Lori's Book Nook

Robertson Davies, again

Posted on: December 16, 2007

I’m not a hit hound by any means, but I do check them, just to see. And the most popular page on this blog is the space where we were discussing The Fifth Business.

Okay, so it’s not popular by some standards, but on my little blog, it continuously tops my hit chart with between 3 & 29 hits per day. And search terms like:

  • essay on the women in fifth business
  • fifth business ezboard
  • women in fifth business
  • fifth business mrs.dempster, paul
  • fifth business robertson davies reborn
  • Fifth Business devil Liesl
  • robertson davies fifth business
  • Fifth Business name meanings
  • sex love in fifth business essay
  • psychology in fifth business
  • ramsay guilt fifth business

And those are only today and yesterday.

The frequency started once school started. With all this traffic, I’ve only had 2 of these students stay and comment. (Am I wrong in assuming they’re students?) In my day, I would have been searching card catalogues, and journals, hoping for a tidbit. Now, they comb the Internet for their research. I wonder if any of our comments here have been cited in a paper somewhere?

The mind boggles.

But I was thinking of you all on Friday, when I found a delightful treasure in my local secondhand bookstore: Robertson Davies: An Appreciation, edited by Elspeth Cameron. A book of essays collected and published in 1991.

For your delectation then, are some of the ideas thrown out by different commentators as Davies’ books were coming out:

  • Dunstan is the Hero
  • Dunstan in the Saint, not Mrs. Dempster
  • Father Blazon is the Fifth Business

So, reading these essays has been quite fun, and now I have to go back and read the damn books again! Ideas that I want to look into myself.

Okay, so you’re writing an essay and you Google your way to this post. I won’t leave you empty-handed, so here are some things to explore further:

  • Pay close attention to the audience in all three books.
  • Do some research on St. Dunstan.
  • All 3 books begin and end in the same places, geographically. (And one of Davies’ next books is called What’s Bred In the Bone.)

And do some research in a good library, not looking for the quick answer on the Internet.

2 Responses to "Robertson Davies, again"

Surely Ramsay is Fifth Business …

And both Father Blazon and Leisl give us a good education on who St Dunstan was and why it was so appropriate that Ramsay took this name.

Without looking back at the relevant essays…the definition of the Fifth Business [interesting — these critical essays were written before it became common knowledge that Davies invented the concept of the Fifth Business…] is that the FB doesn’t have a female opposite, and enables the action rather than makes it happen. Dunstan has a number of female opposites — including the fool saint, the nurse, the first love, and is clearly the actor in everything that happens to him. Liesl never actually says that he’s the FB, she asks him if he is, and says that he should find out if he is. It’s Dunstan himself who assumes he is, as he assumes he has a more passive role in his life. But always remember, this is his autobiography, his point of view…he can believe what he wants.

Also, if you go deeper into the story of St. Dunstan, as another essayist in this collection does, there are numerous connections not covered in the book — the broad strokes of our Dunstan’s life mapped out in a parallel to the saint’s.

[I should be answering this in more detail, but I have a headache…]

Anyway, opinions on a literary piece are just that, opinions. The better ones are backed up by really good arguments, but in the end, it’s all opinion. The author may or may not agree.

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Book Discussion Pages

Here on the Book Nook you can discuss: The Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, as well as the next two books in the Deptford Trilogy, The Manticore and World of Wonders, and if that's not enough for you, see what's up on the forums at BookTalk.org!
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