Paul Davies, Toronto, Canada. These pages are a summary of my career as a writer, book designer, and systems designer, first coded for Lynx in 1993, then as a web page in 1997. It's much abbreviated now because I'm no longer self-employed — in fact, no longer employed. I've retired recently.
My Instagram name is pwyll.dafydd (my Welsh name because there are so many users with the same English name) where I am active daily, but am little active on Twitter, Facebook, or other social media. For a career summary, I have a profile at LinkedIn. You can send an email here.
A list of my fiction titles appears further down on this page, along with some newspaper and magazine reviews.
SYBIL TAWSE (1886–1971)
In April 2021 I began work on a new project, to collect painted book illustrations by Sybil Tawse into an online gallery, from my own library.
The pages are here at www.pauldavies.net, with an active mask as www.SybilTawse.info. The gallery currently contains 182 colour plates, 223 illustrations in ink, and 50 cover and dustwrapper images from 29 books, along with 38 documentary images.
The images on www.SybilTawse.info are generally 520 pixels wide for use with hand-held devices as well as laptop and desktop. The webpages have a minimum of ornament and use no special scripts. I've also saved the illustrations on boards at Pinterest at 1000 pixels wide, username PwyllDafydd (my Welsh name, as I note above).
I am happy to announce two new reprint editions of my fiction. You Can't Be Gone reissues my novel Pig Iron with its original working title. Dialogues and Conversations reprints A Dialogue for Five Voices, Joe Ironstone: A Drama for Radio, Exactly 12¢ and Other Convictions, and stories from Oblique Litanies, with a new piece, All the Realms.
Both are available at low cost from Amazon, stocked in paper in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K., and for Kindle everywhere.
You Can't Be Gone at Amazon.com or Canada or U.K.
Dialogues and Conversations at Amazon.com or Canada or U.K.
The Tibetan sadhana and prayer texts I've produced are shown at the bottom of this page. Here is a Tibetan prayer flag heavy with Tibetan-Sanskrit, with illustrations of the five dignities. The typesetting entailed many days of intensive work; which a good friend followed with the very difficult job of screen printing a 30 x 44 inch stencil on cotton in one piece.
My Cornish language lexicon was closed in January 2009 after ten years of operation. You are still welcome to write if I can help with your house names and whatnot. The Victorian-era sources from which I created the resource were suddenly available in searchable facsimiles at Google Books, and the more relevant Cornish Language Board sources are protected by copyright and could not be adapted by me into a web-database format.
A note about Jeff Nuttall: In 1975 I was published two books by Jeff Nuttall, the first his moving eulogy called ' The Anatomy of My Father's Corpse,' and then a lengthy collage piece called 'The House Party.' Jeff was happy enough with 'Anatomy,' but for me it had been produced with extreme economy as my business was getting into difficulty. In 1985 I re-did the artwork for 'Anatomy' and was satisfied with it then, and printed 125 copies not-for-sale for Jeff to give to his friends; unfortunately all but three copies printed were lost in an incident.
I recently donated an archive of Nuttall original typescripts to The John Rylands Library at University of Manchester, and gave the library one of the three surving paper copies. That day I had the idea that I could exactly re-create my 1985 artwork (done with a Compugraphic photosetter then) and, being the original publisher, I have made that available in Kindle priced at $2 U.S. The book is a worthy read.
Please see The Anatomy of My Father's Corpse at the Amazon.com Kindle store. In the course of creating this facsimile, I realized what I could have done in 1975 with Jeff's much larger book 'The House Party' that might've saved my company from financial failure. It was so simple, but I didn't think of it.
Paul Davies was employed in writing, commercial art, publishing, consulting, business management, and computer programming and application design for forty-eight years.
Born in Vancouver, Paul came to Toronto in 1970 to study baroque music at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Taking an interest in typography, Paul studied Book Arts at night after completing high school; founding an antiquarian bookselling business in 1971 (the youngest person ever admitted to the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers). In 1974, Paul began a craft publishing enterprise, Basilike, featuring the work of English authors prominent in the 1930s and 40s. A significant financial failure on account of youth and inexperience, Paul's publishing archive is now at the University of Alberta, and was the topic of a non-thesis Master of Library Science project in 1981. Paul was invited to write a memoir of this project which was published by Carleton University Press in 1987.
