From the snapshots you can find online, Robertson Davies looked like Charles Darwin with a touch of Santa Claus.
The Canadian author had a long white...more From the snapshots you can find online, Robertson Davies looked like Charles Darwin with a touch of Santa Claus.
The Canadian author had a long white forked beard that was strikingly demode in the 1970s when he delivered the three books of this excellent Deptford Trilogy. And yet, don't be fooled by the first appearances. You better look more carefully at the photos of Mr Davies. If you do that, you will perceive genuine wit and an eager inquisitiveness in his eyes as well as the intimidating irony of his slightly raised eyebrows.
This man knew what he did and always kept himself up-to-date with the long times he lived in. If Robertson Davies chose to look from another age deserting the barbershops of Ontario, that was not a sign of personal carelessness but very much a deliberate intellectual disguise.
Davies' old-fashioned long white forked beard had at the same time the gravitas of the British born naturalist and the bonhomie of the popular gift-bearer. And in between Darwin's meticolous but revolutionary cataloguing and classifying specimens and Father Christmas' magic but punctual efficiency in delivering airborne gifts, Robertson Davies' prose might be found.
No surprises that reading "The Deptford Trilogy" to me has been like embarking on the Beagle with a flying open sleigh on the deck ready to take off at the author's call. Captain Davies led our brig-sloop time-machine through his story with remarkable confidence and ease leaving the Canadian shores behind with the occasional brat throwing a snowball at us from the quay. During our navigation he always had the first and the last word on board and - to his credit - he managed to keep his whole crew of characters under control without neglecting the needs of his only reader and passenger.
We followed a circular route with a stopover between "Fifth Business" and "The Manticore" to welcome on board a new first narrator looking for psychoanalysis. Then, thanks to the flying open sleigh we brought along on the Beagle, we left the poor fellow on the Swiss Alps between Jung and the Jungfrau. Just in time to begin the exploration of the third stage of our trip leading us to the illusive borders of the "World of Wonders" together with a film troupe and eventually back to Deptford.
Believe me, folks. You will suffer no seasickness sailing (and flying) with Robertson Davies. This guy never loses the control of his helm and - as a plus - is not afraid of pointing straight into the whirlwinds of history, politics, religion and love. That and the difficult art and consequences of dodging a snowball thrown by a brat. The magical realism and real magic you will bring back home after embarking on a journey on The Deptford Trilogy with Captain Davies are equally haunting. (less)
Having begun my discovery of the N-side of Leonard Cohen with his sophomore novel, the sensuous and polymorphic "Beautiful Losers", I picked up The Fa...moreHaving begun my discovery of the N-side of Leonard Cohen with his sophomore novel, the sensuous and polymorphic "Beautiful Losers", I picked up The Favorite Game with lively curiosity.
I was expecting an interesting but not completely focused book, while I soon found myself caught in the charming cobweb drawn by its author. Let's put it straight: this is a novel in which Mr.Cohen wrote down a sensational hagiography of himself. Whatever his literary alter-ego Lawrence Breavman does, he manages to claim attention despite of his apparent lack of interest for getting a position in his native Montreal or elsewhere.
Lawrence Breavman writes poetry, plays guitar, but above all screws suffragettes and traps for women without any intermission. In fact it's extremely hard if not impossible ignoring the sexual side and meaning of this novel. Thirty-four years are passed by since Cohen proclaimed his own "death of a ladies' man" (a sarcastic reference to Arthur Miller, I guess) and what this "Favorite Game" is if not the debaucherous "life of that ladies' man?
But this is where Leonard shows his mastery. We feel simpathy for this Lawrence Breavman who spends his time either mucking around or seducing (and then leaving) women despite of his unbearable self-confidence, his snobbery, his revulsion for those who don't match with his aesthetic and intellectual canons.
That's why, as a reader, I was even touched when Breavman chases after another good looking woman for the umpteenth time having no doubt about feelings that he actually never shows in the whole book. At the same time I was surprised not to feel any anger or hatred for the astonishing negligence the same Breavman displays later on as an indifferent camp counselor.
This book marks out the victory of an artistic temper over a practical life. It is not only Cohen's early years biography, disguised as fiction, but above all his behavioural manifesto.
Those who are not familiar with Leonard Cohen as a songwriter should definitely give The Favorite Game a chance. As for the dedicated followers of the Montreal minstrel, I do think that this novel is more accessible than "Beautiful Losers". Here we have a Cohen who walks on his dearest ground, without flying too high and too far. (less)
I used to have a problem with Leonard Cohen. He gave me headache. This has to be explained.
When I was 5 years old my mum was a teacher in a small nurser...moreI used to have a problem with Leonard Cohen. He gave me headache. This has to be explained.
When I was 5 years old my mum was a teacher in a small nursery school somewhere on the mountains. Having not the money for hiring a babysitter and being myself more or less the same age of her schoolkids I was joining her on Saturdays, when my school was closed.
At that time -1987- most of the Italian radio stations were hard to catch on the mountains we were heading to. Still, the Fiat Uno of my parents could easily cope with that problem having a -drum roll- tape recorder. The only problem was that the one and only tape we had in the car, for reasons I would not investigate, was "The Best of Leonard Cohen".
The road was all curves and harpin bends crowded of trucks carrying gravel between Florence and Bologna, my hometown. It was early in the morning. I wanted to stay in bed. My mum insisted for making me drink milk for breakfast. As a result of these factors: I suffered from car sickness.
And my mum was listening to The Best of Leonard Cohen. How much I couldn't stand that tape? It's hard to tell without anger. All the songs gave me nausea and migraine, but particularly "Hallelujah", "Hey that's no way to say goodbye" and "Famous Blue Raincoat" (it's four in the morning, the end of december...) were the equivalent of a water torture standing with my head upside down. I think I puked a couple of times. Not that I felt guilty for that.
Anyways. It took me exactly 15 years to win over my hate for Cohen (meanwhile my parents went to see him live twice and bought a pile of his CDs), but now I can say the fellow became one of my favourite listenings. Maybe I'm just getting old, who knows?
And yet, until now I did not have the chance of reading anything of what he wrote neither poetry nor fiction. This "Beautiful Losers" is my first paper Cohen.
And I must say it is not giving me migraine so far. On the contrary, I am enjoying this book pretty much. Who would have said that the Quebecer minstrel was so obsessed by oral sex and Iroquois Indians? The lyrics of "Chelsea Hotel no.2" should have let me guess the first topic, though.
It's time to be fair: "Beautiful Losers" is a worth reading and its author knows how to be romantic and not trivial even while passing from Kant (Immanuel, the German philosopher) to cunt (the vulgarism for the female genitalia). Believe me: ol'Leonard does it here.
Quoting three lines of the song "The Partisan" by the same Cohen, I could summarize the plot as it follows: "There were three of us this morning, I'm the only one this evening, but I must go on".(less)