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Old 01-18-2018, 12:32 PM   #46
jcn363
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“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The words are important but the context is usually more important.
Everyone is free to express his/her own opinion on any subject but the apologia* -of almost anything- is, by itself, very dangerous... I think.

* something that is said or written -heatedly- to defend something that -usually- other people criticize.

Good luck.
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Old 01-18-2018, 06:01 PM   #47
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I’m not quite sure to what you are referring, jcn363?

To get back to the book, did anyone pick what I think was an error in the confession letter? In it, Sir Julian wrote to Lord Peter that the Dowager Duchess suggested “a motive for the murder out of what she knew of my previous personal history.”

How was he to know that she had made that comment? In fact, Sir Julian himself had told Charles Parker that he had wanted to marry Lady Levy but had been turned down in favour of Levy. This was during his conversation with Parker after the inquest. So in trying to cover his tracks, he had handed the motive to a policeman.

As we have all agreed, definitely not a good mystery compared with some of Sayers’ later books.
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Old 01-18-2018, 08:12 PM   #48
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I’m not quite sure to what you are referring, jcn363?

To get back to the book, did anyone pick what I think was an error in the confession letter? In it, Sir Julian wrote to Lord Peter that the Dowager Duchess suggested “a motive for the murder out of what she knew of my previous personal history.”

How was he to know that she had made that comment? In fact, Sir Julian himself had told Charles Parker that he had wanted to marry Lady Levy but had been turned down in favour of Levy. This was during his conversation with Parker after the inquest. So in trying to cover his tracks, he had handed the motive to a policeman.

As we have all agreed, definitely not a good mystery compared with some of Sayers’ later books.
I didn't notice at the time, but that does seem to be a mistake. Even if we assume that Freke assumes the motive was learned through the Dowager Duchess, he knows far too much of the circumstances (Thipps etc) for it to be merely an assumption.

There is also the fact that the motive was suggested merely by the coincidence of Freke's involvement with the body in the bath and his relationship to the missing Levy - the timing was not as tight as Freke's confession seems to suggest.
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Old 01-19-2018, 03:54 AM   #49
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I’m not quite sure to what you are referring, jcn363?

To get back to the book, did anyone pick what I think was an error in the confession letter? In it, Sir Julian wrote to Lord Peter that the Dowager Duchess suggested “a motive for the murder out of what she knew of my previous personal history.”
“Read. Read anything. Read the things they say are good for you, and the things they claim are junk. You'll find what you need to find. Just read.”

― Neil Gaiman

“Read, read anything, read about anything, read even standing at the crossroads, but, over all, live history.”

― Grandpa dixit.

I must confess I lost that point (or I've not give importance at the moment), perhaps due to the climbing point and and his relationship with Levy...

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As we have all agreed, definitely not a good mystery compared with some of Sayers’ later books.
I can't compare, I'm an absolute beginner...

Good luck.
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Old 01-19-2018, 07:43 AM   #50
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To get back to the book, did anyone pick what I think was an error in the confession letter? In it, Sir Julian wrote to Lord Peter that the Dowager Duchess suggested “a motive for the murder out of what she knew of my previous personal history.”
Oh, well spotted!

The errors I caught were more niggly ones. One that recurred was the reference to Lord Peter as a "nobleman" which of course he was not, as he himself makes the point in his rather rude put-down of that nice American. Overall, I don't think Sayers was terribly fond of my countrymen.

