ROBERTSON DAVIES: Man of Myth by Judith Skelton Grant

ROBERTSON DAVIES: Man of Myth

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

An amiable, discursive ramble through the several lives of Canada's octogenarian novelist. ""Sometimes I quake and grow pale, for it looks as if the Twilight Years, when I ought to be growing roses and sucking my dentures in peace, are going to be passed in back-breaking toil,"" once quipped the then 64-year-old author. Davies, born in 1913 in provincial Thamesville, Ontario, and best known as the belaureled author of The Deptford Trilogy and other works of fiction, came into his own relatively late: His literary self began to flourish only in middle age, after disappointments in his career as a playwright. The man of the theater has also been recognized as an accomplished journalist and editor, and was for years an admired professor of drama at the University of Toronto. This leisurely biography by Grant (ed., The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies, 1990, etc.) is based on 70 interviews conducted with Davies over a 12-year period. One of the biography's achievements is to cut a narrative path through an undeniably voluminous literary forest; another is Grant's appraisal of Davies's distinctions as a Jungian and a Canadian cultural avatar. Readers will also savor her stock of anecdotes, released at a relaxed, avuncular pace: We gain views of Davies as a henpecked boy (he still dreams of his mother as a ""Medusa"" who ""turns him to stone""), as a swaggering Oxford dandy, and as the furtive antic who included a capsule portrait of theater critic Clive Barnes in his novel The Lyre of Orpheus. Fellow Canadian Grant is nothing if not sympathetic in her approach; a more critical (and concise) tack would be welcome for a writer who once confessed that ""I sometimes take extreme views on controversial subjects in order to get the goat of campus sorceresses."" But Davies's many fans will find themselves well sated by the portraiture, the detail, and the richness shared here.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1995
Page count: 816pp
Publisher: Viking