In the late 1970s, Paul attended the University of Toronto in mathematics, while assisting his older brother to establish Aya Press at the start, then which his brother made a successful small press publishing house and operated for eight years. Over this time Paul spent his summers as a motorcycle racer, and was also a volunteer broadcaster for the Canadian Radio Reading Service. Subsequently, Paul held management positions in purchasing, merchandising, and distribution for a division of Polygram Records, managing a staff of twenty-five.
In 1981, Paul found employment in Calgary, Alberta, where for four years he was engaged as a research analyst and technical writer in frontier oil and gas. His major project was the data synthesis and writing of the Resource Management Plan for Lancaster Sound Region Hydrocarbon Development, a four-year, $1.2 million technical and environmental study under the direction of Dr. A.E. Pallister, O.C., in support of an application to drill an oil well offshore in the High Arctic (where Paul spent 48 weeks in field work). Other projects included the 1984 East Coast Petroleum Operators' safety study; principal staff writer for a frontier oil and gas industry magazine, APOA Review; and co-editing a bibliography of northern development, among other publications. As well, Paul's employer was a vendor of research documents, with hundreds of titles in print, and Paul administered the company's substantial print budget, preparing and designing a large number of publications. Paul studied part-time at the University of Calgary in mathematics and drama as his intensive schedule permitted. In his spare time Paul was active in pistol shooting competition, achieving Alberta provincial ranking in ISU Centre-Fire events.
Returning to Toronto in 1985, Paul was retained for a joint government-industry undertaking to conceive and implement an automated system for type and art for book manufacturing. This project was successfully completed, and enjoyed good publicity. Paul moved his business to a big country house in Frontenac County, Ontario, for two years, on a small hobby farm where he grew berries. Over the following twelve years under a concurrent book arts contract, Paul designed and produced more than one thousand trade and scholarly books, designed and implemented a second substantial computer production system for legal books, and won six national design awards. As well, Paul taught at Ryerson Polytechnical University for two years in computing methods for publishing, enjoying active recreational interests in opera, musical theatre, and pottery. Also at this time, in addition to travel in Europe, Paul survived a gruelling seven-week overland trek along the Kathmandu Road through Tibet and Nepal.
Starting to write creative fiction on mythic themes in 1991, Paul published ten books over the following nine years with prominent Ontario and Quebec small presses. Paul's eleventh book, Some Sunny Day, a novella, was published in 2005 by Insomniac Press in Toronto, and was No. 1 sales rank in "Experimental Fiction" at Amazon.ca for fourteen months.
In 1997, Paul returned to the University of Toronto on a part-time basis, studying Latin grammar and semeiotics, while working freelance doing website development and Flash programming, certified as a Java solution provider. In 2000, Paul became project manager at a prominent Toronto systems manufacturer, where he created and developed online applications for global trade under the direction of the late Rajiv Manucha, P.Eng. — in particular a compliance system for controlled goods export, which helps prevent bad agents from unlawfully purchasing defense trade or other sensitive items items for their purposes. These products are widely subscribed around the world, and for which work Paul travelled extensively each year in the United States and Northern Europe participating in conferences and seminars. In 2013 Paul and a co-developer were awarded a U.S. Patent for a component technology, then a second U.S. Patent in 2017 for a security technology. Paul retired from this occupation in late 2019.
Paul has dedicated much time to Vajrayana, a meditation practice in Tibetan Buddhism, and is privileged
and grateful to have attended several retreats with HH The Dalai Lama, Kyabgön Phakchok Rinpoche, Venerable Khenpo
Sonam Rinpoche, Thích Nhất Hạnh, and other distinguished teachers. In 2005, Paul put together a high-quality Tibetan
language typesetter, and over the following twelve years produced thirty-eight Sadhana practice texts and prayer books
in Tibetan, English transliteration, and English translation, published by Riwoche Society [see below], edited
and produced a further six books of commentary in English, and also made some large Tibetan and Tibetan-Sanskrit prayer flags [enlarge in Acrobat to read].
