The Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading Writing, and the World of Books

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9780140275865: The Merry Heart: Reflections on Reading Writing, and the World of Books

Readers around the world continue to mourn the 1995 death of a beloved literary icon, but this rich and varied collection of Robertson Davies?s writings on the world of books and the miracle of language captures his inimitable voice and sustains his presence among us. Coming almost entirely from Davies? own files of unpublished material, these twenty-four essays and lectures range over themes from "The Novelist and Magic" to "Literature and Technology," from "Painting, Fiction, and Faking," to "Can a Doctor Be a Humanist?" and "Creativity in Old Age." For devotees of Davies and all lovers of literature and language, here is the "urbanity, wit, and high seriousness mixed by a master chef" (Cleveland Plain Dealer)?vintage delights from an exquisite literary menu. Davies himself says merely: "Lucky writers. . .like wine, die rich in fruitiness and delicious aftertaste, so that their works survive them."

  • Viking will publish Robertson Davies? Happy Alchemy in July 1998
  • Many fine works by Robertson Davies are available from Penguin including The Deptford Trilogy, The Cornish Trilogy, and The Salterton Trilogy

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Review:

The great Canadian novelist Robertson Davies spent his long life in love with books. This posthumous collection of two dozen essays stands as the lively recollections of a great reader: Davies talks praises the books he's loved, damns the books he's hated, and seeks to answer the eternal question of why we read books. And while Davies writes with great authority, he's thankfully never pedantic, and his comments about books, which range from children's titles to Ulysses, are always delivered in a charmingly unpretentious manner. The individual essays are all beautifully written, and cracking this book will no doubt encourage readers to track down many of the authors and titles that Davies covered.

From the Inside Flap:

Robertson Davies always wanted to call this book of his The Merry Heart. Now, within a year of his death, the wish is fulfilled, and fittingly by a selection of his writings that he had already planned with his publisher. The result is a selection of vintage Davies, full of the shrewd relish for life that was his hallmark.

At the time of his death, readers around the world mourned the loss of a great writer with a unique and instantly recognisable style. 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.

?To ask an author who hopes to be a serious writer if his work is autobiographical is like asking a spider where he buys his thread? is one of his memorable aphorisms here. As close to an autobiography as we can ever expect, this collection of reminiscences, speeches, book reviews, parodies, and essays tells us a great deal 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 fakes, 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.

The result is a tonic, a provocation, and a delight.

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