THE MERRY HEART by Robertson Davis

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This book was published after the death of the author, Robertson Davis. It consists of a selection of speeches, pieces of his diary record, articles, etc.

In some of his speeches he replays time and time again the same ideas. He mentions the same authors or anecdote a lot, but it was good for me to read more than once about these things because it gave me a better idea of the man behind the book.

His speeches were those of a man close to his audience, not a man considering himself to be above others.

Curiously, the pieces of his diary in part look like telegrams. As if he would like to write a few ideas to help him remember a particular event, but without worrying about the particulars of it.

Generally speaking, this a book that can please his readers because it shows how he felt, how he wrote, what he thought about different matters, mostly related to books and literature.

Robertson Davis was an actor, a journalist, a professor and a writer in different stages of his life, but he always was a reader, and his thoughts are those that a lot of readers share.

“A book is renewed every time it finds a perceptive reader, and no book is the same to every reader.”

About the paintings in his home:

“It is living in a place where everything on the walls has something important to say.”

I am not a lover of poetry, not even a reader of poetry. Poetry is almost an accident in my life. Sometimes I discover some poem that finally expresses something real to me, but most often I discover these poems by accident, as in this case thanks to Robertson Davis and his reference to Henrik Ibsen.

To live – is a battle with troll-folk

In the realms of heart and head:

Robertson Davis spoke about this poem in a speech given at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto. The title was Literature and Technology. The whole speeches worth a slow and careful reading, but the part in which he speaks about those troll-folk, expresses an honest reflection on what lies in our heads and our hearts.

Speaking about the future of books, bookshops and readers being in deep decline, the author made a reflection that has a great part of truth.

“I wonder very often how they square their conviction that nobody reads with the evidence of bookshops everywhere and the proliferation of paperback books, which, if not cheap, are at least cheaper than the hardback originals. Most people must be reading, or so many books would not be published every year, and it is possible today to be a very well-read without ever buying a book in hard covers. The literary community, too, seems to be growing at an astounding pace. Wonderful young new writers are hailed every week by eager reviewers. You can hardly throw a stone in the street without hitting somebody who has written a book….”

A healthy and logical piece of advice:

“And you must read a lot of rubbish before you die, as well, because an exclusive diet of masterpieces will give you spiritual dyspepsia. If you want to know what a masterpiece is, read current books, and if you have any taste – which, of course, may not be the case – you will quickly find out.”

I subscribe to his opinion completely about long descriptions of scenarios in books.

“I don´t need to read about his moors and his mountains – I’ve seen them, and all I need is to be told that something is happening on a moor and a mountain to conjure up in an instant what may take him three or four pages of heavy, and to me confusing, prose to describe.”

Robertson Davies, in full William Robertson Davies (born Augimages. 28, 1913, Thamesville, Ont., Can.—died Dec. 2, 1995, Orangeville, Ont.), novelist and playwright whose works offer penetrating observations on Canadian provincialism and prudery.

Educated in England at the University of Oxford, Davies had training in acting, directing, and stage management as a member of the Old Vic Repertory Company. He edited the Peterborough Examiner (1942–63), a newspaper owned by his family and taught English at the University of Toronto (1960–81; emeritus thereafter).

Davies’ early reputation was based on the plays Eros at Breakfast (1949) and At My Heart’s Core (1950), which are satires on Canadian standards and values. He also published collections of humorous essays, such as The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks (1947); The Table Talk of Samuel Marchbanks (1949), in which an irascible old bachelor’s opinions highlight the problems of sustaining culture in Canada; and Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack(1967). Davies’ three trilogies of novels secured his reputation as Canada’s foremost man of letters. Known as a traditional storyteller, he was a master of imaginative writing and wicked wit. The Salterton Trilogy consists of Tempest-Tost (1951), Leaven of Malice (1954), and A Mixture of Frailties (1958), all of which are comedies of manners set in a provincial Canadian university town. Even better known are the novels of the Deptford trilogy, consisting of Fifth Business (1970), The Manticore (1972), and World of Wonders (1975). These books examine the intersecting lives of three men from the small Canadian town of Deptford and interweave Davies’ moral concerns with bits of arcane lore and his enduring interest in Jungian psychotherapy. The Cornish trilogy consists of The Rebel Angels (1981), What’s Bred in the Bone (1985), and The Lyre of Orpheus (1988); these novels satirize the art world, grand opera, and other aspects of high culture in Canada. Murther & Walking Spirits (1991) was written from the perspective of a dead man. The Cunning Man (1994), set in Toronto, spans the 20th century through the memoirs of a doctor; characters from Davies’ earlier works also appear in this novel. His later non fiction included The Mirror of Nature (1983).

