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Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 09:52 pm
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
[personal profile] oyceter
Question (because obviously, my FL knows everything): I managed to get my hands on Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter, Unnatural Death, Clouds of Witness and Gaudy Night, since I am planning on reading them sometime. Is there any sort of handy reference out there that tells me what order I should read them in?

The boy showed me an organizational chart of Time Warner and all the companies it owns and said, "Look, it's the world!" Truly it is the evil empire ;).

I continue to enjoy the Assassins soundtrack, albeit in a slightly strange way. I can't help it. Some of the songs are just so peppy. I love the Sousa-esque "How I Saved Roosevelt" and the banjo-y "Ballad of Booth" and the folk song-y "Ballad of Czolgosz." The Czolgosz song particularly reminds me of "Big Rock Candy Mountain." I just realized while listening to this how much Americana music (is that even a term? Probably not) I listened to while growing up, mostly thanks to the wonderful "Wee Sing America" and "Wee Sing Around the Campfire." Also, the insanely optimistic "Ballad of Guiteau." But while I'm sitting in my car and enjoying listening to them, there will inevitably be a point in which my brain realizes that the songs are still about the assassination of American presidents, and as such, are pretty violent and unhappy. I don't think I'll ever quite get over that disconnect.

I think Sondheim does a particularly good job in reconciling the funny and the horrific in "How I Saved Roosevelt," which could have very easily been a straight comic piece. But every single time I'm giggling like mad because of Sondheim's rhymes (they remind me of "A Weekend in the Country" in A Little Night Music) and the fact that assassinating the president is somehow a solution to one's aching belly, Zangara bursts into the song screaming, "No laugh! No funny!" with a terrifying fury, and suddenly it's not funny anymore. Also, it's a frightfully cheery song for something that ends with the buzzing of the electric chair.

"Something Just Broke" will forever make me think of 9/11. I wasn't even alive for the assassination of JFK, I don't remember the Challenger, or most other national tragedies. I would like to say that 9/11 changed my entire outlook on life, but I'm not sure if it did. It's not as though there was much violence of that nature in Taiwan, though we would sometimes joke about China bombing us. I think it was just that even though most people were pretty sure China wouldn't be so stupid as to blow up our island, the threat was always sort of there. And even if not, it was dangerous territory politically, and just the fact that no one could really say what would happen to Taiwan come ten years makes for some uncertainty.

American never used to feel that way to me, though. American always seemed so safe and so stable, like it was something that would always be there, despite a relatively short national history. That was what 9/11 changed for me. Unlike the rest of my roommates that day, I was awake because (ironically) I was getting a new cell phone. I still find it strange that my old cell phone bill has the start date of 9/11/01. And my friend and her dad and my mom and the guy selling us the cell phones just stood there listening to the radio, because there was no TV in the store, and we heard the news when the second plane crashed, when another one hit the Pentagon, when another one crashed in Pennsylvania. And then the towers fell down. And it felt like the end of the world. Things like this weren't supposed to happen in America. They happened in the Middle East and in Ireland and other places, and it's so horrible to think of tragedies like that, like something that always happens in other places, to other people, but that's how it felt. Prior to 9/11, it felt as though the world was on track... there was the boom of the nineties, we weathered the Asian financial crisis (pretty glum in Taiwan during that time), etc. After, people were screaming for retaliation, which frightened me. My mom was convinced World War III was going to start. The economy, which was already not doing so well, really started going down. And I interned at Merrill Lynch and got seriously depressed, then I graduated from college two years later and had to look for a job and got even more depressed. Because of that, 9/11 always feels to me like the dividing line between adolescence and (fledgling) adulthood, the stepping stone between optimism and cynicism.

But that's what that song reminds me of now.

Despite the sobering associations, I can still listen to Assassins over and over just because the tunes are so peppy. And somehow, it doesn't depress me as much as Sweeney Todd. Also, Sweeney Todd is just incredibly difficult to listen to because of the almost painful whistles in the theme. Sweeney Todd feels like there is no hope at all in man, that everything beautiful only ends up destroyed and broken, but Assassins feels like even though horrible things happen, there is a reason behind it (albeit occasionally insane), and that there are people who still care. It's tragic, but not nihilistic.

