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Book reviews for "Davies,_Robertson" sorted by average review score:

World of Wonders
Published in Paperback by Viking Press (1977)
Author: Robertson Davies
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a satisfying end to the trilogy
I've just finished a Davies marathon: the whole Deptford trilogy in 3 days. I think it a testament to Davies' great storytelling ability that I could not put down any of the three books. I suggest reading them in close succession because the second book (The Manticore) sheds a lot of light on the other two books. It's interesting that in this book (the 2nd), we get 250 pages or so written from the point of view of a minor character: Boy Staunton's son. If you stop to think about it, the whole trilogy is structured around the question "Who killed Boy Staunton," so it shouldn't be surprising to read an account by his drunken son, the famous lawyer of his counseling sessions in Zurich. Rarely does one find such well-drawn characters these days in novels -- by the end, you'll feel like you've known Paul Demster for years, along with the simian Liesl, level-headed Ramsey and of course Demster's character, Eisengrim.

This book is a bit "deeper" than the first two as we find ourselves transported to an almost magic-realism portrait of myth and fantastical events in the World of Wonders. I actually enjoyed the first two books more although I still think this last book is a master work. Occassionaly Eisengrim's recounting of his life gets a bit tedious, but only because we are dying to resolve the mystery which finally gets solved in the closing pages. All in all, a memorable trilogy and a gripping read by one of the great 20th century writers.

Davies' Deptford Trilogy - A must-read
The only bad thing about Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy (FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, WORLD OF WONDERS) is that it had to end! Sparklingly clever, bawdy, poignant, erudite, and laugh-out-loud funny, Davies entertains in a wonderfully rich, old-world style.

A friend of mine (who recommended the books, and to whom I will be forever grateful) put it this way: "Reading Robertson Davies is like sitting in a plush, wood-paneled library--in a large leather chair with a glass of excellent brandy and a crackling fire--and being captivated with a fabulous tale spun by a wonderful raconteur."

The greatest novel of the twentieth century
This is the best novel of the century's best English language novelist. The plot is sure-fire (kid runs away with the carnival), the characters memorable (sideshow freaks, revealed to be--human beings! theater people, great and small, revealed to be--human beings!), the sins enormous (pederasty, pride, perhaps even murder), the virtues marvelous (love, devotion to love). The theme of this book, as with the other books in the trilogy, is search for self--the main character of this book lives four different lives during his life. This book works on every level; it reads well as a story, gives you something to think about, and stands up to any number of readings you'd care to give it. (I've given it at least five.)

History of Computing - Software Issues
Published in Hardcover by Springer Verlag (09 August, 2002)
Authors: Ulf Hashagen, Reinhard Keil-Slawik, and Arthur L. Norberg
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"Let's Get Dangerous!"
This video has two of the more interesting episodes of Disney's wild, weird, and wonderful cartoon series "Darkwing Duck". The first one is called simply, "Negaduck", and is one of the two episodes that feature the origins of Negaduck. When Darkwing is struck by a ray from a tron-splitter, it seperates his positrons from his negatrons (the building blocks of good and evil), and cause him to seperate into his good side and his bad side. The interplay between the "two Darkwings" is hilarious ("Violence never solved anything!" "Yeah, but it sure makes me _feel_ better!"), and the villian Megavolt is in rare form. He even helps Gosalyn and Lauchpad (friends of Darkwing) to get the two Darkwings re-merged into one. "Why would you help us?" Gosalyn demanded. "Because," answered Megavolt, "If the evil Darkwing destroys the city, they'll be nothing left to steal!" Hilarious moments abound . . . look for the little lost bunny scene. [One note: the Negaduck in this cartoon is not the same Negaduck who dresses in a yellow coat and black-and-red cape; this is simply Darkwing's "dark side".] The other episode is, "Tiff Of The Titans". Steelbeak, leader of F.O.W.L. (Fiendish Organization for World Larceny, if I remember correctly) is trying to steal the Egret, a top-secret military transport. An army general hires Duckburg's hero, Gizmoduck, to guard the Egret until it can be safely transported. Since the Egret is located in St. Canard, that's where Giz has to go. Only to get in the way of St. Canard's own local hero, Darkwing Duck! Again, the interplay between two characters is wonderful, but not only between Darkwing and Gizmoduck, but also between their alter egos, Drake Mallard and Fenton Crackshell. At one point, when Drake catches site of Gizmoduck on the evening news, he slaps off the TV, muttering, "If I wanted to watch a trite and tedious program, I'd turn on the congressional hearings!" The two do end up working together to try to save the city . . . but not before some hilarious personality clashes! I love ol' D.W., and I recommend this video to anyone who likes Darkwing, Ducktales, or a good laugh. Let's Get Dangerous!