And continuing on the topic of the nobility, at one point she slips up and refers to Gerald as "Lord Denver." I remember reading a long time ago that originally she intended for Peter to be the younger son of a Marquis and perhaps the reference dated to an early version and was never caught.
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Old 01-19-2018, 10:13 AM   #51
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And continuing on the topic of the nobility, at one point she slips up and refers to Gerald as "Lord Denver." I remember reading a long time ago that originally she intended for Peter to be the younger son of a Marquis and perhaps the reference dated to an early version and was never caught.
Oh, well spotted yourself. I missed that one.
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Old 01-20-2018, 12:57 PM   #52
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I think the phrases of the Dowager Duchess near the end of chapter 3 were more damning, but again these are the words of a character and seemed to me to be a fairly reasonable portrayal of the times. It would have been entirely unrealistic for such a character to show no prejudice at all. There is also implicit sexism and class prejudice throughout the book - it would be odd if there weren't.
The Duchess's comments were in character; for me the worst example of classism was the cringe-inducing conversation between Lord Peter and Bunter, on the topic of Bunter's wages and whether the disparity in their incomes was unfair. The point is made that Bunter's annual salary essentially amounts to chump change for Peter, but when pressed on why he doesn't think it's unfair, Bunter responds:

Quote:
"Frankly, my lord, your lordship is paid a nobleman's income to take Lady Worthington in to dinner and refrain from exercising your lordship's undoubted powers of repartee."
And yet, Bunter is paid a valet's salary to put up with an effete aristocrat all the freaking time! And I don't think Sayers was being subversive, or having Bunter be subversive, with this comment - she just wasn't aware of the implications.

Peter wraps up the conversation by saying that Bunter is better off than he is and sends him back to work. And yet, unlike with the anti-Semitic attitude she gives to the nasty Freke, we're supposed to think well of Peter. I think this is an instance where Sayers reveals her own prejudices, as with poor Mr. Thripps' accent (misspelling common words is always a tipoff, as Bookpossum suggests above) and the American who didn't understand courtesy titles for the younger sons of the nobility.
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Old 01-20-2018, 01:43 PM   #53
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I'm not trying to excuse the undoubted classism, but it was very much a part of the time and the class of the characters in this book. Yes, a viable middle-class was starting to take hold. Driven in part by the lack of a generation of males, which forced more women into the workforce, and also, in no small part, by the sea-change in taxation brought in by the Liberals just before the first world war. But the 'upstairs-downstairs' way of life was still hanging on, and Sayers came out of it. To have expressed her characters in any other way would have been contrary to who she was, and what she knew. And to inspect her work with the lens of the 21st century and our values is hardly appropriate.

In many ways, I wish we'd chosen a later work, perhaps Strong Poison, which introduces us to Harriet Vane. However, we chose the first book for reasons that are well known. I'd urge those who hadn't been introduced to Wimsey to try one of the later books even if you found some of the issues with this one problematic. There's a reason these have remained so popular after all these years. Try Strong Poison, or the second in the series, Clouds of Witness. Or one of my personal favourites, Murder Must Advertise.
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Old 01-20-2018, 01:50 PM   #54
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There is no way I will read any more books by Sayers. This one was so bad, it put m off her.
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Old 01-21-2018, 09:16 AM   #55
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There is no way I will read any more books by Sayers. This one was so bad, it put m off her.
You are entitled to your opinion and to express it, but continuing to repeat it without a new comment or supporting evidence eventually gets in the way of the discussion.
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Old 01-21-2018, 09:30 AM   #56
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I'm not trying to excuse the undoubted classism, but it was very much a part of the time and the class of the characters in this book. Yes, a viable middle-class was starting to take hold. Driven in part by the lack of a generation of males, which forced more women into the workforce, and also, in no small part, by the sea-change in taxation brought in by the Liberals just before the first world war. But the 'upstairs-downstairs' way of life was still hanging on, and Sayers came out of it. To have expressed her characters in any other way would have been contrary to who she was, and what she knew. And to inspect her work with the lens of the 21st century and our values is hardly appropriate.
There's nothing wrong with looking at a book though a 21st century lens, so long as that's not the only lens we use. It can be illuminating in a way not open to contemporary readers.

I think the power imbalance in the exchange between Peter and Bunter which I quoted above is deeply disturbing from a modern vantage point. Peter dangles a new camera lens in front of him like a new chew stick before a pet dog. Bunter's annual salary is chump change to Peter and for that he gets Bunter's entirely loyalty and identification with his own needs and purposes. In fact, it reminds me of many black narratives and how black servants had to function within a white home while maintaining independent and conflicting emotions. Yet Sayers doesn't give even this to Bunter; the one time we see inside his mind is when he's helping Peter past his flashback and what Bunter is not thinking is, "Get over it, you git, you're as rich as God and have the world for your playpen. You think this is tough? Look at all the war cripples in Picadilly selling matches."

