I don't think I've had to read so much since I studied English Literature at McGill University here in Montreal. I still remember the first week of classes, when the professors handed out the reading lists ... and I wondered how I'd ever get it all done. (The answer, as I tell my students, is "Bird by Bird" -- thanks Ann Lamott! -- her brother was stressed out because he had to do a project on birds, and their father advised him to do it "Bird by Bird.")
I'm re-reading like crazy for the Radio Canada program, Plus qu'on est de fous, plus qu'on lit. This week, I spoke about Robertson Davies's book, Fifth Business. Next Tuesday, I'll be discussing Carold Shields's The Stone Diaries. I won't even tell you about the books I'm reading for the Montreal Gazette!
But today, I thought I'd tell you about a few great lines in Fifth Business. The narrator Dunstan Ramsay is quite old when he first discovers true love. The woman he comes to love is unattractive, but he tells us that, she "became less ugly after an hour or two." What I like about that line is that it really shows how a person's looks stop mattering so much once we get to know them. Ever meet a beautiful person with an ugly inside? If you have, you'll know what I mean.
Dunstan tries awfully hard to be good all the time. For most of his life, he doesn't even acknowledge that he has a darker side, what Carl Gustav Jung would call the "shadow self." It's only quite close to the end of his life that Dunstan begins to understand he needs to embrace all of life, not just what's pleasant or beautiful. He asks his friend, "Don't you want to possess it [the totality of life] as a whole -- the bad with the good?" What about you? What do you think? You know what I think?... that Robertson Davies was a very wise man. I'm so glad he wrote this book for us.