Mini Reviews: Whose Body and The Wisdom of the Desert and The Zoo Story

Monday, October 28, 2013


Whose Body?
by Dorothy L. Sayers
★★☆

The Lord Peter Wimsey murder mystery series starts with this book. A body is found in a bathtub with nothing on but pince-nez glasses. Starting with very little information, Wimsey tackles the case from the sidelines.

If Bertie Wooster was a detective he would be Lord Peter Wimsey. His is a gentleman and is inspired by Sherlock Holmes. The case is mildly interesting, but not enough to be a page turner. I was surprisingly bored throughout the book. There were a few parts I really liked, including one section where Wimsey is questioning a witness. The witness scoffs at the amount of detail people seem to remember in detective novels. No one remembers so much, he says! Then Wimsey walks him through a line of questions that help him remember exactly what he was doing on the night in question.

BOTTOM LINE: I wasn’t too impressed, but I will continue to read the series because I’ve heard it gets really good once the character of Harriet Vane is introduced in Strong Poison.

“Well, it’s no good jumping at conclusions.”
“Jump? You don’t even crawl distantly within sight of a conclusion.”

**Anyone else read this series? Is it worth hanging in there?

I read this for the R.I.P. Challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.

The Wisdom of the Desert
by Thomas Merton
★★★★

Merton translated and compiled the wisdom and advice of monks living a hermit-like life in the desert in the fourth century. It’s an interesting collection with some wonderful bits. I’ve listed some favorites below.

There’s one parable of a man who steals a book from one of the monks. He goes to sell it in the local town. The man he tries to sell it to asks the monk who originally owned it if it was a valuable book. Instead of turning the man in and explaining that it was stolen, the monk just told the buyer that it was valuable. His actions led the man to return the book and ask for forgiveness. Showing mercy was a much greater act of kindness and it reminded me so much of the powerful scene with the priest in Les Miserables.

BOTTOM LINE: Incredibly quick read with some great advice.

"Malice will never drive out malice. But if someone does evil to you, you should do good to him, so that by your good work you may destroy his malice."

"Never acquire for yourself anything that you might hesitate to give to your brother if he asks you for it, for thus you would be found as a transgressor of God's command. If anyone asks, give to him, and if anyone wants to borrow from you, do not turn away from him."

“We have thrown down a light burden, which is the reprehending of our own selves, and we have chosen instead to bear a heavy burden, by justifying our own selves and condemning others.”

The Zoo Story 
by Edward Albee 

★★★☆

This strange one-act play is the first from the playwright who went on to fame for his marital tornado “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” This is a very different beast, quiet and disturbing all at the same time.

Two men meet in Central Park in New York City. One, Peter, is reading quietly on a bench. The other, Jerry, is a volatile individual who strikes up a conversation. He begins simply enough, but soon Peter finds himself trapped in conversation with this bizarre man. As the situation escalates we find ourselves, like Peter, captivated by Jerry’s odd behavior and bizarre stories.

BOTTOM LINE: An extreme example of an individual becoming disillusioned with life and getting lost in the flow of normal society. Weird, but like a car crash it’s hard to look away.

“The high points of a person’s life can be appreciated so often only in retrospect.” – From the author’s introduction to the play

7 comments:

  1. I don't think it's that important to read Sayers in order, but admire your approach!

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  2. I'm with you about the Peter Wimsey books, but there are four with Harriet Vane that are much better and move along quite well. After attempting the series many years ago, I saw those four with Vane on Netflix with a great cast, which led me to read the books. I think a much better series that takes place in the 1930s in England are those written by Margery Allingham with Albert Campion as the central character. They are somewhat alike, but Campion is the better writer in my opinion. I really like these mini reviews you do.

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  3. Jeanne - That's good to know. Maybe I'll try the Vane books next.

    annieb - Oh good. I'll have to try those series. This one just didn't click for me. I love doing the mini reviews when I have a few thoughts on a book, but don't want to write a huge review.

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  4. I think I read a Sayers a few years ago and liked it, but I'll have to look at my log to be sure.

    Just ordered The Wisdom of the Desert. I was wanting a Merton to read and wasn't sure where to start. Thanks!

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  5. Amy - Someone recommended that Merton book to me. I'd never heard of him before, but it was interesting.

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  6. I'm going through the Peter Wimsey novels mostly to get to Gaudy Night. They do get better... well, except to Five Red Herrings, that completely boggled me.

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  7. Alex - I'm thinking I just need to skip to the ones with Harriet. There are too many great books out there.

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