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Wednesday Not Really Reading

This is going to be basically a placeholder; I haven't gotten any further in The Aerodrome because I came down with something over the weekend and have been loath to leave the house. So I've mostly been just laying around watching Doctor Who (and a series of Low-Key Country Vet Adventures, thanks, lost_spook!) and drifting into comfort reading, most recently The Nine Tailors, which may be Dorothy Sayers' nerdiest detective novel? It's hard to quantify these things, but probably!

The Nine Tailors is not to everyone's taste, partly because it is about 90% infodumping about bells, marsh drainage, and church architecture, but I'm enjoying it even more than I did the first time I read it. It has what I think is Sayers' best plot twist, [Not a very specific spoiler, but a spoiler nonetheless]and probably the best iteration of that "detective as angel of death" thing she likes, plus my very favorite instance of Wimsey's acute Sam Beckett Syndrome, when he meets a change-ringing enthusiast and suddenly remembers that he has also been a change-ringing enthusiast all along! How terribly convenient!

Edmund Wilson's description of The Nine Tailors in his investigation into the elusive appeal of crime fiction (warning: major spoilers for every element of the plot!) is pretty much totally accurate, except that I loved it and he didn't. I don't know; if you can't find anything to enjoy about two strangers suddenly bursting into animated conversation about the particulars of English change-ringing, then you just can't, I guess.

It remains to be seen whether I'll make it out to the library to finish The Aerodrome this week. I'm much better now, but after days of watching optimistic space-time adventures, likable dogs pulling through against the odds, and thoroughly unapologetic Church of England dorkiness, I am disinclined to head straight back to Creeping Fascism Satire Land, where the tea is always cold and the women are all symbolic.

ETA: I finished The Aerodrome after all. It makes a good companion piece to all the aspirational Englishness above. I'm still not totally sure what to make of it, but the Air Vice-Marshall is brilliantly awful and I loved how the initial mysterious-parentage plot just keeps escalating as more and more convolutions are revealed. The narrator, Roy, is barely a character, more of a machine for pushing the plot along, but that's almost certainly deliberate. I'll probably have a little more to say on The Aerodrome next week.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
lolmac
Aug. 12th, 2015 08:35 pm (UTC)
Huh -- so Edmund Wilson waves off Lord Peter as a "dreadful stock English nobleman of the casual and debonair kind", skims the book because he loathes Wimsey, and then complains that he lost the point and it was zomg dull.

He starts with this book, and it's the only Sayers work he ever reads. Based on it -- in fact, based on his skim-reading of a work in which he dismissed everything as tropes -- he declares that her writing sucks.

I have no sympathy for him.

I also note that he seems to give far greater credence to the writing of any male novelist, as opposed to, in his own words, "any of these ladies". None of it, however, is sufficient to overcome his bias that detective stories are Not Literary Enough to be worth reading; in further evidence of this, he points at the amazing fact that when he sneers at people who read them, they get defensive about their "vice". Aha! See, they know they're reading crap!

Oy.
evelyn_b
Aug. 12th, 2015 09:49 pm (UTC)
Isn't it the worst? I love how by the second essay he's not even pretending any more to be reading in good faith; it's just "I skipped everything that looked like it was going to bore me, but I was still bored out of my mind!" Yet he still manages to read just enough to spoil all his readers for one of my favorite plot twists. Oh, Edmund Wilson.

And I can't think of a less apt description of Golden Age detective novels than his conclusion to the first essay: ". . .and then, suddenly, the mur­derer is spotted, and—relief!—he is not, after all, a person like you or me." Edmund Wilson could be very insightful about the things he liked, but his hate is remarkably sloppy.

I also note that he seems to give far greater credence to the writing of any male novelist, as opposed to, in his own words, "any of these ladies".

A striking coincidence. . . or is it? (probably not).

As for "the aw­ful whimsical patter of Lord Peter," he really has no idea. NO IDEA. Nine Tailors Peter is at his most subdued! It may be for the best that Wilson didn't try to read any more.

Edited at 2015-08-12 09:54 pm (UTC)
osprey_archer
Aug. 13th, 2015 01:09 am (UTC)
Ooooh, I love the Low-Key Country Vet Adventures. They're perfect for watching when you're under the weather.
evelyn_b
Aug. 13th, 2015 02:45 am (UTC)
They are delightfully comfortable and full of big friendly dogs and very mild suspense about whether the village fete is going to turn out all right. Just the thing!
lost_spook
Aug. 13th, 2015 07:56 am (UTC)
That essay is almost as funny as your parody of it. (And reminds me, for all that people have a go at CS Lewis, he was much wiser than Edmund Wilson as a reviewer/academic, since he said that a person (very much including himself) couldn't be trusted to write fairly about a genre they hated. (And though he disliked detective fiction himself, he did admire Dorothy L. Sayers and knew, as an SF fan, what it was to have your genre despised). But, oh, the second one where he's just determined to hate everything and everybody has been telling him he read the wrong books! :lol: (And people will read the wrong books so often. ha.)

The Nine Tailors is not my favourite, either, which is both because I do find the bell-ringing detail a little much at times but also because I am so freaked out by the ending, it's one of those things I panic at the mention of anywhere. ("That book! That SCARY book!" /o\) I must re-read Sayers some time, because I started with Gaudy Night and was thus disappointed with the rest of it, as it seemed to be just about some chap solving mysteries. (I start with all the wrong books, too. cf. me reading A Surfeit of Lampreys first with Alleyn!)

I'm glad you're enjoying All Creatures! It is the perfect stuff for being all convalescent to. (And I trust you are feeling much better now?) :-)
evelyn_b
Aug. 13th, 2015 03:42 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry to freak you out! :(

Aww, C.S. Lewis. I don't always get along with him but then sometimes I do.

I totally understand Wilson's frustration with the people who keep telling him he's reading the wrong books, because he obviously just isn't interested! while at the same time. . . he HAS been reading the wrong books! -- Death Comes as the End as your introduction to Christie?? And Overture to Death is one of Ngaio Marsh's worst books! >:( But it won't do any of us any good to persist.

Sayers is frequently A Bit Much, which is what I like about her (most of the time). I read the first two books first, followed by Gaudy Night, which was spectacularly confusing.

A Surfeit of Lampreys is terrific. It might be my favorite Marsh at the moment.

And yes, feeling much better! Thanks!

Edited at 2015-08-13 03:44 pm (UTC)
lost_spook
Aug. 13th, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC)
No,no, Dorothy L. Sayers freaked me out, not you. :-) I just don't go into those plot details again! I don't think any method of killing someone has ever freaked me out quite so much, I don't know why.)

while at the same time. . . he HAS been reading the wrong books! -- Death Comes as the End as your introduction to Christie?? And Overture to Death is one of Ngaio Marsh's worst books!

Exactly! :loL: It definitely strays into the "you couldn't make it up" territory.

Gaudy Night is my entire problem with Sayers. I picked it up in a charity shop before catching a train and was completely enchanted by the 1930s female college stuff, and can never quite resign myself to the fact that the rest of the series isn't about female dons having to deal with crime. One day I mean to re-read the series. Or maybe I'll just re-read Gaudy Night and pretend there is a series about female dons that exists. ;-)

I thought Murder Must Advertise was by far the most enjoyable as a murder mystery and The Nine Tailors had the best plot twist; I was just freaked out by out.

(Good!)
evelyn_b
Aug. 13th, 2015 05:29 pm (UTC)
I picked it up in a charity shop before catching a train and was completely enchanted by the 1930s female college stuff, and can never quite resign myself to the fact that the rest of the series isn't about female dons having to deal with crime.

That's perfectly understandable!
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