Davies was primarily concerned with the moral conflicts of characters in small Canadian towns. In the course of his narratives he wittily satirized bourgeois provincialism, explored the relation between mysticism and art, and affirmed the possibilities for self-knowledge through Jungian philosophy.

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WITH EVERY LETTER (WINGS OF THE NIGHTINGALE) by Sarah Sundin

This is going to be the first time that I will review a book thatSundin-With-Every-Lettter-194x300
I did not like at all. But this was a joint reading organized for Isi, and I promised myself to review the book. I am so sorry for this, but here you have my review.

The plot was promising: II World War, the point of view of women and nurses. A story developed not only in the war camps but far away.

I like epistolary literature. Even in literature it seems to be a style that allows both parts to be completely honest, and at the same time it is like diving in the lives of others, and getting to know them more intimately.

But I couldn’t feel any connection with the two main characters. I don’t have problems with religious people. I think that everyone deserve respect for their beliefs, but in this book in each paragraph God or Lord appears, until I wanted to say: Please, stop!”

Back to the two main characters. They are feeling self-pity for themselves the whole time for their bad luck. Mellie provokes the rejection of the people around her continuously, with her attitude. She completely lacks of empathy for others’ feeling. She is that kind of person that always opens her mouth without thinking of the consequences. It was impossible for me to feel any connection, nor sadness for her bad luck or even comprehension. She is an insufferable person.

Tom was slightly better, but too obsessed with a father that he never knew.

The permanent reference to their parents is boring. I am sure that a lot of people love their parents, but they are not on their minds 24 hours a day all of their lives, sharing space with God.

Afterwards, the conclusion of their friendless situation is: she without a mother to teach her, and he without a father to follow his example ruined their lives. If other readers have read this story with a little attention, they must be as indignant as I am for this idea that children with only one of their parents are more likely to have problems. I guess that Melli is the alter ego of Sarah Sundin, who writes opinions without thinking.

Nothing else about these two characters, and only one more comment about characters. The only character that seems to be a little interesting, Kay, is criticized permanently, and we will never know what happen to her.

To sum up, this is a good book to discuss in a book club. At least for me this book gave me a lot to say (Yes, all negative, I know), but certainly not a book to recommend.

sarahsundinSarah Sundin enjoys writing about the drama and romance of the World War II era. She is the author of the upcoming Waves of Freedom series (THROUGH WATERS DEEP, August 2015), theWings of the Nightingale series (WITH EVERY LETTER, 2012, ON DISTANT SHORES, August 2013, and IN PERFECT TIME, 2014), and the Wings of Glory series (A DISTANT MELODY, A MEMORY BETWEEN US, and BLUE SKIES TOMORROW).

A mother of three, Sundin lives in northern California. She works on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teaches Sunday school and women’s Bible studies. She belongs to American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Authors Network, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Her novella in WHERE TREETOPS GLISTEN is a finalist in the 2015 Carol Awards, and her novel ON DISTANT SHORES was a double finalist for the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards. In 2011 she received the Writer of the Year Award from the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

THE ART OF FICTION by David Lodge

downloadThis is a book about books, but not a list of books to be read in the future. This is a book to understand books. This is a book to put a name on the different styles, know the evolution of literature, analyse some sentences, to get a better understanding of the use of certain narrators’ point of view to get different perspectives on the same event, etc. This book is about this, and at the same time it gave me a lot of new titles and some unknown authors to read, soon.

The author has used a random sequence of topics, but you can go through an index to find the topic that you are interested.

Maybe the reason that it is easy to read this essay, which otherwise could be difficult to follow, is that the author is also a teacher. Lodge use a clear language far from any technicality. The book is intended for “general readers.”

I never thought of this: “.. the beginning of a novel is the threshold, separating the real world we inhabit, from the world the novelist has imagined.” And, this is utterly true. When we start reading a book we are introducing ourselves to a different world.

“We read fiction after all, not just for the story, but to enlarge our knowledge and understanding of the world,…”

As a follower of Magical Realism Literature, I enjoyed particularly this chapter and the reflection of it author about why so few writers in England write magical realism.

“Perhaps Britain’s relatively untraumatic modern history has encouraged its writers to preserve with traditional realism.”

And this is not the only chapter that links the history of a country with the kind of literature that it writer uses to write.

David John Lodge (born 28 January 1935) is an Englishimages author and literary critic.Lodge was Professor of English Literature at the University of Birmingham until 1987, and he is best known for his novels satirising academic life, particularly the “Campus Trilogy” — Changing Places: A Tale of Two campuses (1975), Small World : An Academic Romance (1984), and Nice work (1988). Small World and Nice Work were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Another major theme in his work is Roman Catholicism, beginning from his first published novel The Picturegoers (1960).

 Lodge has also written several television screenplays and three stage plays. Since retiring from academia he has continued to publish works of literary criticism, which often draw on his own experience as a practising novelist and scriptwriter.