There are three things you need to know:
1) I currently have insomnia. I brought this upon myself by being unable to wake up before 11 am today (well, yesterday now. Sigh.) and insisting upon napping around 6 pm; this is important to note because it will explain if the following is barely literate.
2) I am sitting at my dining room table mostly in the dark. The mood for midnight blogging is set by my fat cat Jeoffy sleeping directly next to the laptop and the houseplants all around me showing a fair bit more energy and purpose than they do during the daylight hours; they are positively standing at attention, in direct contradistinction to their usual diurnal droopiness and generally poor morale.
3) In the last month or so, I've read three Dorothy Sayers novels. My normal practice, upon discovering excellent authors who happened to have been much less prolific than either Anthony Trollope or P. G. Wodehouse, is to space out their works, to ration them. Really good books to me are like delicious morsels discovered on the eve of winter - they must be stored for the lean times which must inevitably come. I did not read this trio of Sayers in order to make any commentary upon the evolution of her style, or anything like that; I did it merely to see what reading life is like for the friends of mine who tend to tear through one author at a time. Because Sayers was so ridiculously talented, I doubt this experience is representative of this practice as a whole; nonetheless, I will pass judgement: it's incredibly enjoyable and I now understand focusing on present bookish feasting rather than fearful squirreling away of promising novels in fear of future famines. Indeed, as I am in possession of three other Sayers novels as yet unread, I may do this again in the Fall.
(It just occurred to me that peanut butter toast may be required to get me through this post, and this night.)
Pre-toast rantlet: Dorothy Sayers was a gifted writer; that she chose to bestow her gifts upon the murder mystery (thus helping to usher in what became known as the Golden Age of Detective Fiction) is, to me, a most excellent example of non-pretension and one I wish "serious" contemporary writers would think about more. Being a great writer shouldn't have to mean writing "literary fiction" designed to set fire to the hearts of Earnest 20-somethings and Booker prize judges. Plot and the pure pleasure of reading should not be underestimated!
These are the three novels I read: Strong Poison (1930), Murder Must Advertise (1933), and Busman's Honeymoon (1937). I note the dates here because two of the three novels bear important story connections to Gaudy Night (1935), which I read back in December and which began my belated love affair with Sayers.
I don't know if I've ever mentioned, but the Lord Peter Wimsey of Gaudy Night is one of my literary boyfriends. He is not nearly so well drawn in this early novel, but he has potential...
He seems so benign and almost ridiculous that Sayers gleefully mocks him by directly aligning him and his butler, Bunter, with Wodehouse's famous characters Wooster and Jeeves (who always endeavours to give satisfaction, sir). Yet, he also knowingly sends at least one person to their violent death in the tying up of this murder's loose ends. He is sprightly and devil-may-care, and at the same time haunted by the lengths he's felt compelled to go to to get at the truth. He's becoming human.
Of course, it's not long before a body is discovered in the cellar and it is entirely apparent that it is a case of murder most foul...
Their honeymoon is spent in solving the crime and feeling one another out in the new and frightening context of holy matrimony. This novel is surprisingly sentimental; but what is more surprising is how its sentimentality in no way gets in the way of Sayers creating a conversation that I think does justice to the excellent mystery that is marriage in its early days. This, alongside Sayers's revelations about Lord Peter's complicated past with regards to World War I, makes for an emotionally draining book. Which makes perfect sense to me, as it is also, of the four Sayers novels I've now read, the most complicated in terms of plot. Figuring out the murder is prolonged and difficult and the explanation, when it is finally understood, drawn out and really understandable only by those who have a firm grasp of physics. I loved it. Perhaps not as much as I loved Gaudy Night, but I think Busman's Honeymoon is probably a close second.
Late night blogging status update: The plants are still looking well. Fat Jeoffy has left the table, but Mz. Bustopher Jones has colonized my lap. The toast was delicious. I am still tired but still in that way that doesn't actually lead to sleep. I have less than 24 hours left of being 35. I wish that for my birthday I could ask for more time to read instead of just for more books. I may begin working on a final Vanity Fair post right now, just because I can.