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Murther and Walking Spirits Paperback – December 1, 1992
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From Publishers Weekly
Davies's fans will not be disappointed by this clever novel, narrated posthu mously by a newspaper editor cuck olded and killed by a film critic.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In his latest novel, the elder statesman of Canadian letters continues to explore the themes of sin, guilt, and self-discovery--the twist being that in this case the hero's discovery of self comes only after he is dead. Indeed, Connor Gilmartin ("Gil") is murdered in the novel's first sentence by a co-worker he discovers in bed with his (Gil's) wife. The indignity of being snuffed by "the Sniffer," a theater-cum-movie critic, is compounded when Gil is seemingly condemned to spend his afterlife seated next to his nemesis at a film festival. But what Gil sees--unlike the rest of the audience--is a series of highly personal films starring an assortment of ancestors. As "his" festival progresses, he develops a "sense of life more poignant and more powerful than anything I ever knew when I was a living man." While Davies's interest in metaphysics and Jungian psychology is evident, it never overshadows his story or his compassion for his characters. A masterful effort that should appeal to a wide audience; highly recommended. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/91.
- David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Book arrived very promptly and in better condition than I expected
This book should be banned unless the middle section that attempts to emulate James Joyce is excised. The chapter is a travesty. It is painful to read, both because of the miserable stylistic failures which only serve to illuminate Davies' inadequacies as a writer; and out of sympathy for the author who seems like a nice guy and should not have such a literary legacy to besmirch his name. It is astonishing that a published author could write such miserable tripe and allow it to be included in his work, it is troubling that an editor and publisher would do him the disservice of allowing it to go forth and afflict mass readership. The book might have warranted two whole stars were it not the context for such a miserable debacle.
The end of the book constitutes an horrific attempt at evoking no less a personage than Goethe- a triumph of chutzpah that surpasses even the iniquity of the Joycean chapter. One leaves this book with a feeling that one must do literary penance for having read it, or perhaps undertake a sort of ritual cleansing.
"Murther and Walking Spirits" grabbed me from the beginning. After being bludgeoned
by his wife's lover, the narrator in ghostly form wanders through time and space visiting
6-generations of his ancestors. The book is chockfull of historical insights, and interesting
trivia. E.g., information about pots de chambre, jordans, and "welsh hats." While the
trivia changes with each generation, the themes remain constant.
"[A]nything pursued beyond a reasonable point, turns into its opposite," and the better path to
happiness is accepting life on it's own terms. The book is lively, well-written, wry, and consoled
this reader with the thought that his personal issues have been shared by mankind through the
The down side to this book is that from the start you know the major chracter is dead, so there's no hope for him. However, some how Davies manages to show that although he is dead, he isn't without hope. The "films" he watches in the book just help him realize that he's a link in a very important chain that is his family. The hope comes from the fact that he knows he lived his life the best way he could, like all his relatives in the "films."
Character development could had been better, but a writer can only do so much in one novel. Davies was a bit too ambitious introducing all the characters he did in such a small book. However, the characters are still interesting none the less. This novel is a entertaining read and it makes you think at times. I recommend this book to anyone who read anything else by Davies and liked it, or just to someone who wants something interesting to read.
The moment that Connor Gilmartin is struck dead in his own bedroom by his wife's lover, he finds that he is still alive! Perhaps even more alive than he has ever been; he is in a state that the opening chapter calls "roughly translated". He's a ghost; a walking spirit. This new state is fraught with all manner of possibilities and limitations. For one thing, his powers of awareness and observation are heightened, but he is unable to communicate with any of the living, no matter how he jumps up and down or shouts in their ear. And for that typically Robertsonian twist, the great author borrows an idea from the Bhagavad Gita which states that after death one maintains a connection with what one was thinking about at the moment of death. (It behoved a man to be concerned with what he was thinking of as he died)! So... what was Connor Gilmartin thinking of at that moment? Well, he was processing the fact that he had just caught his wife involved with a man (a co-worker) whom he particularly despised for many reasons, and secondly, he was thinking of a particular work-related problem concerning an upcoming Film Festival in Toronto to which this man (his murderer) was vying with him for position as lead writer. Now Connor is dead, aware of his wife's duplicity in covering up the murder but unable to vindicate himself in any way, and furthermore he is bound inextricably to his own murderer who attends the Film Festval as lead writer in his place. In a surreal twist, at the Film Festival, what Connor views on the screen is not what the others are seeing, but rather it is a documentary of his own ancestry... (one's life flashes before one's eyes??) He is seeing something wholly personal. After the festival he is instantly translated back to see how his wife is winding up her affairs... he sees that she has actually found a way to profit from his untimely demise. This story was great right to the end... with the disclaimer that in my opinion it is important to remember it as a fanciful rather than a literal view of what happens after your last breath. He raises a lot of interesting things to think about though. Not the best example of Davies' work, but still worthy of four and a half stars to the best Canadian writer ever.