The Waterloo Companion: The Complete Guide to History's Most Famous Land Battle
Published in Hardcover by Stackpole Books (01 January, 2002)
Author: Mark Adkin
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You must remember this.....
My favorite of the 11 short stories in ACROSS THE BRIDGE is the euponymous tale set in Paris sometime around the mid-20th Century. One is never sure of the exact date of one of Mavis Gallant's stories as they are so timeless. In "Across the Bridge" the heroine is engaged to be married, and at the last moment persuades her parents to call off the ceremony. The picture Gallant paints of white wedding invitations floating away in the Seine is quite startling and could have taken place at any time over the past 150 years.

Gallant's writing has been compared with that of Alice Munro with some justification. Both authors write short stories, sometimes linked to each other (as are several of the tales in ACROSS THE BRIDGE), frequently told from a woman's point of view, about family matters -- engagements, enduring and/or barely endured marriages, children wanted and unwanted, money worries, daughters whisked off to nunneries or other out-of-the-way place, unrequieted love, revenge -- and faith or lack of it.
Both women are Canadian authors, though Munro tends to write about the non-Gallic mostly Scots-descent Canadians whereas Gallant's stories are most often about French Canadienne or Parisienne protagonists. Munro and Gallant are both frequently published in the New Yorker Magazine, and most of the stories in ACROSS THE BRIDGE appeared in the New Yorker before being added to this collection.

Each of the tales told by Gallant this book is about rejection and acceptance. For example, in "A State of Affairs" the refugee status of a very elderly Polish Jew living in Paris following a WWII Nazi prison camp internment becomes imperiled when 'normal' relations are restored between Poland and France. In "The Fenton Child" a baby is both wanted and unwanted.

Gallant's writing is literate and compelling, and I find myself reflective after reading one of her stories. She does not feel a need to tie up loose ends or make the world seem better or worse than it really is. She has a gift for arousing empathy. Often, it seems to me, her stories include a relatively positive note. In "Across the Bridge" for example, at one point the young narrator says "It was a small secret, insignificant, but it belonged to the true life that was almost ready to let me in. And so it did, and yes, it made me happy."

Published in Paperback by Random House Trade Paperbacks (1984)
Authors: Annie Leibovitz and Tom James Wolfe
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As eclectic in his non-fiction as in his fiction
I took a break from Davies fiction this month to read this collection of non-fiction, culled from over thirty years of essays, and grouped into three broad categories: Characters, Books, and Robertson Davies. I say broad because Davies was not thinking of these categories as he wrote these essays. Instead, these were written to fill his column at the Peterborough Examiner ("A Writer's Diary") or book reviews for various American publications such as Harper's, The Washington Post, or The Atlantic Monthly. Characters, however, tends to be about "lives"--either the lives of authors (including Wodehouse and Freud), literary creations (mehitabel), or theater figures (Emma Calve and Melli Nelba). Okay, I'll admit it--I didn't know who Calve and Nelba were either, but that's because I'm a book person, not a theater person. Even so, some of the authors and books covered here do stretch even my prodigious reading (not to mention my memory), partly due to the age of some of these essays (some as early as 1942) and partly due to Davies quite eclectic interests. That's why I like him, however. Eclecticism is the mark of someone not afraid of change.

The Books section is just as varied, covering Graves' King Jesus and Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles. What was interesting for me is his comment on the Mervyn Peake's fantasy classic, The Gormenghast Trilogy, which I have tried to read several times and never found it to catch my interest. I must have another go at it sometime in the near future. In this section of book reviews, it is interesting to note the progression (the articles are arranged in chronological order) of how the writer views the writing of his forebears and his peers, especially in the light of the wonderful writer Davies himself was becoming. The essay that hits closest to home is his essay on Joyce Cary's novels and their inventive method of retelling tales using the same characters, which Davies was to modify for his three trilogies.

Finally, the section entitled Robertson Davies gives you a personal glimpse into the writer at work, as well as the curmudgeon at play. The essay entitled "A Chat with a Great Reader" alone is worth the price of the book. In it, Davies recalls a conversation with a fellow at a party who claims to be a "Great Reader" and is delighted to meet Davies, a "Critic." The distinctions are quite telling, and an indictment on those who play at the game of knowledge and entertainment. While not everything here is as funny or insightful, these two to five page essays are the perfect compliment to your bedstand or reading chair, as bon bons to your main meal of words.

A Treasure Chest of Gems
Robertson Davies lives up to his reputation as Canada's distinguished man of letters of the twentieth century. In addition to establishing his abilities as a novelist and a playwright, he reveals in the showcased selections in "The Enthusiasms of Robertson Davies" how talented and perceptive a reviewer he was, covering a wide variety of writers and books.

