Last Saturday, my class in substantive editing wrapped up its final meeting. To commemorate this personal milestone, here are two short quotations, taken out of context and put together for my own amusement.
Editors are ghouls and cannibals.
—Harriet Vane to Salcombe Hardy in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Busman’s Honeymoon (1937)
If only Harriet knew her editor’s feelings, every time she went off on a walking tour, stumbled on a corpse, and was late with her next book!
The author has a constitutional right to be an idiot.
—a veteran editor I know, who wishes to remain anonymous
Thankfully, I know a lot of veteran editors, so finger-pointing will prove difficult.
I would like to point out that I’m both a writer and an editor, so you can only imagine the arguments I have with myself.
Five Red Herrings is probably my least favorite Lord Peter mystery. It strays into the problems of time-tables and train schedule alibis, which I find rather tedious.
Yet even in this novel, Sayers has some brutal observations on the mind games men and women play. I feel that she really did excel at psychological examinations. Sherlock Holmes may be a better detective, but only Lord Peter can be poetic and perceptive at the same time:
Wimsey nodded. She was lying, he thought. Farren’s objections to Campbell had been notorious. But she was the kind of woman who, if once set out to radiate sweetness and light, would be obstinate in her mission. He studied the rather full, sulky mouth and narrow, determined forehead. It was the face of a woman who would see only what she wished to see—who would think that one could abolish evils from the world by pretending they were not there. Such things, for instance, as jealousy or criticism of herself. A dangerous woman, because a stupid woman. Stupid and dangerous, like Desdemona.
—Lord Peter’s opinion of Mrs. Farren in Dorothy L. Sayers’s Five Red Herrings (1931)