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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The strengths and shortcomings of volume 2 of the Deptford trilogy

Nearly finished (done w/ first 2 of 3 sections) of Robertson Davies's The Manticore, and still find it very readable and thoughtful - but - I'm wondering just what the point is, after all. We do get an up-close look at the months of analysis during which the protagonist, David Staunton, reveals some of the shameful and difficult moments in his past to his analyst: Sometimes Davies tells this through script-like dialogue between patient and analyst, sometimes in a "brief" that Staunton, an attorney, prepares to present his analyst. But as we near the end of the volume, what does all this amount to beyond a recitation of fact? There are some shameful and difficult moments in Staunton's past, which he reveals, but they don't seem to have any great consequence for his adult life or his life post-analysis; one example, the account of a teenage escapade in which he and 3 others literally destroy a house and all of its contents - a "prank" that one of the the four led them into and that Staunton and the others felt compelled to join. What was the reason? And does Staunton still feel a lifetime's weight of guilt? Has he had any subsequent contact w/ the instigator? Does he draw some lesson from this about tyranny and group behavior? No and no. All told, this volume (2) of the Deptford trilogy moves along well but feels bloodless. Staunton is a cool character and reveals the events of his life readily, but shows no feeling or emotion. Shouldn't this volume culminate (and perhaps it will?) and a howl of outrage against his father, or mother, or both? This volume spins off from volume 1 of the trilogy, in that the protagonist of this volume was ancillary to the first and vv, but it doesn't seem truly to advance our knowledge beyond where we were at the end of volume 1; in fact, the protagonist in this volume know less about the central event, the murder of his father, Boy Staunton, than we readers do.

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