The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

23 October 2013

Of conundrums and squirrels

This is why  my list of books I'd like to read 'some day' is so long: I may have perfectly good and reasonable intentions of reading one particular book, but another one catches my eye, like a bright and shiny squirrel, too tempting to resist. All the while I'm telling myself, "this will just take a day or two, then I promise you, Cardinal Newman, or Dante, that I will get right back to you, because I really do want to read your book."

You know what happens next, don't you, Reader?

That's right: another bright and shiny squirrel entices me further away from the book of my intention.
Woe to me.

Sometimes, though, the bright and shiny squirrel actually turns out to be a treasure, and such is the case with Conundrums for the Long Week-End: England, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Lord Peter Wimsey by Robert Kuhn McGregor, with Ethan Lewis. Regular visitors to the Lighthouse will know that I have a particular fondness for the detective stories of Dorothy L. Sayers, and that Peter Wimsey is my literary hero of choice. He is, in fact, very near my ideal man.

A book about Lord Peter, then, is nigh impossible to resist. What makes this book so delightful is that it combines a history of England between the World Wars with a biography of Sayers, a literary criticism of the Wimsey novels, and a chart of the development of Wimsey from first to last novel. Fascinating. It was good fun to survey the eleven Wimsey novels in context with history, to have the development of style and intent explained, and to see the chronology of author and character together.

I would always wish for more, that the Wimsey story continued. As McGregor and Lewis point out, however, he was thoroughly a man of his time, and his time came to an end with the Second World War. To take Lord Peter into the modern era would be to turn him into an anachronism. Dorothy L. Sayers respected the integrity of her man (and her art) enough to let him go.

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