Robertson Davies first hit upon the notion of writing ghost stories when he joined the University of Toronto's Massey College as a Master. Wishing to provide entertainment at the College's Gaudy Night, the annual Christmas party, Professor Davies created a "spooky story," which he read aloud to the gathering. That story, "Revelation from a Smoky Fire," is the first in this wonderful, haunting collection. A tradition quickly became established and, for eighteen years, Davies delighted and amused the Gaudy Night guests with his tales of the supernatural. Here, gathered together in one volume, are those eighteen stories, just as Davies first read them.
|Publisher:||Penguin Group (USA)|
|Product dimensions:||5.12(w) x 7.78(h) x 0.64(d)|
About the Author
Robertson Davies (1913-1995) had three successive careers during the time he became an internationally acclaimed author: actor, publisher, and, finally, professor at the University of Toronto. The author of twelve novels and several volumes of essays and plays, he was the first Canadian to be inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
What People are Saying About This
"He's one of the most learned, amusing, and otherwise accompished novelist of our time, and...of our century."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Robertson Davies spent eighteen years as the Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, and every year he wrote a ghost story for the College Christmas party. HIGH SPIRITS collects every one of these tales and presents them just as they were originally written.Davies's prose is, as always, addictive. The man's got a real feel for language, and I dearly wish I could have heard him read any one of these stories aloud. As Davies says in his introduction, the tales were meant to be heard, not read, and the writing reflects this.Many of the pieces are heavily informed by classic ghost stories. Davies makes good use of his source material; the reader can see where he's coming from, yet the author's own voice is always present. I loved how he wrote himself into each story, too; it made it a lot more personal, and left plenty of room for his characteristic humor to shine on through. There's a lot of parody here, with self-parody at the heart of it. Despite the source material, Davies isn't really trying for horror here. It's humor all the way.The trouble is, a lot of it is insider humor. Davies keeps it to a minimum in the earlier stories, delivering a good tale that just so happens to contain several jokes aimed at friends and colleagues. But as the years pass, he leans more and more heavily on characters and situations that I don't doubt were hilarious to his target audience but which leave most other readers, (meaning me), out in the cold. I recognized the jokes. I just didn't get them.He also includes more than a little political commentary as the years pass. Again, I'm sure this was very topical and absolutely hilarious in 1974, and I'd love to hear what modern political historians think of Davies's efforts, but it didn't do a whole lot for me.The collection is certainly worth reading, though. Davies's writing is a delight, and some of the stories are great. My favourites were "Revelation From A Smoky Fire," in which Davies encounters his first Massey ghost, and "The Xerox in the Lost Room," about a Poor Relation who becomes the Family Ghost. But nothing really leaped out at me; nothing demanded that I keep the collection around just so I could read it again someday. I've passed it along to someone else, who I hope will enjoy it as much as I did.
A collection of stories Davies wrote each year as Master of Massey College. These stories are funny, witty and satirical. Some stand out much more than others. These are best read slowly, one here, one there as they do have a sameness to them that tires. Recommended for fans of Davies.Follows is a brief synapses (without spoilers) and my opinion on each story.How The High Spirits Came About - In the introduction, Davies explains how every Christmas for the 18 years he was the Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto he would tell a ghost story. This is a collection of these 18 tales. The stories are parodies of the classic ghost story.#1) Revelation From a Smoky Fire - in this story the current and first Master of Massey College finds in his rooms a man who professes to be the ninth Master of Massey College one hundred years hence, and we soon find our narrator is not who he seems to be.#2) The Ghost Who Vanished By Degrees - this was a fun story of a ghost, who killed himself because he failed his PhD thesis, who takes our narrator hostage one night and makes him listen to the many thesis he has prepared since his death as he shall never be at peace until he has it.#3) The Great Queen is Amused - This was a really fun story! A woman doing research in the university library (which is known for its Canadian Lit. collection) comes across an occult book which tells how to call a spirit. Thinking she'd like to ask Sara Jeanette Duncan a few questions she follows the instructions but ends up with a room full of the spirit of every Canadian author whose book is in the library. Very funny!#4) The Night of the Three Kings - Our narrator investigates noises and winds up in a filing room where he finds the spirit of King George V searching for a rare stamp he accidentally once put on an envelope. The story ends with a definite Canadian twist.#5) The Charlottetown Banquet - The narrator spends the night having a Victorian dinner with Sir John A. MacDonald.#6) When Satan Goes Home For Christmas - This time our narrator meets Satan who is upset because he is never invited home for Christmas.#7 Refuge of Insulted Saints - Hearing a knock at the door one evening our narrator opens the door to find Babs (otherwise known as Saint Barbara, Patron Saint of Artillery) standing at his door with a cannon pointing at him. She and many other saints who have just been deposed to legend status by Pope Paul VI (1969)are seeking asylum at the college. This was a lot of fun and very witty!#8 Dickens Digested - A young man working on his thesis about Charles Dickens becomes more and more like Dickens himself. Lots of fun Dickensian-speak but not as good as other stories here.#9 The Kiss of Khrushchev - A Russian exchange student, a member of the choir, disappeared some years ago but now our narrator has found a singing frog in the basement. This story was just plain weird.#10 - The Cat That Went to Trinity - There are two new students in class this year. One named Elizabeth Lavenza the other named Enstein, given name Victor Frank. This gives our narrator cause for concern especially since he is teaching the Gothic novel this year. This was a really fun story, melodramatic and witty.#11 - The Ugly Spectre of Sexism - I didn't really get this one very much. Written in 1972 it pokes fun at both feminism and chauvinism.#12 - The Pit Whence Ye Are Digged - Another one that went over my head. This one dealt with poetry and time travel.#13 - The Perils of the Double Sign - The narrator has a conversation with a small devil who has been trapped by a student whose hobby is astrology.#14 - Conversations with the Little Table - Our narrator brings home an antique table which commences to tap around as if dancing. He and his wife sit down and find that the table once belonged to William Lyon Mackenzie King and he has a conversation with them. Another fun one.#15 - The King Enjoys His Own Again - The spirits of King George IV and Bishop John Strachan debat