Funny Business

(through section IV, book 1 of The Deptford Trilogy)

Tim: Something I think we’ve both discovered while reading this week: this book is funny! I literally laughed aloud multiple times. But just to be clear, this is no Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s not a comic endeavor. It’s funny in its cleverness, its ability to twist little phrases. I found it funny in the same way as sitting around with someone and finding they have something amusing to say. Which is really what we do for large sections of the middle part of this book: sit and listen to one of Dunstan Ramsey’s acquaintances go on about something. So maybe what I’m really getting at is the deeper fact that these characters, feel very real to me, in large part because I seem to share a sense of humor with several of them.

Debby: True, but I seem to find the humor as Robertson Davies’, rather than the characters. Dunstan is quite a bore, Leola a girlish imp, and Padre Blazon an absolute crackpot. Yet, somehow Davies’ manages to capture the inescapably amusing aspects of his characters.

Tim: That’s part of the brilliance of the framework to me, though. In setting up Ramsay as the narrator rather than some party, we get to experience these characters through Ramsay’s memory. It makes sense that a character should go blithering on for pages, and that the characters should be somewhat exaggerated in their aspects because that’s how memory works. Ramsay is distilling his experiences down for us, relating both a historical episode and his feelings about it.

Debby: Which makes him slightly more likeable (professor and all).

Quote time, Tim?


“Thomas Aquinas was monstrously fat; St. Jerome had a terrible temper. This gives comfort to fat men and cross men. Mankind cannot endure perfection; it stifles him.” (166)

“What does it matter? To be a Protestant is halfway to being an atheist…” (167)

“Listen, Ramezay, have you heard what Einstein says? — Einstein, the great scientist, not some Jesuit like old Blazon. He says, ‘God is subtle, but He is not cruel.’ There is some sound Jewish wisdom for your muddled Protestant mind.” (171)

“Well then, she [Diana] continued, was I in love with Leola? I was able to say with a good conscience that I was not. Then I was in love with herself after all, said Diana, making one of those feminine leaps in logic that leave men breathless.” (87)

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