[Editor’s note: This is an excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others, running every Friday. The following is from the chapter on journalist, author and Maker of Rules, Val Ross.]
The byline was Goderich, Ontario, but the setting of the Globe and Mail piece was the neighbouring town of Blyth, where a fundraising dinner was being served to benefit the local theatre. The story began:
“Excuse me, but I hear there’s a famous lady writer who lives near here,” said the man in the Blyth Hall, summoning an alert-looking, sixtyish waitress to his table. “I hear she sometimes comes to this festival.”
[Editor’s note: This is the fifth excerpt from Douglas Gibson’s new book Stories About Storytellers: Publishing Alice Munro, Robertson Davies, Alistair MacLeod, Pierre Trudeau, and Others. They will run every Friday. The following is taken from the chapter on man of letters, oracle, and ugly duckling, Robertson Davies.]
World of Wonders was the first book by Robertson Davies that ushered me, a young editor, into his world. Its title provides a neat summary for that world in 1975, where to me everything was a little brighter, a little more surprising, and much more interesting than the everyday world offstage. It was a larger-than-life place, fully floodlit, and Davies was at its centre, ideally cast for the role of Man of Letters.
For a start, he looked like Jehovah. Not since Alexander Graham Bell — or, a mischievous thought, Karl Marx — has there been a head where flowing white locks and well-shaped beard combined so artfully to produce a leonine look, perhaps the look of the bust of Mendelssohn that adorned the piano of the house where he grew up, learning how a true artist should appear. It is impossible to think of Robertson Davies without that trademark beard.