Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Selection from My Desert Island Reading List

Fifth Business by Robertson Davies

To be "fifth business" is to be neither hero nor villain nor even in the center of things, but nevertheless, to be the character upon which all things hinge. The fifth business in this epistolary novel is Dunstan Ramsay, a retired school principal who appears far less interesting than he actually is.

The first book in Davies' Deptford Trilogy, just about everything that happens in the trilogy spirals out from a snowball that hits the Baptist minister's frail, pregnant wife in the head, and causes her to go into labor. The snowball is thrown by Percy Boyd Staunton, intended for Ramsay, and the premature child delivered by Mary Dempster is named Paul. The three characters go their separate ways, but their fates are entwined from the moment Percy throws the snowball.

Like Ramsay, Davies was an educator, but he was also an actor, publisher, playwright, scholar, and probably also one of the ten smartest, coolest people to live in the 20th century. When you finish reading a Robertson Davies novel, you realize that without once being distracted from the totally killer plot, you have inadvertently learned about art forgery, the history of magic, Catholic saints, or Jungian analysis. The man's interests and aptitudes knew no bounds.

If you liked...: A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving or The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, this book is for you.


dorotha said...

i loved that this post sounded just like a review on reading rainbow!

mary_m said...

In my attempt to write a quick post, I did somehow managed to invoke the spirit of a school book report.

To be fair, Jungian analysis was rarely discussed on Reading Rainbow.

johnmurry said...

Thanks for the Davies recommendation in the bookstore in Carpinteria. I'm definitely a fan now. John

mary_m said...

John: I haven't forgotten about Humboldt's Gift. I almost took it to the beach the other day, and then I realized that no one reads Saul Bellow at the beach.

But I'll read it soon, and can't wait to talk to you about it.