Books published by Paul James Davies
John Lehmann, The Reader at Night 1974
Amazon.com Author Central Literary Biography
These books are remembrances, confessions, apologies, explanations, and complaints. They all arose from a single event which took place twenty-two years before any of them were written. Walking out in the early morning sun one day at midsummer in 1969, I was overcome with a tremendous resonance. It was a song, the Song of Amergin, which haunted me every day thereafter and (I discovered) brought me the memory of experiences long past. I tell this story in Exactly 12 cents and other convictions. I tell people now I could swim in those waters and not drown, but, while that may have been the case later, I struggled for many years before I began to understand its process. The essentials of that struggle I tell with added pathos in The Truth; later all the remembrances in a single stream in Some Sunny Day, both of which sold well and were well-received critically. As were Grace: A Story my most engaging book, I think, which enjoyed a college course adoption in the U.S., and my first collection Oblique Litanies: Nine Conversations and an Afterthought.
I'm grateful to have had many insightful reviews in magazines and newspapers over the years, from many distinguished critics. There's always one or two who don't like some particular book, of course. A well-known poet used to come out for each of my books, to stone me in one of the Halifax papers, but I was happy for his attention also. Oh, I will add one retort for the reviewer of The Truth in The Toronto Star: Yes, if you own a 1957 Pontiac you can start it up on a cold January morning in Alberta by blowing in the carburetor. A hair dryer would have been better, mind you.
The only one of my books that did not have any good reviews to speak of was Pig Iron, a story in several voices written for film.* Another, A Dialogue for Five Voices, was not reviewed, apart from a passing notice in The Globe and Mail. It is not a remembrance of the past, but of the future, stirred by someone I knew years ago. My friend was among the soldiers trapped and starving on the mountainside for many months during the siege of Monte Cassino. He only volunteered a few words to me. The episodes of this career could not be told.
A memory of my own future, the episodes of my life now as it happens. The song still resonates, but one finds oneself so much older so very suddenly, and out in the cold somewhat. The conversations cannot continue. I am assured at least that my experience creating this writing — the journey, if you like — was the maximum possible that the activity as a category can provide.
I've had worse than this, mind you. I was a school patrol on December 15 1964, in Grade 6 at Crestwood Elementary School in Edmonton, Alberta, the day it was colder than it had ever been before, or has ever been since. The radio announcer didn't say "Crestwood" reading his list of school closures, so my friend Grant and I went on our way, fulfilling our duty at the 96th Avenue crosswalk along the way, unaware that thousands of beef cattle were that moment freezing solid on their feet in their shelters. The blizzard raged with much snow, high winds, and bitter cold. I saw on the front page of the Edmonton Journal that evening, delivered by another boy indifferent to the crisis, a chart showing the windchill temperature of -90°F. Back then the transit bench by the crosswalk on 96th Avenue was painted with the slogan "Rest and Read the Journal", but there was no one relaxing there with the newspaper that day.
Oblique Litanies: Nine Conversations and an Afterthought. ECW Press, 1992
Exactly 12¢ and other convictions. ECW Press, 1994
The Wreck of the Apollo. ECW Press, 1994
Dropping the Chase: The Thirteen Enigmas of the Goddess annotated with Thirteen Stories and a Complaint. ECW Press, 1995
Grace: A Story. ECW Press, 1996
Gelignite Jack. Véhicule Press, 1996
Joe Ironstone: A Drama for Radio. ECW Press, 1997
A Dialogue for Five Voices. ECW Press, 1997
The Truth. Insomniac Press, 1999
Some Sunny Day. Insomniac Press, 2005
You Can't Be Gone. Basilike, 2020
Dialogues and Conversations. Basilike, 2020
Covers and more about my books can be found in the
Writing section of this portfolio.
