cover image Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic

Robertson Davies: A Portrait in Mosaic

Val Ross, . . McClelland & Stewart, $19.95 (385pp) ISBN 978-0-7710-7776-0

A bear of a man, with flowing white hair and beard, the flamboyant and magic-obsessed Robertson Davies (1913–1995) was the Canadian literary equivalent of Orson Welles. As this oral history shows, he was by turns vain, vulnerable, intimidating, kind, depressive, bossy, charming, imposing, even in passing vaguely anti-Semitic. He was a great mentor for many as master of Massey College, in Toronto, which he founded with Vincent Massey. Davies’s life and art are celebrated in this lively remembrance by some 100 contributors. Journalist Ross, who died in 2008 shortly after completing this book, is not so much its author as its organizer, providing the narrative that connects the many voices that celebrate the man, his work and reputation. These include Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, John Irving and Norman Jewison. Among the unexpected highlights of this artful biography is the description of a joint reading tour with a young Sri Lankan novelist and Davies’s nose-holding encounter with Andrea Dworkin. Davies gets his due as one of the 20th-century’s literary voices of English-speaking Canada. (Aug.)