2007: 109. Murther and Walking Spirits

“I was never so amazed in my whole life as when the Sniffer drew his concealed weapon from its case and struck me to the ground, stone dead.”

Murther and Walking Spirits, Robertson Davies

This is one of (if not the) last books Davies wrote, and if its not quite up to the standard of Fifth Business, et al. it was still quite an enjoyable read.  It tells the story of “Gil” Gilmartin, or rather that of his family.  Gil is murdered in the very first sentence, and spends the book as a spirit, watching a mysterious film that flashes back the life of his forebearers.  As he comes to realize:

“[O]ne’s family is made up of supporting players in one’s personal drama.  One never supposes that they starred in some possibly gaudy and certainly deeply felt show of their own.” (Hardcover edition pg. 268)

The book is not totally successful because we have little or no sense of Gil, and so, while the various family stories are quite interesting, they never really coalesce into anything greater than a bunch of historical tales, with some philosophizing about the past (and the usual Davies clap-trap about the archetypes and the masculine in the feminine, etc.).  

Still, the stories are quite good - he is best when he just tells his tales and leaves the mumbo-jumbo behind, and there are some grand bits.  Loved the internal monologue of Gil’s father - what quasi neurotic too smart for his (or duh, her) own good smarty pants hasn’t had one of those thoughts where you are feeling something deeply, but watching yourself and criticizing yourself at the same time.  On Pg. 259, listening to a romantic record while tormented in love, “Can I bear it? Of course you can bear it, you jackass.  You’ve invited it.  You could smash these records if they were really unbearable, but instead you’ve suborned the dead composer to ravage your feelings, and you’re enjoying every minute of it.”  LOVE that, and it feels very real and authentic to me - someone who spends a little too much time in her own head at times.

Recommended for:  People who like to read about interesting characters and stories, but aren’t wed to an over arching tied together plot. 

Date/Place Completed: 7/18/07; D.C.

Categories:  Ficti

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017