Today I made one of the coolest purchases I've ever made. And it was only for 5 dollars. It's so cool that I had to grab the camera to show it. Yes, what I purchased was books. No big deal, it's not like I have a thousand books to read. But this was too cool to pass up. It's a boxed set of Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy, generally considered the writer's greatest works.
I'm driving home from dropping off the g/f at work, and I remember that there was this bookstore called "Books and Crannies" on Corydon that I had passed previously and wanted to stop in. So I drive down Corydon and it's 5:30 so there's no parking allowed on the street. I turn down a side street with the intent to park there, but apparently so did a thousand other people. Infuriated, I drive down some back alleys and stumble upon another side street about forty kilometers from this stupid bookstore. Walking in the sun, I'm sweating, but jazzed for a bookstore. Once I enter the store, I'm greeted by a fairly unattractive woman who tells me she just bought the place last month and had her mom organize the shelves, which means the shelves are poorly organized. In spite of this, the proprietor offers a 25 percent discount on everything. Sweet!
She gives me the tour, the "literature" section, the "mystery" section, the "romance" section and the "action" section. Immediately, I catch sight of The Golden Notebook in the "action" section, a novel which features enough face-kicks to appease Chris Sims. I chuckle at this and point it out the proprietor who in turns remarks that this is why she's giving a discount. (I also find Mordecai Richler in the "war fiction" section).
After asking me which section Irving Wallace should be filed under, she leaves me alone and I wander the aisles. I'm impressed to find Dhalgren, Triton, Nova, Cryptonomicon, Hyperion and Carrion Comfort in the "sci-fi" and "horror" sections. You should always be able to measure the quality of the used bookstore by how much Delany and Stephenson you can find.
On a whim, I go to the "Canadiana" section and I find this:
Yes. Beautiful. I open it up, and see this:
Wow. Penguin editions. Which means they'll look the same. I take them out of the box and see this:
What great f*%&ing designs. Stark and beautiful and strangely retro, in keeping in with Davies' style. Now, I have to admit that I already own The Deptford Trilogy in an omnibus edition (man I am a sucker for omnibuses), and I am proud to say that I have read it.
Fifth Business remains one of my favourite Canadian novels that I have ever read. Davies' prose is immaculate and the careful weaving of history and magic and innocence and allegory is astounding. Every Canadian high school should have Fifth Business on their syllabus. It's the story of Duncan Ramsey, a man obsessed with magic, hagiography, his own past and his own position in life. It's a great novel that gets better with the other titles.
Next, The Manticore is about the a tertiary character from the first novel, but who is essential to the plot. As with the previous novel, Davies employ a lot of Carl Jung's theories and archetypes into the novel. I really enjoyed this one as a time capsule, when in the Seventies, everybody was obsessed with psychoanalysis (including a mister Woody Allen).
Finally, the trilogy ends with World Of Wonders, a novel about a secondary character from the first novel, and his life experiences as a magician. This one I don't remember as well as Fifth Business, but if it has to do with stage magic, I'm game.
Magic and spirituality and religion are important themes being played with in the trilogy. Many characters' lives intersect with sleight of hand and the stage and with the religious institutions in 20th century Canada. Rather than contrast magic with religiosity, Davies compares spirituality with the institutions of the realm. He's more interested with why the obsessions that move us, rather than the obsessions themselves.
They're gorgeously written, and with this edition, gorgeously designed. I love Robertson Davies and every once in a while, feel bad that he's gone and can no longer entertain the world with his wit and talent.
For 5 dollars and a 25 percent discount, yeah I can afford re-buying Davies.