(no subject)

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 10:48 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] midnightsjane.livejournal.com
Regarding the Lord Peter books: I always check the publishing dates, and assume that the books should be read in that order, from earliest to latest. I think Gaudy Nights was one of the last Lord Peter books. Have you read the one that was written from a draft by Sayers and completed by another writer (can't remember her name off the top of my head, Jill something)?

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 12:27 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] midnightsjane.livejournal.com
I think I have most of them. I'll look when I get home, and see if I can locate a list for you. Usually there is one in the front page. I really enjoyed them, especially the later ones in which Harriet Vane appears.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 12:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] midnightsjane.livejournal.com
Oh, I just read the posts farther down. They've given you a list. Enjoy the books!

re: Something Just Broke

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 11:31 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] buffyannotater.livejournal.com
Strangely enough, when I listen to Something Just Broke, 9/11 doesn't particularly come up in my mind, although I certainly do agree that it adds resonance to the song. When I listen to it, I'm much more focused in how it fits into the central theme of the musical: firstly how it stands a counterpoint to the comedic portrayal of everyday Americans in How I Saved Roosevelt and secondly (and more deeply) how the connection that the American people feel to each other for a short time parallels the connection that the disenfranchised assassins feel to one another as they symbolically merge as a single force when they convince Oswald to fire his shot. The most affecting aspect of the play for me is how it humanizes each of the assassins and makes their actions not condonable but understandable, if even only through a skewed lens and mental state. It's easy to write them off as anomalies, but they are just as all-American as you or me, and their actions are a desperate and frightening grasp at the American Dream that has eluded them. The fact that these people are everyday, frustrated Americans makes them all the more disturbing. And that's basically what runs through my head when I listen to the song. Yeah, I know, a tad overanalytical, but that's how my brain works. :)

The idea that really made this revival come together for me and bring it to an even deeper level than the original version was the decision to have the Balladeer and Oswald played by the same actor. Because now the optimistic narrator who spends the majority of the play decrying against the assassins' actions, becomes one himself in the end, a very powerful message for how thin a line there is between society and these so-called outsiders.

If you can't tell by now, I adore this show. Very possibly the best, most thought-provoking play I've ever seen performed on Broadway or anywhere.

And re: the score...

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 11:35 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] buffyannotater.livejournal.com
Yes, this is IMO Sondheim's catchiest score, and it was intended to be. I've done a lot of research on it for the production my and my friend's theatre group is doing of the show, and Sondheim very deliberately chose catchy, peppy music, each of which draws from a different American music tradition: Sousa, country/western, folk, pop/rock (Unworthy of Your Love), etc. so that the everyday, American can-do-spirit inherent in the music stands as an ironic counterpoint to what is actually being sung.

The Ballad of Czolgosz may be the catchiest song *ever*. I listen to it about 40 times a day! And The Ballad of Booth is IMO the most powerful music Sondheim ever wrote, particularly Booth's "aria" in the middle.

(no subject)

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 11:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jasminelily.livejournal.com
Forgive me, I saw this on my friendsfriends and love Sayer. Lord Peter is a compilation of all of the Peter short stories, so they range from all of the different times. It's probably easiest to read it last. The first book is Whose Body?, then Clouds of Witness, then Unnatural Death, then The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, then The Five Red Herrings, then Strong Poison, then The Nine Tailors, then Have His Carcase, then Murder Must Advertise, then Gaudy Night, and finally, Busman's Honeymoon. The only ones that you really need to read in order, though, are Strong Poison, Have His Carcase, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon, and it's important to read those in order. The rest not so much.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 07:29 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] thinkum.livejournal.com
Completely agree. Also, YAY! Another future Wimsey fan!

(Oddly, though, the first one I read was Murder Must Advertise - which made for a really surreal experience, since I didn't have the foggiest notion who Peter was at the time. Trying to sort out the who's who with the middle names, and doppelganger newspaper photos, etc., was really funny, in retrospect... *g*)

Oh, and while I'm thinking of it (since someone else alluded to it above), there is one non-Sayers Peter book, Thrones, Dominations (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0312181965/qid=1097591072/). Sayers is co-credited, but the book is actually written by Jill Paton Walsh; I think the deal was that Sayers had outlined the book prior to her death, but never got a chance to write it, and Walsh picked up the work where Sayers left off. It doesn't really capture the essence of Wimsey for me, but it doesn't damage it, either.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 10:09 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] jasminelily.livejournal.com
I read Thrones, Dominations too, and I agree with what you said.

