The Merry Heart: Reflections on Books, Art, Writing, Morality and MagicPaperback
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- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Format: Paperback | 400 pages
- Dimensions: 127mm x 196mm x 23mm | 295g
- Publication date: 27 August 1998
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 014027586X
- ISBN 13: 9780140275865
- Edition: New edition
- Edition statement: New edition
- Sales rank: 1,091,346
Robertson Davies always wanted to call a book of his "The Merry Heart." Now the wish is fulfilled, and fittingly by a selection of his writings, vintage Davies, full of the shrewd relish for life that was his hallmark. Although we shall not see another Davies novel, we can all rejoice that there is another new book that is pure distilled Davies. His utterly distinctive voice resounds here from every line. As close to an autobiography as we can ever expect, this collection of reminiscences, speeches, book reviews, parodies, and essays tells us much about the writer and the man. The introductions to each of the twenty-four chapters add further biographical details, followed by tantalizing fragments from Davies' own unpublished diary. But the strength of the book lies in its stimulating contents. Every chapter is an education for the reader, as it provides the pleasure of browsing through Davies' richly stocked mind. Whether he is discussing art fakery, his schooldays, the differences between Canadians and Americans, Thackeray, Ibsen, "The Little Red Hen," or "Ulysses," this collection gathers his reflections on books, on writing, on reading, on his own writing, on other authors and much else, into a fascinating whole.
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Robertson Davies (1913-1995) had three successive careers during the time he became an internationally acclaimed author: actor, publisher, and, finally, professor at the University of Toronto. The author of twelve novels and several volumes of essays and plays, he was the first Canadian to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The inimitable novelist gives an exuberant posthumous performance in this eclectic collection of (mostly) previously unpublished addresses, talks, and incidental pieces. "We Canadians are gluttons for instruction; we dote on lectures," Davies observed to one of his many audiences, but anyone's literary appetite will be glutted on these collected talks - with such topics as his own novels, forged paintings, and Canadian cultural identity. The prolific Davies and his publisher were contemplating this volume just before the author's death, and his widow and daughter have turned up enough material for two (the second, Happy Alchemy, will revolve around theater and music). With his background in the theater and pomp-and-circumstance academe, to say nothing of his literary breadth, Davies proves a veteran at the lectern, ready to expound on seemingly everything. Although he has the podium-persona of a curmudgeonly, elitist Canadian author, valuable (sometimes tendentious) insights emerge from his discussions of his experiences of character-building at school, the preservation of Canadian cultural identity in the face of NAFTA, and the medical profession's balance between science and humanism. For more general themes, e.g., "Literature and Technology," "Fiction of the Future," and "Creativity in Old Age," Davies diffuses his opinions entertainingly, if occasionally superficially, but never loses his audience. On occasion he is called on to be simply a toastmaster: giving a convocation address on the virtues of poetry without putting the undergrads to sleep, introducing Canadian colleague Mavis Gallant, or reminiscing divertingly about his editorship at Saturday Night magazine, Canada's equivalent of Harper's. Most fittingly of all, Davies lectures on Dickens's spellbinding public readings and the theatrical effects of A Christmas Carol. As Davies noted in a diary entry prefacing one of these talks, he had to leave special room for laughter in his running time. (Kirkus Reviews)
Table of contents
A rake at reading; a chapter of autobiography; literature in a country without mythology; painting, fiction, and faking; can a doctor be a humanist?; reviewing Graham Greene; the novelist and magic; my early literary life; literature and technology; a Canadian author; literature and moral purpose; the McFiggen fragment; reading; writing; Christmas books; world of wonders; convocation address; the peeled eye; a view in winter - creativty in old age; honouring Mavis Gallant; an unlikely masterpiece; a Christmas carol reharmonized; fiction of the future; a ghost story.