Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Mixed Metaphors

‘ “Any message I can give him, if he turns up?”

“Yes. You can tell him I am going to break his neck.”

“Break his neck?”

“Yes. Are you deaf? Break his neck.”

I nodded pacifically.

“I see. Break his neck. Right. And if he asks why?”

“He knows why. Because he is a butterfly who toys with women’s hearts and throws them away like soiled gloves.”

“Right ho.” I hadn’t any notion that that was what butterflies did. Most interesting. “Well, I’ll let him know if I run across him.” '

-- P. G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters, chap. 6

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tyranny of the Page Number

Have you ever experienced the tyranny of the page number? I have—often! I most often am caught in its trap while reading a non-fiction title, but it sometimes manifests itself even in the pages of a storybook.

The trouble usually starts when a vague uncomfortable feeling creeps upon me while reading a particularly interesting passage. It would be nice to stop and think about it, and yet, my eyes begin to skim faster and faster over the page. I begin to feel boxed in—helpless in the grip of words. My breaths become shallow; if I don’t stop and come up for air soon, I know I’ll be sick. And yet, the page number drives me on. There are only a few short chapters left. Those troubling passages can be thought out later. Those mysterious word definitions can wait. If only I reach the end soon, I’ll be able to cross another thing off my list. Is this what drowning feels like?

If only I could find a way to keep my eyes down to a reasonable rate of speed. Maybe then I’d be able to truly learn.

If only I could learn to equate time well spent with lessons learned, to be able to spend time savoring the pleasure of a well-turned phrase. Why is it that the page number still drives me on?

This is the problem that plagues me. This is the malady of a bibliophile.

Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis
By Terry W. Glaspey

Negligible as a biography, the strength of this book is in its concise collection of Lewis’ thought. It is a very helpful overview for those who have not yet read many of his books.

Not a Tame Lion is divided into three major sections entitled “His Life”, “His Thought”, and “His Legacy”. Of the three, the second was the most beneficial to me. The author takes a set subject, such as pain, and summarizes Lewis’ view, frequently quoting directly from the source.

Having grown up hearing C.S. Lewis quoted almost to the exclusion of other worthy Christian authors, even in secular settings, I often wondered why he became such a popular writer. I think I understand now. He has an amazing ability to explain complicated issues in a simple way that anyone can understand. His talent for finding new ways to illustrate God’s truth is a gift that not many writers have.

Terry Glaspey has awakened in me a desire to read more of Lewis’ books for myself, thus admirably accomplishing his stated goal.

Many thanks to friend Peter for the loan of his book!

Monday, June 19, 2006

*****This just in*****

Little brother has a blog. Check it out here for the latest in adventure and mystery. ;-)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Does anyone know the correct way to format footnotes/references in HTML?

The only reason my previous post has those little numbers is because I found a little snippet of HTML on the web. Obviously they're not completely right! I need to find out how to link the numbers to the reference below.

Any help would be appreciated!

Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers

The phrase “gaudy night” is not unique to Dorothy Sayers. Shakespeare employed it in “Antonius and Cleopatra”: “Let’s have one other gaudy night: call to me All my sad captains; fill our bowls once more; Let’s mock the midnight bell.”1

However, Ms. Sayers’ usage is unique in that her title turns on an uncommon meaning of the word “gaudy”. It refers to a celebratory dinner held at Oxford in honor of its alumni. 2She may also be hinting at the Middle English origins of the word, which refer to a prank or trick.3

Although the cover proclaims the book to be “A Lord Peter Wimsey Novel”, the story actually focuses on an investigation led by Harriet Vane. It is not until the last third of the novel that Lord Peter becomes an actively major character.

I say “actively”, because a recurring theme throughout the novel is Harriet’s dilemma of what to do about Peter. It has been five years since he saved her life in Strong Poison, and throughout those years he has persistently proposed marriage to her in every possible way. Just as persistently, she has refused him. And yet he just won’t give up.

As the book begins, Harriet is a bitter, defensive, selfish person trapped by her past. Gradually, she begins to change. She begins to be observant, to focus on someone other that herself, to realize the falsity of her assumptions, and to see the value of Peter’s friendship. Some of the book’s most poignant passages occur at these points.

It is hard to decide whether the love story or the mystery itself comprises the subplot.

The big problem in re the mystery is who is responsible for an obscene reign of terror that has plagued Shrewsbury women’s college, Oxford, ever since the gaudy Harriet attends at the beginning of the book. What seems to be an annoying rash of anonymous letters and destructive pranks turns sinister when it becomes obvious that murder may soon enter the picture.

Things begin to get rather tense with suspicions and nerves running high, and Harriet finds that she cannot handle the case on her own.
For the first time, she feels her need for Peter–and he is not there.

There are several very unsatisfactory elements in the story. The first is Lord Peter’s frank admission that “I have nothing much in the way of religion, or even morality.”4 This is hardly remedied by his subsequent statement that “I do recognize a code of behavior of sorts.”5 And yet, this fictional character is perhaps more honest in this admission than many people today who claim religion but whose lives do not bear evident fruit.

The second unsatisfactory element is the book’s strong feministic overtones. It is hard to tell whether this expresses the author’s true philosophy or whether she is merely using it to her advantage in this story dominated by education and women.

Finally, most unsatisfactory is the ultimate end of the captured criminal: medical rehabilitation. This is not a Biblical method of dealing with obscenity, destruction of property, slander, and attempted murder. “Madness” does not excuse one from the penalty of one’s sin.

Despite these faults, I still found this book completely enthralling, and believe it was worth reading. One thing I especially like about Ms. Sayers’ writing is the frequent references she made to other literature within her books, such as the Bible, Shakespeare, and Edmund Spenser. It gives one a pleasant feeling of knowledge if you happen to be familiar with a passage, and if not, you are spurred on to learn where it came from. If all the references and quotations were meant to be understood by the average reader, then Sayers lived in a much more literate time than our own.