* Pig Iron is now reissued in a new edition with it's working title, You Can't Be Gone. A novel in several voices, it is in many ways the most
meaningful of my books to me. The story is a complaint about my experience of Christianity, although I did not have the schadenfreude to make that objective plain when it was first
published. The person in the novel is trying to make up a failing to someone else, when they've already forgiven him. What he can't do is forgive himself. In life this was my father
attempting to reconcile his angst
when his wife, my mother, passed away in 1961, leaving him behind.
"The title of this novella [Some Sunny Day] comes from 'We'll Meet Again,' a melancholy WWII song that promises that two lovers will reunite, even when both of them know that death is more likely. The book is about finding the promise of reunion fulfilled, not in this life, but in the next, or perhaps the next after that. The book is a series of vignettes — some almost short-story length, some only a few paragraphs. Each vignette introduces us to another life during another period in history. The vignettes move around geographically too; some take place in Tibet, some Ireland, some the United States and Canada. The real beauty of this book is that the author is able to pull off the voices of so many different women (and a few men) of many different ages and make them sound believable. There are a few false notes — the characters in the opening and closing sequences are somewhat flat and cliché — but overall, the different narrators make each of their stories intriguing. Although the publisher's website calls this book 'a death diary,' it is richer and more complex than that. Most of the stories are from the point of view of someone near or just after death and are a life review. Many speak about their wholes lives and some focus on a thwarted or lost love that came later in life. There are many religious references, including a very clever piece about the Greek gods in a sort of purgatory, but the dominant theme is derived more from Buddhism. The order (a reverse chronology until the end piece) and substance of the vignettes suggest that one person is being reborn again and again. I did not find this to be a true 'death diary,' especially since it ended on the positive note of renewal. It was more a diary of many lives, nearly all of them fascinating and well-worth at least one read, if not two." (Christine Hamm, Online Magazine review of Some Sunny Day)
"The casual simplicity of style is an apt vehicle for a keen postmodern intelligence. This clean style and simply-rendered urban spirituality brings to mind Banana Yoshimoto's Kitchen of a few years back. Davies manner also resembles a reigned-in Kurt Vonnegut. Davies as a fiction writer deserves a medal for restraint. Truth is, this is one engaging, unique, yet utterly readable book. I'll buy the next installment of Davies's life, fiction or not." (Bill Gaston, The Globe and Mail, on The Truth)
"From a well-traveled, much-published (nine books) Canadian writer, who has tried his hand at a bewildering number of careers, comes a candid, intelligent and splendidly droll little autobiographical novel. In 108 short chapters, or 'thoughts,' the nameless protagonist recounts his meandering life from birth in 1954 to middle-age, assuming the roles of, variously, a musician, book designer, motorcycle racer and mathematician. In his mid-20s, after abandoning his first successful incarnation as an antiquarian bookseller, he embarks on a quest to find meaning in his life, and in 1978 begins a friendship with cult figure Lobsang, an English plumber miraculously transformed into a self-styled Tibetan mystic. The narrator's subsequent travels include stops all over Canada, odysseys to the U.K. and the U.S. and an expedition near Baffin Bay in the High Arctic, but his culminating adventure is his quest for his great love, Gabrielle, a dancer in musical theater, which goes tantalizingly unrealized until the novel's bittersweet denouement. Davies's hero, a modern-day hybrid of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, jousts at scores of life's windmills, but he pokes fun at himself along the way, almost always avoiding the spiritual sponginess that is the hazard of the book's theme. In short, sharp sentences, Davies gives an ironic yet affectionate account of a nomadic, self-searching life. Readers will be left wondering what this New Age Renaissance man will come up with next." (U.S. Publishers Weekly, on The Truth)
"The term Renaissance Man is often applied to those who dabble in just two or three different fields. But what else can you call someone who's formally studied music, higher mathematics, and graphic design and worked as a typesetter, technical writer, music marketeer, oil and gas industry consultant, antiquarian bookseller, cartoonist, and even computer programmer? Meet Paul Davies." (Quill & Quire, biographical profile 1989)
