Monday, April 18, 2011

Robertson Davies: On doctors and psychiatry

Robertson Davies is about my all-time favorite author. If you haven't read any of his books, you should give yourself the pleasure. When I think of quotable authors or celebrities, he's right up there with Carl Jung. In fact, I can't think of any book that he has written that is not intellectually deep, easy to read and laugh out loud funny.

In the 1940s, when Davies, author of the Deptford Trilogy and What`s Bred in the Bone, was publisher of an Ontario newspaper, he invented Samuel Marchbanks to comment on and satirize Canadian life in a short column. Marchbanks disappeared in the 1950s when his creator turned to writing plays. By the time Davies made his name in 1970 with Fifth Business, the first of the Deptford books, Marchbanks had long since sunk into retirement at his favorite haunt, the Crank and Schizoid* pub in Toronto.


"Now, very few [physicians] are men of science in any very serious sense; they're men of technique."

Robertson Davies, Conversations

"I was embarrassed to be such a fool in a situation that I had told myself and other people countless times I would never submit to -- talking to a psychiatrist, ostensibly seeking help, but without any confidence that he could give it. I have never believed these people can do anything for an intelligent man he can't do for himself. I have known many people who leaned on psychiatrists, and every one of them was a leaner by nature, who would have leaned on a priest if he had lived in an age of faith, or leaned on a teacup reader or an astrologer if he had not enough money to afford the higher hokum."

Robertson Davies, The Manticore

*Rossa's note: Fictional pub frequented by psychiatrists and Marchbanks, hard by the present day Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

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