- Mass Market Paperback: 266 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Del Rey (1976)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345249682
- ISBN-13: 978-0345249685
- Package Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.1 x 0.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 17 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,156,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Davy Mass Market Paperback – 1976
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Later printing with Boris Vallejo cover art. Pangborn's classic novel, a post-apocalyptic coming of age tale.
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Good read once you get over the "new language."
The story is classified as science fiction mainly, I suppose, by virtue of the fact that it takes place in the future, after a brief (but devastating) nuclear war - a theme touched on by a great many works of the Cold War era. Beyond that, it could easily fit into the broader genre of literary fiction - it's well-written and imaginative enough to appeal to a wider spectrum of readers. The sci-fi label is enough to put some people off, and that's a shame - there's a lot of great literature that's filed there, and a lot of folks are missing out as a result.
Pangborn fashioned a very believable world in which Davy and his friends (and foes) could dwell - and he peopled it with characters that are easy to accept as well. Science and learning have fallen by the wayside in this setting - the once-mighty USA has crumbled into a number of smaller nations and city-states, most of them operating under what they term as democracy. They're a far cry from it. The Holy Murcan Church is very powerful, and exerts a lot of control over both sacred and secular matters - the governments, such as they are, bow to its will generally without much grumbling. Books have been banned as evil, leading as they did to sin and destruction in the Old Times (pre-war). The Days of Confusion followed, during which the Church arose from the ashes with the rest of the survivors, and consolidated its power.
Davy is a bondservant - born to a prostitute and left in a Church-run orphanage to grow up, he runs away from his job at an inn after losing his childhood (or finding his manhood, take your pick) with the innkeeper's daughter. The book recounts a number of his adventures - he travels alone in the wilderness for a while, falls in with a small group of other outcasts, joins up with Rumly's Ramblers (a sort of post-apocalyptic American version of gypsies) for a bit, journeys to Old City in Nuin where he meets the love of his life, falls into a place in the government with her (her uncle is a progressive regent), fights in an uprising, and goes into exile. He writes his story from that vantage point, looking back over a period of twenty years or so.
Along the way, Pangborn manages very deftly to make quite a few astute comments about the state of things in the world as it exists today, by way of `looking back' at them from Davy's perspective. He does so with a serious eye, but also with a large dose of humor - he's not afraid in the least of poking the world in the gut and then giving it a good Dutch rub on the head as it bends over, something it could mightily use now and again.
A lot of the place names that are used can be easily linked to current ones - `Murcan' is probably meant to be a bastardization of `American', `Nuin' is `New England', `Moha' relates to `Mohawk', &c. Others, like `Conicut', `Vairmant' and `Penn' are more obvious. It's also hilarious the way history has been twisted over the time of the Days of Confusion - with no books to keep it alive, many, many events are tied up together and confused, and these confusions themselves make for very wry and astute observations by both the author and his rough but lovable narrator.
It's a shame this book is out of print - it's one that should be made available again, a classic not only of the sci-fi genre, but of 60s literature. It should be on the shelf right alongside Walter M. Miller, Jr.'s astonishing A CANTICLE FOR LIEBOWITZ. DAVY is a dark vision of a `possible future' - one that we could all stand to learn a bit from in order to prevent it.
In reading Edgar Pangborn’s Hugo nominated novel, you run the risk of creating an imaginary friend, even after being several decades past imaginary friends’ age windows. This pal is Davy, fourteen year old redhead, orphan and atheist in the making, whose excellent story gives the rather ugly word “Bildungsroman” a beautiful reason for being in the dictionary.
In the populous science fiction subgenre where the world has been nuclearly or else wiped out, you seldom get believable situations and characters. So Davy, with its rich and satisfying story, its celebration of life and love, its attention to detail and its intelligent linguistic humor (because of course, in post-apocalyptic America where Oxford English has being corrupted into “Oxfoot English”, Davy would have all reasons in the world to point out that in Oxfoot English, there’s very little real bull in it and hardly any English) stands head and shoulders above the competition.
This time, reading "Davy" was an incredible experience that brought other great writers and books to mind: Gene Wolf, Cormac McCarthy's novel "The Road", "A Canticle for Lebowitz", and even some of Heinlein's earthier work. However, I don't know if any of these writers wrote anything as poetic as the finest passages in "Davy". There are a number of times when Pangborn is closing out a chapter when the words begin to flow and resonate and seem to almost levitate off the page. I was humbled and amazed, as a reader and writer myself.
For a novel published in 1964, the style seems very post-modern with constant shifts in time and breakages of the fourth wall via footnotes by characters sometimes looking over Davy's shoulder while he is writing his autobiography. The novel is a balanced mix of comedy, bawdiness, tragedy, philosophy and Horatio Alger. I have never read any of his other works but the critics say it is his finest and it is no wonder that Pangborn was never able to match the seamless balance of all elements that he achieved in "Davy". There are scenes and characters that are so brilliantly drawn in words that I will never forget them, and if they begin to grow dim, I must reread the novel again so that they remain well illuminated in my mind.
I was reading that there are critics who insist that "The Road" is not science fiction, but I think that they protest too much. For a novel to be labeled sci-fi is not a dishonour in my books but then I have been a reader of sci-fi since I was twelve years old. However, I can understand some publishers wanting to avoid that categorization for a gothic southern writer such as McCarthy. Particularly in the 20th century, book sellers would have stuffed "The Road" into the sci-fi section and serious critics would never have given it the time of day; wrote it off as minor aberration in the great career of Sir McCarthy. After all, it took thirty years and Hollywood, before Philip K. Dick's novels and short stories escaped the sci-fi ghetto and became respected works of literary art; I think that it is time for "Davy" to enjoy the same recognition.
I read this now and break my own fourth wall, noting that I have said that the critics have been Pangborn's best friends and enemies. I have to allow an ironic smile to spread across the right side of my face. I find it fitting since such contradictions are a true reflection of the realities of life, realities that Pangborn managed to capture in his masterpiece "Davy". Religion, love, science and technology, nature.....they are all wonderful things that are beautiful and ugly; that create and destroy us, that fulfill and strip us of meaning.
The desire for a sequel to Davy's story is overwhelming. There was never one published, to my knowledge. Perhaps there is still something to be discovered in the papers Pangborn left behind along with the symphonies and eroticisms he never showed the world. I am certain that the desire to continue Davy's story must have been within him too, but perhaps he resisted that urge for the sake of the post-modern completion, that is "Davy". How could it have been otherwise?
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walking next to Davy I was young again, I loved, I...Read more