Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

Reviews by Evelyn C. Leeper

All reviews copyright 1984-2018 Evelyn C. Leeper.


ON THE ART OF READING by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 11/02/2007]

ON THE ART OF READING by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (ISBN-13 978-1-42805-7487, ISBN-10 1-4280-5748-X) is a series of lectures on how reading is taught, or rather, mis-taught in British public schools of his time (the 1910s). His complaints that the method of testing students does not encourage students to read the great works for their own sake, but rather to learn about them what is required for the tests, are still quite relevant. But most intriguing is his discussion of reading the Bible as literature. First of all, he apparently has to defend this idea against the more religious people, who do not want the Bible read as literature, but only as a sacred text. Some may say that the tables have turned and now it is the religious people who are trying to get the Bible into the schools, but I suspect that many of them are trying to get it in as sacred text, not as literature.

In any case, Quiller-Couch goes on to explain the problems in reading the Bible as literature. First, he says, "Imagine a volume including the great books of our own literature all bound together in some such order as this: Paradise Lost, Darwin's Descent of Man, The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Walter Map, Mill['s] On Liberty, Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity, The annual Register, Froissart, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, Domesday Book, Le Morte d'arthur, Campbell's Lives of the Lord Chancellors, Boswell's Johnson, Barbour's The Bruce, Hakluyt's Voyages, Clarendon, Macaulay, the plays of Shakespeare, Shelley's Prometheus, ...,, Bailey's Festus, Thompson's Hound of Heaven." Now further assume, he says, that "most of the authors' names are lost; that, of the few that survive, a number have found there way into wrong places; that Ruskin, for example, is credited with Sartor Restatus ...; and that, as for the titles, these were never invented by the authors, but by a Committee?"

And further, poetry is printed as prose, paragraphs and even sentences are broken into short verses, and then we "pepper the result all over with italics and numerals, print it in double columns, with a marginal gutter on each side, each gutter pouring down an inky flow of references and cross-references."

In short, Quiller-Couch does not say the problem is the language. He is not calling for a new translation; he thinks the King James version is fine, and indeed what should be taught. He just wants the Bible that students read as literature to be printed like any other work of literature. And indeed, the purpose of the "Revised Standard Version", the "New English Bible", the "New International Version", the "Good News Bible", the "Black Bible Chronicles", or any of the many other translations is evangelical, not artistic.

To order The Art of Reading from amazon.com, click here.


THE COMPLETE TALES OF JULES DE GRANDIN, VOLUME TWO: THE DEVIL'S ROSARY by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch:

[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 03/09/2018]

THE COMPLETE TALES OF JULES DE GRANDIN, VOLUME TWO: THE DEVIL'S ROSARY by Seabury Quinn (ISBN 978-1-59780-927-6) is the second of five volumes, comprising all the Jules de Grandin stories published in WEIRD TALES between 1925 and 1951. I became acquainted with them from the six paperback volumes published in the late 1970s, but these included only about a third of the stories. This is the first time all the stories will have been published other than in a limited edition. (The first volumes was THE HORROR ON THE LINKS, reminiscent of Agatha Christie's "Hercule Poirot" novel, MURDER ON THE LINKS, and de Grandin has been called "the occult Hercule Poirot.")

Alas, the suck fairy seems to have visited these tales. They are not terrible, but their flaws are more obvious now. For starters, there's the obvious one: a detective of the supernatural is difficult to make fit the traditional detective story mold. It is not that there are no rules to the supernatural, but that the readers do not know them all. So when de Grandin is suddenly able to overcome a zombie by putting a piece of meat in its stew, or overcome a demon by using some obscure plant, it is out of left field. It's as if the readers of a normal detective story had no knowledge of fingerprints or blood types or gunshot wounds.

Another problem is a relic of Quinn's time--the stories are incredibly racist. Indians, Tibetans, Muslims--they are all pagans and devils and worse to Quinn.

One might claim that Quinn is at least an equal opportunity stereotyper, because de Grandin seems to have an unending collection of French exclamations: "nom d'un fusil", "pipe d'un chameau", "nom d'un canon", "nom d'un porc", "larmes d'un poisson", "mord d'un chat", "vie d'un coq", ... In my experience, people tend to stick to a fairly small collection of expletives, rather than inventing a new one each time.

These stories were terrifically popular when they were first published, and worth reading for their historical interest. Quinn "pushed the envelope" on sex and graphic violence (and this may be why they were popular). But for most people I suspect that the first few of these might be sufficient.

To order The Complete Tales of Jules De Grandin, Volume Two: The Devil's Rosary from amazon.com, click here.


Go to Evelyn Leeper's home page.