, as a boy, he ducked a snowball wrapped around a stone intended for him The snowball hit a pregnant woman who happened to be passing by she gave birth prematurely as a result and then goes mad This incident has affected Ramsay s life, and the novel tells how he comes to terms with his feelings of guilt Intertwined with his story is the life of Percy Boyd Boy Staunton, Ramsay s boyhood friend who threw the snowball, and who later becomes a wealthy businessman.The Manticore is the story of Boy Staunton s only son, David David Staunton undergoes Jungian psychoanalysis in Switzerland During his therapy the book is a record of his therapy plus notes he made for his therapy , he tries to understand his father and his relationship to him The novel is in fact a detailed record of his therapy and his coming to understand his own life World of Wonders is the story of Paul Dempster, the son of the woman hit by the snowball, who after initially being abducted by a circus has grown up to be Magnus Eisengrim, a famous magician Eisengrim is to portray a 19th century magician in a television movie During lulls in the filming, he recounts his life to various people including Ramsey, including the incredible obstacles he has had to overcome, and elaborates on his career as an actor travelling through Canada in the early 20th century To the extent there is a narrative Ramsey encounters Dempster various times eventually as Eisengrim and befriends him and his bizarre girlfriend Leisl including ghosting a completely fabricated autobiography After introducing Eisengrim to Dempster the latter commits suicide the same day with in his mouth the stone his Dad threw at Mrs Dempster which Ramsey had kept as a paper weight Ramsey is convinced Eisengrim hypnotised Staunton and effectively murdered him but it seems to have been closer to assisted suicide Each book centres largely around myth Ramsey becomes convinced that Mrs Dempster is a saint especially after a vision he sees of her in WWI and devotes his private life to the study of saints and the exploration of their role as myths The Jungian therapists draws on various mythical individuals and roles which in her view emerge when someone repeats their life story and which repeat the earliest human myths During Dempster s reminiscences the various present day characters discuss storytelling, the role of autobiography and film as well as the role of myths in magic Ramsey and Dempster believe firmly in the marvellous and the need to restore a sense of wonder to the world David Staunton has always had a completely opposite view but finds his legal rationalism challenged by his therapy Key related themes are good and evil, truth and illusion, history and identity, the difference between external perception and internal truth for example Ramsey writes his letter when he realises from his leaving speech that his fellow teachers and ex pupils see him as a boring character with no life out of school other than a quaint obsession with saints , the contrast between mundane Canadian provincial life and the bizarre worlds of saints and circuses Fascinating book verging at many times on the bizarre although often tedious to read and difficult to follow the book is effectively a combination of A Prayer for Owen Meany and The Discovery of Heaven although not as good as either.