Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Peter Wimsey and Church Drama

I have been a Lord Peter Wimsey fan for absolutely years; imagine my delight when, not too long ago, I discovered that the heirs of Dorothy Sayers had authorized a writer by the name of Jill Paton Walsh to undertake a couple of additional Wimsey family novels, both based on the writings of Dorothy Sayers. The first of them, Thrones, Dominations, is a novel that Ms Sayers had at least started well and then set aside to collaborate on the staging of Busman's Honeymoon. She never got back to it, and Ms Walsh picked it up and finished it out. If it is a little overly concerned with referencing earlier Wimsey novels, it's still quite a good read, taking place right after Peter and Harriet finish their nuptial journeying and take up residence in their house in Town. Historically, it occurs during the same time period of the death of King Edward, the scandalous courtship of his son with Mrs Simpson and the events leading up to WWII.

But the bit that caught my eye and motivated me to actually mark in my book was a little discussion between Peter and Harriet over Harriet's future as a writer of detective fiction. Harriet is somewhat at odds with it, considering that heretofore she had done it to earn her living and, as Lady Peter Wimsey, she is no longer obligated to write for survival. Furthermore, she considers that her creations are neither Great Literature nor edifying non-fiction, and she wonders if it is a worthwhile way for her to spend her time. Peter, however, is convinced that the work she does is worthwhile...not because it is Great, but because it is idealistic. And not because it is intellectual, but because it is popular. "Detective stories contain a dream of justice," he tells her, and continues that "...they feed a need for justice, and heaven help us if ordinary people cease to feel that."

Then, on the next page, "You get under their guard," he said. "If they thought they were being preached at they would stop their ears. If they thought you were bent on improving their minds they would probably never pick up the book. But you offer to divert them, and you show them by stealth the orderly world in which we should all try to be living."

That struck me as remarkably similar to what I had posted about doing drama back in June on Costume Musings: That entertainment can reach a place inaccessible to other means of communication. What Peter said about Harriet's writing also applies to the ordered silliness that we sometimes do in our dramas at church: it gets under their guard.

Which is kinda cool.

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