"Using ironic juxtaposition, Davies knits incidents with epiphanies. I nominate [Davies] for late night radio guru he always writes with a whimsical, indeed, lovable voice." (Canadian Book Review Annual, on Oblique Litanies)
"Books like [Oblique Litanies] are rare, and we should have more of them. Davies is a tangential conversationalist, and these pieces have many angles." (Geist)
A "journal account of a late 18th-century shipwreck, narrated by the ship's second officer. The book is especially well-designed and by the time you've finished reading it you've been simply but thoroughly satisfied." (The Toronto Star, on The Wreck of the Apollo)
"The text [of Exactly 12¢ and other convictions] deftly evokes the monumental significance of small things to children and youths, and the heady feeling of building an inner world within a newly discovered shared culture of like-minded people." (Paragraph)
"[An] existential who-done-it stories that, in sum, carry Gelignite Jack's dominant narrative and collectively constitute one of the most ingenious compact pieces of detective fiction." (Books in Canada)
"For a seven-week period in 1991, Paul Davies and a group of fellow travelers journeyed through south-central Tibet. That trek was the inspiration for these stories, which are presented as annotations to the 13 enigmas of the Goddess contained in the Book of Leacan. The stories seamlessly blend historical commentary with vivid evocations. [T]his beautifully produced book abounds with dry amiable humour.... The author of Oblique Litanies, The Wreck of the Apollo, and Exactly 12¢ and other convictions has in these elegant marvels of concision proven once again that less is more." (Canadian Book Review Annual, on Dropping the Chase)
"Davies' volume is [small] and poetic. [S]traightforward and subtle written almost as an extended postcard from China, the sections are [annotations to] the enigmas of the Goddess figure, written in 10th-century Ireland. A strange and compelling short travelogue, there are levels and heights here I haven't quite figured out yet." (Ottawa XPress, on Dropping the Chase)
"I applaud [Davies'] boldness [Grace and Dropping the Chase] display a remarkable refusal to be constrained by earlier assumptions about the plausible and the acceptable. They possess a haunting quality I suspect will be with me for a long time." (W.J. Keith)
"Grace: A Story by Paul Davies is an engaging, interesting, and implausible combination of historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, with didactic elements from comparative mythology and elsewhere ... [A] real and particular mind and talent are at work in this book. The book is ambitious in its metaphysics. Paul Davies has a good feeling for the incongruities of juxtaposing ancient and modern times; in this he reminds me of E. Nesbit, Charles Williams, and C.S. Lewis. Davies wisely (more wisely than Milton) keeps all eminences except Xenophon off stage. It is odd for a book to join, as this does, such a good sense of humour and such sententiousness." (Books in Canada)
"Grace: A Story packs an existential punch and enriches readers with a technical knockout exquisitely well-crafted, illuminated with wit, compassion, and warmth. Hallelujah!" (Judith Fitzgerald)
"Grace is enchanting, and I use that word precisely." (Philip W. Leon)
"This ingeniously structured book comprises three thematically linked stories .... Taken as a whole, the book is both an expression and celebration of storytelling and the endurance of the oral tradition. Readers who embrace Gelignite Jack on its own terms will be amply rewarded." (Canadian Book Review Annual)
"Decidedly enigmatic but very intriguing ... offered confidently in a factual take-it-or-leave-it fashion that worked so far as I was concerned. Easily [Davies'] best yet." (W.J. Keith, on Gelignite Jack)
"Davies possesses a probing intelligence with insights and ideas." (Quill & Quire, on Gelignite Jack)
"Certain to be a 'sleeper' hit." (Missing Jacket, on Gelignite Jack)
"A journey from youthful dreams to adulthood and old age which gains power as it goes along." (Montreal Mirror, on Gelignite Jack)
"This radio play evokes a more innocent time in the history of Canada's favourite sport. The attitudes of players, managers, fans, family, and the press are well articulated in this terse and effective drama. Joe and his teammates are depicted as thoughtful human beings, as athletes not yet bloated to the size of media superstars." (Canadian Book Review Annual, on Joe Ironstone)
Tibetan language texts, many Paul transcribed from mediaeval Umê script, all
composed in modern Uchen and transliterated with English translation, published by the Riwoche Society (2005 through 2015).
Thirty-eight books have been completed.