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The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks [Paperback]

Robertson Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Dec 7 1989 0140097716 978-0140097719 New edition
Now in paperback, the book that marked the first appearance in the United States of Robertson Davies's mischievous alter ego, Samuel Marchbanks.

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Product Description

From Library Journal

In this collection of his newspaper pieces, mostly from the late Forties, Davies introduces us to his alter ego, a mildly irascible curmudgeon whose opinions and observations have been so popular in Canada that three volumes of his columns have been published there: The Diary , The Table Talk , and The Garland of Miscellania. Davies has re-edited them to produce a single volume and in the prefatory "A Drink with Marchbanks" even given us his own view of the journalist he created. A pleasant entertainment covering such diverse topics as politics, theater, and manners, this volume offers a humorous and insightful picture of postwar Canadian life as seen through the eyes of a delightful eccentric who reminds this reader of a boozeless W. C. Fields. Charles Bishop, English Dept., Univ. of New Orleans
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A satisfying read Dec 8 2008
By Tony Chu TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is a generally satisfying collection of short "diary" entries made by Robertson Davies' alter ego, Marchbanks. It has gentle, old-fashioned humour, and a witty journalistic style that is at the same time nostalgic and refreshing.

I especially enjoyed how Marchbanks relayed his numerous (and somewhat predictable) battles with his furnace, during the Canadian winter. This is an easy book to read - suitable for short, quick, bursts (because it is written that way), or for a long stretch beside a fire with a warm blanket on a cold night.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Robertson Davies' Alter Ego June 6 2000
By Cheryl - Published on Amazon.com
Samuel Marchbanks is a grouchy old newspaperman who struggles with his coal furnace, garden, and neighbours in an attempt to live life as he feels is proper. He is witty, open-minded, well-read, and likes to shock his acquaintances.
The Diary is a record of his day-to-day life over a year, with several amusing plot-lines running through it. The Table Talk is just that--a collection of Marchbanks' favourite prandial conversations (or monologues as the case may be). The Miscellanea are letters and various papers, as well as an interview of Marchbanks by Davies.
This is an extremely funny collection of fiction. Although knowledge of early twentieth-century Canadian life helps, it's not necessary.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A first class Canadian Wit Dec 4 2002
By shelley isom - Published on Amazon.com
Humor has moved to tv/movies. There are very few really funny writers around. Robertson Davies is a gem, all the rarer for being in such sparse company. This book has at least two or three laughs per page. It is a compendium of miscelleanous writing by one Samuel Marchbanks (Davies' alter ego) who keeps diaries and writes columns. I find myself giggling on my way to work on the subway as I race through these short aphoristic pieces. Highly recommend for any scrooges who refer to babies in terms appropriate for judging a ham and can stand dogs only in newspaper reports about their valorous deeds.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very much a matter of personal taste Feb. 28 2012
By birdwalker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It started innocently: a friend recommended Davies so I began with his first trilogy. Now I'm an addict, first gobbling up his fiction and then moving on to his non-fiction. The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks is Davies second or third publication of a collection of very short -- mostly one paragraph -- musings of his alter ego, the eccentric, out-spoken, crypto-curmudgeion, Samuel Marchbanks. These were first published individually as regular additions to the paper Davies edited in the '40s and '50s. This edition contains additional notes by Davies that explain references to people or events that may be unknown to younger generations. Davies' notes are often sly.

Marchbanks is definitely not for everyone. If you haven't read enough Davies before you attempt this collection, you might very well stop reading in disgust at some of the silly items, or perhaps misunderstand the intent of the items. For example, some of them suggest that Davies has been annoyed by some human stupidity and chooses an oblique way of showing his disgust by having Marchbanks exaggerate a similar situation. Only a complete faith in Davies kept me reading beyond the first few pages. (So very glad I did!)

Throughout the book character-types are introduced as letter-writers to Marchbanks; these characters reappear at intervals, building a continuing story of their foibles. Marchbanks, too, writes letters, mostly to his lawyers or government officials. E.g., Davies resentment of Canadian taxes is illustrated through Marchbanks' letters to "Haubergeon Hydra", Davies representative civil servant.

Throughout the collection you'll find sarcasm, whimsey, cynicism, thinly-disguised anger and pure nonsense (viz., Chief Thunderbelly, the indigent Caucasian who passes himself off as a native American). Perhaps one has to be a bit of a cynic to enjoy Marchbanks; it certainly isn't a good introductory book to Davies. As for me, I've been wallowing in the book.
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