Davies' superb economy of expression shines as the reader is treated to pristine vignettes about Thomas Mann, Vladimir Nabokov, James Agate, P.G. Woodehouse, Somerset Maugham, D.H. Lawrence and many others. His wit sparkles and he effectively and succinctly pinpoints the elements which made these writers succeed.

Short essays and "plays" about everything
For the reader who has yet to read any Robertson Davies, this book is a great place to start. It is informative, easy reading that will frequently make you laugh. I recommend it highly.

The Deptford Trilogy
Published in Paperback by Penguin Books (1985)
Author: Robertson Davies
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He deserved to win the Nobel
The reading of Fifth Business (of the Deptford trilogy) is a coming of age rite in Canada. No other work of Canadian fiction comes close to the style and psychological depth of the books in the Deptford Trilogy (Stone Angel by Laurence and In the Skin of a Lion by Ondaatje come close). The Manticore was in part responsible for turning me toward psychology as my undergraduate major. Robertson Davies fashioned other fine works after Fifth Business (The Cornish trilogy is sublime) but there is an aura that surrounds the Deptford Trilogy which is unique in literature. My office at the University of Toronto is not far from Massey College where Davies was chancellor, and where he "set" Rebel Angels. I think of him, or perhaps Parlabane from the Rebel Angels, as I pass it on the way to Davies' beloved Hart House. On cold winter nights I wish that I would find Davies' ghost gliding through the Hart House library, or rubbing its hands by the hearth in the reading room. I would beg him to tell me the plot of the fourth novel in the Deptford Trilogy.

An unexpected pleasure
Robertson Davies creates honest, interesting characters that intrigue us for same reasons real people intigue us: they are intelligent and thoughtful, but still manage to blunder in big and small ways.

The trilogy's three characters have each come to the confessional points of their lives, and share with their audience their life stories, their mistakes, and the elements of their experiences that established their personalities.

To me, this trilogy is great for the small things: for the way certain characters can't seem to escape their vices, though they wish to; for the witty exchanges between characters (especially Liesl--I hope I got her name right!) reminiscent of Jane Austen's stagy repartees. It's a about people, not events.

In fact, I find The Deptford Trilogy incredibly difficult to explain to people, and more difficult to dress attractively.

So don't trust reviewers: read the first book, "The Fifth Business" (it's short: less than 300pp) and go from there.

Davies' Deptford Trilogy - A MUST-read!
The only bad thing about Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy (FIFTH BUSINESS, THE MANTICORE, WORLD OF WONDERS) is that it had to end! Sparklingly clever, bawdy, poignant, erudite, and laugh-out-loud funny, Davies entertains in a wonderfully rich, old-world style.

A friend of mine (who recommended the books, and to whom I will be forever grateful) put it this way: "Reading Robertson Davies is like sitting in a plush, wood-paneled library--in a large leather chair with a glass of excellent brandy and a crackling fire--and being captivated with a fabulous tale spun by a wonderful raconteur."

Fifth Business
Published in Audio Cassette by Books on Tape (1970)
Author: Robertson Davies
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Not the holly grial
Well, I find that this book is really easy to read, and it probably is a good book if you know little about mixing, but to someone who has some knowledge on the subject, almost everything will sound familiar (at least). Also, if you're looking for a "cookbook" go find some other book, as this one hasn't fast and hard mixing rules.

Overall, it's a good book, but after reading so many positive reviews, I was expecting something else...

Great fundamentals
This book was extremely helpful. I've been doing radio production for years but never had any formal training in mixing, processing, etc. The specifics in this book helped me in so many ways, I wish that I'd known about it long ago. There are places where it doesn't go into enough detail but, it is great for getting a grip on the basics.

I found it very useful.
When my friends decided to make a band as a joke, I decided I'd pick this up. When a few of my friends decided to each learn a musical instrument at the same time, we thought it'd be fun to get together and make some really awful music under the guise of a fake band name. Yes, we're awfully bored an awful lot. After some thought, I thought I'd learn drums and perhaps some mixing on the side. With the help of this affordable little handbook, I was able to not only play some [bad] drums, but [bad] remix it when I was done. What could be better than that! Obviously, with my incredibly low expectations, I found this book to be very good. I guess that probably doesn't help much though, huh.