I'm willing to say on the evidence that Sayers was not especially anti-Semitic; however, the way she, of an middle class, albeit eductated, upbringing is willing to identify so entirely with the aristocracy to the detriment of her portrayal of her own class, more or less, is not a nice characteristic. However, I suppose you could climb that she's of necessity as much a hanger-on as Bunter and Bunter had reason to consider himself lucky as well as used, as he snapped for that chew stick.
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Old 01-21-2018, 11:48 AM   #57
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Certainly, when viewed by current standards, Bunter's situation was uneven and hardly correct. But when viewed contemporaneosly, he had a superior job where he was well paid, respected, treated well, and values. Compare that to the people in the docklands, working in sweatshops, or in the factories of the industrial revolution.

Or, in today's world, the minimum wage earner in a company where the CEO makes 8 figures. Or even the elite of the working class, in a factory or other union scale job.

No, no. Bunter's situation was certainly subsidiary , and Lord Peter was undoubtedly highly privileged, but the income and power differential was actually less than today.

All of which could easily get us into a political discussion beyond that allowed here. But my intent was not to argue the merits of and autocracy, but to place Bunter's situation v. Lord Peter in the context of the time the book was written.
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Old 01-21-2018, 05:22 PM   #58
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It seems to me that much of what was written between the wars in the UK was an escape from the fairly grim realities of life for many people, and I see the romantic notion of charming aristocrats such as Lord Peter very much in that vein.

I think also there is a reason for this being the “golden age” of murder mysteries. People who enjoy them like them as much as anything for the fact that the chaos of violent death is returned to order by the authority figure who solves the puzzle. People were (and of course still are) living in a chaotic world. All the certainties of earlier times had been turned upside down by the Great War and its aftermath. So a murder mystery was a comfortable book to read (they are even referred to as “cosy”) because the violence was off-stage and the enjoyment was in the puzzle solving and the restoration of order.

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Old 01-21-2018, 08:34 PM   #59
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There's nothing wrong with looking at a book though a 21st century lens, so long as that's not the only lens we use. It can be illuminating in a way not open to contemporary readers.

I think the power imbalance in the exchange between Peter and Bunter which I quoted above is deeply disturbing from a modern vantage point. [...]
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[...] Or, in today's world, the minimum wage earner in a company where the CEO makes 8 figures. Or even the elite of the working class, in a factory or other union scale job. [...]
This contrast is one of the reasons that I especially like reading some older texts. The class disparity from 100 years ago stands out as obvious to us now, but by standing out as it does it makes it easier to look to current times and identify similar issues (issues that are otherwise so easy to overlook because "that's just the way things are").


Bunter's loyalty to Lord Peter is presented as being partly due to having been his sergeant during the war: directly implying that Lord Peter must have been a very good leader of men to have inspired such loyalty, and typically also carrying the assumption that it takes people of this class to be such good leaders.

This excuse for disparity continues into modern times with the expectation that entrepreneurs and business leaders are entitled to respect and loyalty (and money) for merely doing a job. And, as it was with the aristocracy, once you are in the class you don't even have to be particularly good at the job in order to be entitled.

(The argument that such positions of responsibility should be worth more is appealing, but I'm not sure it whether this is a good argument or merely one that I'm built to find appealing. Whichever it may be, it still begs the question: how much more?)

The disparities and excuses also carry into modern fiction - especially in fantasy: lord and ladies, knights and warriors, heroes and their loyal sidekicks. It seems we have some built in affinity or desire for class systems (though I presume the attraction is only for being on the right side of such class systems).
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Old 01-21-2018, 08:41 PM   #60
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Definitely - not much desire out there to be one of the peasants!
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