Davison, Frank Dalby
Davison, Frank Dalby 1893–1970
Davison was an Australian novelist and short story writer. His country and its concerns are the vital backgrounds for his fiction. In his best-known novels, Man-Shy and Dusty, Davison dramatizes nature's struggle to survive the destructive "progress" of humans.
R. G. Howarth
[There is a lapse in Man Shy] during the critical incident of the fight between the two bulls for possession of the red heifer. The duel is at its height and one expects a climax such as Hemingway so skilfully and excitingly presents in his studies of bull-fights, when "There was an epic quality in that battle. It had to be! It was an inevitable occurrence in the herd life", Davison interposes and drops one flat. "Epic!" The grand epithet minified by the strain to impress, through decade after decade, of beggared journalists and film-publicity men! It is no use Mr. Davison's saying that the combat was epic: he has to present it as such, to give us the so-called "epic" in action. Instead of doing that, he tries to induce an effect by the use of a cheapened word, which is followed by clichés. Further,… the narrator intrudes here in the role of commentator, and the naturalness and self-sufficiency of the tale are thereby impaired.
One suspects from this anti-climax the presence of a radical hesitancy in Davison: that he feels unequal to the great moment, unable to face it, and therefore takes refuge in banality. The same fault may be noticed in his shorter story, "The Road to Yesterday"…. It is a piece of work remarkable for the close knowledge of farming conditions and practice that it shows, and one follows all the details with the intense interest that could not be given to a mere agricultural manual....
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[Frank Dalby Davison believes] in the fundamental goodness of man, and [tests] it not so much against any intellectual system as against actual Australian situations and characters. Davison's first full-length work, Forever Morning (1931), he rightly described as a 'Romance'. It depends on a deliberate simplification of plot and character for the sake of idealizing the life of the small farmer. Something of its purpose and quality can be judged from chapter 13, 'A Bangtail Muster', which is injected into the book wholly and solely for the sake of setting down some of the old bush songs—verses which make simple literature out of simple events. A comparable idyllic quality informs the whole work. It is in his other works—Man-Shy (1931), The Wells of Beersheba (1933), and Dusty (1946)—that Davison produced his most individual contribution to the Australian novel. The Wells of Beersheba, a slight piece, is a hymn of praise to the horses of the Australian Light Horse regiments of World War I. From its special point of view, it reproduces [a] fierce national pride…. Man-Shy and Dusty are attempts to render from the inside the needs and primitive motivations of a red heifer and a cattle dog. Davison imagines his way into the animal mind with remarkable insight and complete avoidance of sentimentality…. At the same time, Davison's prose achieves an unassuming lyricism unique in Australian fiction of the...
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Louise E. Rorabacher
[The writing career of Frank Dalby Davison] falls into two parts. The first covers some fifteen years, extending from his sudden appearance on the literary scene in 1931 through his first eight published books, the last of which appeared in 1946. Had this present study been made in the middle of the century, it would have recorded his success as a writer of novels and short stories, mostly of Australia's back country, fiction that accurately and sensitively portrayed the lives of animals and men alike. These books are mostly small in size, but several of them are acknowledged Australian classics.
Frank lived on for another quarter of a century, however, most of which he spent developing the last thing his earlier readers would have expected of him—an enormous novel of urban life consisting of an in-depth study of a single aspect of that life, sex. This book, The White Thorntree, and the necessity of bringing it to terms with his earlier work will certainly occupy—even preoccupy—the minds of his serious readers for a long time to come. (p. 9)
As "a fictional investigation of our sex culture," [The White Thorntree] represents such a change of subject matter, such an apparent change of purpose, from his early output that one is tempted to write a book on "The Two Literary Careers of Frank Dalby Davison."…
It is apparent [in his fiction] that all life faces conflict of one kind or...
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