Storm out of Africa : the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand
Published in Unknown Binding by Macmillan ()
Author: Richard Shears
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An embarassment to Lincoln scholarship
"Moonlight" by John Walsh is an embarassment to honest Lincoln scholarship. It is a book with enormous potential to illustrate one of Abraham Lincoln's most famous legal cases, but instead it weaves a narrative feculent with specious logic; the factual assertions of unknown, unknowable and unproveable theories; and assumption after assumption after assumption. Walsh proves some important points, and makes good use of some primary and secondary sources. He offers a detailed account of the murder, the trial and the outcome that cannot be found elsewhere. However, the positive attributes of the book become overshadowed by Walsh's outrageous assertions of supposition as fact, his assertions without qualification or citation, and his complete reliance, as unassailable proof and fact, on the second-hand interview of a trial juror 50 years after the trial. More than once Walsh makes unknowable and unproveable assertions, then admits he can't prove them, then dismisses this serious circumstance as unimportant. For example: "That the charge was levelled during Lincoln's senatorial campaign of 1858 is stated in many sources but I have not been able to document it." (p 155) "Moonlight" is a lost opportunity. The frighteningly childish writing quality, the fanciful indulgences, suppositions, specious logic, appearance of questionable sources and Walsh's own obvious insularity in his investigative objective, make this book a sham, and an insult to the field of historical research.

Lincoln's Legal Ethics
I think this book is an interesting evocation of the ethical scruples of Lincoln as lawyer. Contrary to the conclusion drawn by the author, the sources he relies upon demonstrate that Lincoln was ethical in the zealous representation of his client, an accused murderer. Even under today's legal standards, Lincoln would have been correct to instruct a witness that he was only interested in the witness's ability to testify on a single factual aspect of the trial and to instruct the witness to tell him nothing else except the truth about that single fact. During his preparation for trial, when the witness tried to stray from his instructions and inform Lincoln of other observations, Lincoln would have been within his right to interrupt and remind him that he mustn't offer additional observations beyond the fact requested.

Even today we instruct juries that they may believe all, part, or none of a witness's testimony. Lawyers are held to no different standards in their use of witnesses at trial except lawyers may not offer a witness whose testimony the lawyer believes would commit a fraud upon the court. Lincoln never placed this witness on the stand to elicit any testimony other than what the witness stated to be the truth. Thus the claim that Lincoln "suborned perjury" is naive and insulting. For all that, I enjoyed the underlying research, and the author's exposition of it. It does strike me that consultation with an attorney would have vastly improved the history and dampened the sensationalism.

Walsh overreaches, but provides a lively read
Walsh provides a great service by re-examining the best-known case in Lincoln's law career, and shows how it has often been misunderstood. But his thin book draws conclusions far beyond his ability to support them. And Walsh doesn't help his criticism of historians by misspelling every occurrence of the victim's name as Metzger (it appears as Metzker in his reproductions of the original handwritten documents).

In the almanac trial, Lincoln supposedly showed that a key witness could not have witnessed an assault by moonlight because the moon had already set. Walsh corrects the record: the bright moon was simply lower in the sky at the time of the attack. By having the witness confidently repeat, a dozen times, that the moon was directly overhead, Lincoln "floored" the witness when the almanac showed that the moon was on the horizon.

Walsh is at his best here, showing Lincoln's skill in taking a fact that actually helped the prosecution and making it appear that it helped the defense. But beyond discrediting the main witness, Walsh shows that Lincoln had two other important arguments. A doctor testified that another man's blow to the back of the head could have caused the frontal fracture, attributed to Lincoln's client. (The judge thought Lincoln won the case with this testimony.)

Lincoln's other defense involved the weapon, and this is where Walsh falls into his most specious reasoning. Walsh's claims are based on a letter from a juror some 50 years after the event. The juror had by then himself forgotten the gist of the moonlight argument and in the letter also gets it wrong (p.113-114). Walsh ignores this part of the letter, but extrapolates wildly from another sentence in the letter to claim that Lincoln suborned perjury. It is not persuasive.

Just to give you a flavor of his standard of proof: Walsh claims that he can prove that Lincoln *never* talked about the almanac case with law partner Billy Herndon. He then analyzes the few sentences about the case in Herndon's Life of Lincoln, where Herndon makes the common mistake, and from this Walsh concludes that his own assertion is "sufficiently proved" (p 79).

This would be a better book without the chip on Walsh's shoulder, criticizing historians and accusing Lincoln of nefarious wrong-doing. But just ignore the occasional shrillness. This book is well worth reading for the wealth of detail on a fascinating case that ties Lincoln, on the brink of national celebrity, with his humble Illinois beginnings with Jack Armstrong and the Clary Grove boys.

Lake Tahoe Communities
Published in Paperback by AAA Western Travel Publications (2001)
Author: California State Automobile Association
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Textiles and Clothing : Medieval Finds from Excavations in London, c.1150-c.1450
Published in Hardcover by Camden House (2001)
Authors: Elisabeth Crowfoot, Frances Pritchard, Kay Staniland, and Elizabeth Crowfoot
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The Devil's Own
Published in DVD by Columbia/Tristar Studios (22 May, 2001)
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