I think Murder Must Advertise is my favorite of the books, actually.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 10:47 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] thinkum.livejournal.com
It's pretty high on my favorites list, too. The only problem was that I had advertising jingles stuck in my head for days afterward. *g*

Murder Must Advertise is also interesting with regards to Sayers herself, since she worked in advertising for some time, herself. Have you read any of Barbara Reynolds' work with Sayers' archived correspondence? "The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers" are covered in several volumes; they're a fascinating glimpse into her world, and added even more to my enjoyment when I reread the Wimsey series.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 07:56 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] thinkum.livejournal.com
I'd only suggest it after you've read all of the original Sayers stories - get to know the character as Sayers intended him first. (Plus, it really needs to come at the end, chronologically.)

(no subject)

Mon, Oct. 11th, 2004 11:46 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] londonkds.livejournal.com
Bibliography here. (http://www.sayers.org.uk/bibliography.html)

All the books up to 1937 are Wimsey except "The Documents in the Case", which is a one-off crime novel not involving Wimsey (although it does share a couple of minor characters with Wimsey books). The two later short-story collections, "In the Teeth of the Evidence" and "Striding Folly", both include a couple of Wimsey stories. "Lord Peter" is as I recall a US variant title for the first book, "Whose Body?".

The order doesn't particularly matter except for the four novels about Wimsey and Harriet Vane, which need to be read in order: "Strong Poison", "Have His Carcass", "Gaudy Night", "Busman's Honeymoon".

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 04:52 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] rilina.livejournal.com
The order doesn't particularly matter except for the four novels about Wimsey and Harriet Vane, which need to be read in order: "Strong Poison", "Have His Carcass", "Gaudy Night", "Busman's Honeymoon".

Let me second this sentiment. Order is really important here.

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 05:57 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] oracne.livejournal.com
She's reading Wimsey, she's reading Wimsey... [dancing]

(no subject)

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 06:53 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] minnow1212.livejournal.com
:dances also: Yay!

Wimsey Chronology

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 07:45 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mamculuna.livejournal.com
I didn't read them in the right order, so it doesn't totally mess you up not to, but I think this is it:

Whose Body?
Clouds of Witness
Unnatural Death
Lord Peter Views the Body *
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
The Documents in the Case
Strong Poison
Five Red Herrings
Have His Carcase
Hangman's Holiday *
Murder Must Advertise
The Nine Tailors
Gaudy Night
Busman's Honeymoon
In the Teeth of the Evidence *
Thrones, Dominations -- finished by Jill Paton-Walsh

* collections of short stories; in the US they're available in one volume, Lord Peter

Re: Wimsey Chronology

Tue, Oct. 12th, 2004 07:43 pm (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mamculuna.livejournal.com
Enjoy! And when it's all over, look forward to Elizabeth George!

Elizabeth George

Wed, Oct. 13th, 2004 02:03 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] londonkds.livejournal.com
Elizabeth George is an Americna writer who writes novels set in Britain about an aristocratic police detective, clearly inspired by Sayers. I've read a few of them and found them irritatingly long-winded and with a very cutesy American view of modern Britain.

Re: Wimsey Chronology

Wed, Oct. 13th, 2004 06:20 am (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] mamculuna.livejournal.com
No, Amelia Peabody is in the series written by Elizabeth Peters--also wonderful (http://www.ancient-egypt.org/bib/fiction.html--scroll down to Crocodile on Sandbank).

Some of Elizabeth George's books were recently serialized on BBC. She sets her novels in the present, and has a neat working class woman detective who works along with her Wimsey-type Scotland yard detective (read more at http://www.elizabethgeorgeonline.com/novels.htm)

But those are both future pleasures--Sayers is the great lady of all, and you shouldn't miss her!

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