1.Shakespeare, “Antonius and Cleopatra” XI,11, 225, cited in “Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night, annotated by Bill Peschel”,

2.Compact Oxford English Dictionary of Current English,

3.The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition,

4.Sayers, Dorothy L. Gaudy Night (Harper & Row, 1936), 465

5.Ibid., 465

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers

“I just couldn’t put it down” has become cliched—and yet, in this case it’s completely true. This is the first time in my recollection that a book has totally gripped my attention and caused me to identify with a character in a tight spot, wondering with wide eyes and racing heart what will happen next.

Just what is it that makes this mystery so captivating? There are many contributing factors: a tight plot, fast paced writing, clever use of repetitive elements (e.g. roses in chap. 1), witty dialogue… and Lord Peter Wimsey. This last is Ms. Sayers’ triumph. In creating Lord Peter, she has combined detective and English gentleman into a thoroughly believable and charming protagonist. Much of this charm is contained in the dialogue. Wimsey has a whimsical habit of interspersing snippets of classic literature throughout his conversation in creative, and often obscure, ways. (In the first few chapters, several fragments from Alice in Wonderland are used.)

The book begins at court during a murder trial. Harriet Vane, mystery writer, is accused of poisoning her lover after a quarrel. As she has been proven to have arsenic in her possession (ostensibly as part of her research for a novel), all present expect a quick conviction. However, the jury comes to an impasse and a mistrial is declared.

Lord Peter, convinced of Harriet’s innocence, determines to conduct his own investigation. He must find the true murderer, establish a motive and provide evidence…all in thirty short days. Will he be able to do it?

  • This book contains some unsavoury elements: mild language, implied fornication, and a séance.
  • An interesting study would be to learn whether the presence of sin in a book necessarily makes it sinful. I think not, considering Biblical narratives. However, one must draw the line somewhere.
  • Questions to ask when encountering passages such as mentioned above: How does the author portray the sin? As attractive and permissible? Or does he write from a Christian perspective, showing sin for what it is: an offense against God and something to be shunned?
  • A unique proposal: “What I mean to say is, when this is all over, I want to marry you, if you can put up with me and all that.” (Lord Peter to Harriet Vane)

Sunday, June 11, 2006


...she had got her mood onto paper-- and this is the release that all writers, even the feeblest, seek for as men seek for love; and, having found it, they doze off happily into dreams and trouble their hearts no further. -Dorothy Sayers, Gaudy Night p.229

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Nine Tailors:Changes Rung on an Old Theme in Two Short Touches and Two Full Peals by Dorothy L. Sayers

This is the first full length Sayers novel I have read. At first glance it seemed rather unpromising, with its cryptic chapter titles and pages full of the odd vocabulary of campanology. (i.e. bell ringing)

However, my doubts were quickly dispelled as I discovered an exciting story set in a small church parish of rural England.

After a peaceful introduction, a mysterious body is found buried in someone else’s grave. Lord Peter Wimsey is called upon to give his expert advice as a detective, and thus begins a fascinating investigation which, after many twists and turns in plot, leads to a completely surprising ending.

An interesting feature of Ms. Sayers’ writing is the fact that often she takes the time to describe a scene which at the moment seems superfluous, but in the end is pivotal. None of her description is extraneous. Her stories are evidently very well thought out and researched, as well as well written.

This book joins G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday as one of my favorite mysteries.

Lord Peter : A collection of short stories by Dorothy Sayers

My interest in the writings of Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was piqued several years ago after reading an essay she had written on classical education. ("The Lost Tools of Learning") However, I did not follow up this interest until recently when I discovered that she was a contemporary scholar and associate of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, two authors whom I highly admire. A Christian apologist, playwright and author, she is best known for her detective fiction.

I approached these mysteries tentatively, knowing the reputation the genre has for sensationalism and general gruesomeness, but I was pleased to find the stories exceptionally well written and tactful. Yes, the majority of the cases concern murder, but the focus is not so much on the sin as on the unraveling of clues leading to the criminal being brought to justice.

“Lord Peter” of the title is our aristocratic detective – an unlikely hero sporting a monocle and an innocently ignorant air. He ingeniously solves puzzle after puzzle using his extraordinary powers of observation as well as his understanding of human nature.

These are not stories I would recommend for the young reader, due to the sometimes-disturbing subject matter. (At times rather too dark for my tastes) However, for the mature reader, these are highly entertaining and even intellectual fare: how many authors would subject their readers to paragraphs on end of untranslated French --- or even to such words as “bibulous”, “piscatorial” and “ampelopsis”?!

Purpose Statement

The purpose of this blog is to discuss, study, and comment on a subject near to my heart: the reading of good books. As I do this, I desire to speak, without apology, from an expressly Christian perspective.
As a Christian, every area of my life is subject to the rule of Christ, and I desire to continually grow in this direction. It is my hope that my readers will be inspired to explore more deeply the world of literature, and to learn to see all that they read through the eyes of sacred Scripture.

A corollary purpose of this blog is the improvement of my writing skills. Feeling the extra pressure of a public forum should be a good incentive towards achieving this goal.

This blog is not intended as a random catch-all for meaningless thoughts, or as a laundry-list description of my life. However, be forewarned that I may occasionally stray off-subject!

I welcome comments, (Preferring a dialogue to a monologue!) but of course reserve the right to delete them when the occasion requires.

As you can see, I have rather lofty aspirations for this new venture. But, being only human, and a rather reticent, reserved one at that, it will be an uphill climb. So please bear with me!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10, English Standard Version