Friday, December 27, 2013

Quote of the Day (Robertson Davies, on Academic ‘Symbol Simons’)

“I wonder what your professor means when she speaks of ‘symbolic references’ contained in the names of characters in Fifth Business. When a writer chooses the names for a character in a book he is anxious to get them into the same key—to use a musical expression…The names in Fifth Business, which are given to the Canadian characters, and particularly to those in the village of Deptford, are all quite familiar in Canadian ears and there are lots of Papples and Hornicks to be found in any large Canadian telephone directory. It is a wise rule never to assume the existence of a symbol where a meaning is apparent without it. People who disregard this rule are sometimes called ‘Symbol Simons.’”—Canadian man of letters Robertson Davies (1913-1995), expressing annoyance in a letter to Canadian undergraduate Theresa Riordan, December 6, 1978, regarding the first novel in his "Deptford Trilogy," in For Your Eye Alone: The Letters of Robertson Davies, edited by Judith Shelton Grant (1999)

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