To Mervyn Noseigh, M.A.
Dear Mr. Noseigh:
When you put the question to me so baldly – ‘What led you to become a writer?’ – I am momentarily nonplussed. On what level do you expect me to answer? The objective? If so, I became a writer because it looked like easy money. But that won’t look well in your PhD thesis, so let us try the subjective approach.
On this level, I became a writer because I suffered the early conditioning of the Unconscious that makes writers. That is to say, my Oedipus Complex was further complicated by the Warmfläsche-reaktion.
You know how this works. Think of the Infantile World as a Huge Bed; on one side lies Mum, on the other side lies Dad, and in the middle is Baby Bunting. The normal thing, of course, is for B.B. to work out his Oedipus Complex; he wants to kill Dad and mate with Mum – thereby fitting himself for some normal occupation like the Civil Service. But sometimes B.B., for reasons still unknown to science, turns from Mum and snuggles up to Dad who quite understandably shoves B.B. down to the bottome of the bed and warms his feet on him as if he were a hot-water bottle (or Warmfläsche). Thus, in the very dawn of his existence, B.B. acquires that down-trodden cast of mind that marks the writer.
Very often Dad kicks B.B. right out of bed onto the bold linoleum, bringing about that sense of Utter Rejection which turns B.B. into a critic.
I can hardly wait to read your thesis.
Samuel Marchbanks (your topic)
– Robertson Davies
Samuel Marchbanks’ Almanack, p. 135