HIGH SPIRITS by Robertson Davies


A Collection Of Ghost Stories
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For 18 years, starting in 1963 when he became Master of the U. of Toronto's Massey College, veteran novelist Davies told an original "cheerful ghost story" at the college's annual Christmas party. Here, then, "in the form in which they were first spoken aloud," are those 18 tongue-in-cheek whimsies--complete with campus allusions (meaningless to outsiders), references to Canadian history, and academic/literary humor of a more universal sort too. "The Ghost Who Vanished By Degrees" is the shade of a graduate-student suicide who "was ploughed on his Ph.D. oral"; he returns, demanding that Davies examine him again for that precious degree. (His thesis, alas, is Prologema to the Study of the Christ Symbol in the Plays of Thomas Egerton Wilks.) Elsewhere, Davies is haunted by Queen Victoria, various kings and prime ministers, the Devil himself (who chortles over having invented Christmas cards, gift-giving, and Santa Claus), a foul-mouth 18th-century complainer, Albert Einstein, and Little Lord Fauntleroy. A female spirit arrives to do campus battle against the Ugly Spectre of Sexism. There's a Frankenstein send-up, with a mad scientist manufacturing an ideal Massey College cat in the laboratory. And, most amusingly, Davies receives visitations from a possessed antique table that fondles him ("Ghosts I can cope with, but erotic furniture destroys my self-possession"). . . and from a Ph.D. candidate who has gone 'round the Dickens bend: "Tubfast Weatherwax III thought he was Little Nell." Despite all the in-jokes and donnish asides: spry, inventive, modestly amusing parodies for fanciers of senior-common-room giddiness.
Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1983
ISBN: 0142002461
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1983


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