Advanced Reading Copy on request: Hard Cover Limited Edition available in May 2014
Blurb by John Robert Colombo
It was the late Robertson Davies, the first Master of Massey College, who established the tradition of composing a short story to celebrate the advent of the Christmas season and to deliver it as part of the banquet held for members of the College and the University of Toronto community. The occasion is known as a "gaudy" or a "merry-making." The first Master’s stories were ghost stories, and the tradition continues, wittily and eerily, with the present collection of short stories which were written and delivered by John Fraser, the College’s fourth Master. The present collection is titled The Master’s Menagerie and it consists of eighteen stories which were delivered between 1995 and 2013 by the Master himself. (In earlier incarnations John Fraser was a well-known journalist, a widely travelled correspondent, a respected authority on ballet, an "old China hand," an anthologist, and a fiction writer.) The tone of the stories may be described as "delightfully donnish," being light-hearted and charming in themselves and revealing of the foibles of academicians of all ages. Here is how one of these stories characteristically begins: "So here I am. Again. And here are many of you. Again." — John Robert Colombo
John Fraser was elected the 4th Master of Massey College in the University of Toronto in 1995. He is the author of 10 works of non-fiction and two of fiction. As a journalist, he has been published in most of the leading newspapers and magazines of the English-speaking world and has also been a contributor to nearly 20 anthologies. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Elizabeth MacCallum, and they have three daughters.
When he was first elected Master of Massey College at the University of Toronto, John Fraser faced a dilemma. Each December, the college hosted a festive "Gaudy Night"—an entertainment for the wider college community—and he had no idea what he could offer. The first Master, Robertson Davies, convinced several generations of the brightest graduate students in Canada that the college was haunted and during his 18 years at the helm of the outstandingly successful interdisciplinary graduate college, there were exactly 18 hauntings, all famously reported on Gaudy Night. Fraser soon discovered that "this magical house" also was home to a wide variety of non-human entities with whom, either through Jungian synchronicity or empathetic whimsy, he could make contact. The result: these delightful "bedtime stories suitable for adult ears." From Matilda the Duck who hung out in the college’s quadrangle and communed with Master Davies to Great Bull—the massive heraldic beast surmounting the college’s main gate— here is a menagerie to delight all ages from a master story-teller in the tradition of his mentors, Davies, and the delightful Scottish author, Alexander McCall Smith, who has contributed a charming Ode in Fraser’s honour to start the collection off in a festive flourish.
Other covers by Charles Pachter: