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A Voice from the Attic: Essays on the Art of Reading

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  14 reviews
Outlining the delights of reading, the author tells of what mass education has done to readers, to taste, to books and to culture. The book covers writers from various countries and old and recently-published books, both well-known and obscure. From the author of "What's Bred in the Bone".
Paperback, 368 pages
Published September 1st 1990 by Penguin Books (first published 1960)
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It is a series of essays, that are a declaration of love for reading and kind of a manifesto for the clerisy, who are: “those who read for pleasure, but not for idleness; who read for pastime but not to kill time; who love books, but do not live by books.”

Well, that would be us I guess? All of us here, on goodreads? So it is a call for us, to stand-up, see our worth, make our voice heard, and take our place in the intellectual landscape. And not the least to think by yourselves, as opposed to gi
Jul 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: on-literature
робертсон девіс, звісно, сноб і заноза, але як же втішно знайти в такій заразі рідну душу.

It is, of course, very difficult to draw a portrait of a good and resolute virgin, and in evidence we may produce the dim creatures who serve as heroines in the novels of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Charles Williams – three whom Mr. Fuller praises for their mastery of the demonic element in fiction. Demons these writers may understand: women, no.

[про "a body of American novelists of whom James Jones
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lit-crit
It's taken me rather a long time to read this and that is a fact which puzzles me because I've enjoyed every page. Davies is tremendously well-read and informed both by this breadth and depth of reading and by a life well lived (i.e. with his senses open and receptive). He's great company and draws you in even when expressing his more curious ideas about obscure books and writers. His essays have the huge authority of having been thought through by an intelligent man with a love of libraries.

Nov 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Davies addresses this book to the clerisy, those who like to read books. It is not a call to action, but a call to respect for the art of reading well. Davies response is unabashedly elitist, "There is not democracy in the world of intellect, and no democracy of taste," but in the right way, demanding that readers be educated in the fine art of reading and developing their own literary judgment. He then writes on the history of self improvement and sexual advice books, on 19th century fiction an ...more
Justin Howe
Jul 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Everyone who enjoys reading should read this book. It's less a love letter to books, as one man's love letter to some books which he broadens to encompass the act of reading in general.

In other words it's a "Fuck yeah! Books!" in as much as a nebbish and/or stodgy intellectual would raise his or her fist in the air and shout "Fuck yeah! Books!"
Glen Engel-Cox
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon
Although billed as a collection, this series of essays holds its own as an extended monologue. Davies, as erudite a reader and writer as you will ever discover, is not for the faint of head. In his argument here, he attempts to describe why reading--intense, concentrated reading--can be valued as art. The likely argument against this idea is that reading is not an act of creation, which art aspires to. He quickly deflates that argument with a description of reading that could apply just as well ...more
Vincent Hernot
Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful, wonderful book, going in search of voice, of style, of what is literature what it is for, for whom, by whom...
it seems rambling but is in fact very tightly organised, and builds upon itself impressively.
It's wonderful: opinionated, argumentative, funny, loving...
I knew Davis as a great novelist, but this puts him up there as essayist.
Jul 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous appeal to the clerisy. I hadn’t heard of Davies before I read of this book, and I’m so grateful I found it, as it will be a part of my permanent collection. His insights are both shrewd and conspiratorial - he reminds me of the best literature professors in small liberal arts colleges. Five stars.
May 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful little book packed with some rather large insights.

I am appreciative of coming across many authors and their works that I had, hitherto, not heard of.

If anything is to be inculcated into the 'clerisy' it should be that reading shall remain despite its or society's mercurial nature.
May 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
"[the clerisy are those who read] for pleasure, for emotional and intellectual expansion, for the exercise of the sensibilities"

"reading is a private, interpretive act. Let us have no printed shrieks about reading"

"We all have slumbering realms of sensibility which can be coaxed into wakefulness by books"

"the clerisy must expect to be called intellectuals, a word which has been given both a comic and sinister connotation of late years"

"the complex voodoo which is thought necessary in even the mo
Sandy Yang
Jun 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I pre-rate it 5 stars for the prologue and the first 30 pages of the book. It's a must-read about reading for those who like to read novels. I couldn't believe I had to be a Robertson Davies fan to come across this book. If it was written in Chinese, the book would have been in the reading list for all university students in China.
Jul 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
eye opening
Jul 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this is a book for people who love to read books. prof. davies was a learned, well-read man, and loved to share his love of reading with others.
Jennifer Rilstone
Dec 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at genres of Victorian literature, though not a book about Victorian times. I can never get enough of Davies' prose.
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William Robertson Davies, CC, FRSC, FRSL (died in Orangeville, Ontario) was a Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor. He was one of Canada's best-known and most popular authors, and one of its most distinguished "men of letters", a term Davies is sometimes said to have detested. Davies was the founding Master of Massey College, a graduate college at the University of Toro ...more

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“The clerisy are those who read for pleasure, but not for idleness; who read for pastime but not to kill time; who love books, but do not live by books.” 6 likes
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