15 February 2007

The Lord Peter Wimsey Companion

Reading an article by Jonathan Lethem (author of Motherless Brooklyn etc.,) in Harper's on 'The Pleasures of Plagiarism' called within the mag 'The Ecstasy of Influence.' Basically he sees plagiarism as necessary, acceptable and common in current art, literature etc., 'Collage, says Lethem, was the art form of the 20th Century.' Great article and worth the slightly stroppy $7.55 the mag costs. The net, of course, is all about plagiarism and collage, everybody cutting and pasting from one another. Alot of it is not art, in fact artless. The other day a guy listed a book on Lincoln on ebay with a vast bio lifted without attribution and with all the links from Wikipedia - it looked v crass. The general rule is to keep borrowings short and acknowedge them - a bite, not a 3 course meal. Also not to just recycle info but to introduce new and original information from reading, media, research, observation, experience, personal knowledge, inspiration, original thought, anecdotal evidence, listening to wise treachers, bores and madmen, guesswork, dreams, hallucinations or possibly by channelling it from the great spirits of the past*.

The whole question of internet plagiarism has impacted education - with software now available to detect student lifters and borrowers. Easier to call it collage, post - modernism, conceptual or 'open source' etc., My point (and I do have one) is that Lethem is a brother of the book - he spent 10 years in Berkeley, working first at Pegasus Books on Solano and then at Moe's on Telegraph. Both large used bookshops with good stuff coming in by wagon load. He would have seen the incredible variety of interests and obsessions out there; in Berkeley he was at the epicentre. I must have seen him, even cajoled him into giving me 20% discount (especially hard at Pegasus.) Lethem spends a while discussing the legal problems of 'culture as property' and the litigiousness of those who consider themselves robbed; in the used book web world there is at least one dealer, possibly possessed of a hair trigger temper, who threatens to prosecute anyone who uses his book descriptions with the full force of the law. Rave on, it's a crazy feeling.

Today's book is about a true original - Dorothy Sayers (where did she get Wimsey from, was it Wodehouse or Oppenheim?)

Stephan P. (Stephen) Clarke. THE LORD PETER WIMSEY COMPANION.Mysterious Press,New York 1985. ISBN 0892968508

Current Selling Prices
$350-$750 / £200-£400 Want level 25-50 Highish

500+ pages quarto size concordance and companion to all the Dorothy L Sayers novels and short stories featuring the toff detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Hardback limited to 500 copies. Like Anthony Powell, C.S. Forester, Christie, Rosamund Pilcher and Pratchett, DLS has inspired a full blown guide for the completist. Much wanted, 4 buyers waiting at Amazon, fought over on ebay etc., Sayers marvellously literate style and attractive hero make her still highly collected. BTW they make great audio tapes for a long journey - try the unabridged ones with Carmichael reading. Last point Wimsey collected incunabula (books before 1500, dontcha know) and joins a very select bunch-- tecs who collected books.

VALUE? A less than stellar copy sits on ebay right now at a BIN of $629. Hard to find for less than $500 except by a fluke. A tiresome and tireless relister from a surfing town wants $1495. A reprint would cool the price a bit and there is nothing to stop the still extant Mysterious Press. Sayers also wrote a couple of pamphlets about Wimsey's antecedents 'An Account of Lord Mortimer Wimsey. The Hermit of the Wash.'. The first was privately printed in 1937; in 1936 also privately printed and written with Helen Simpson she produced 'Papers Relating to the Family of Wimsey' (500 copies.) These whimsical pamphlets can make over 500 quid each on a good day. Her own largish library was dispersed early in this century. Signed Sayers material although desirable is still fairly thick on the ground.

* You could form quite a collection of books written by their authors posthumously ( i.e. channelled or received by spiritualistic messages etc.,) One from the 1920s received from Oscar Wilde asks what he thought of 'Ulysses', his opinion was that it was 'heated vomit.'


Anonymous said...

Dorothy Sayers (where did she get Wimsey from, was it Wodehouse or Oppenheim?)

Neither, from Baroness Orczy, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy Blakeney

Susan said...

The pictured is of the second edition, published 2002 by the Dorothy L. Sayers Society. Much expanded and with many illustrations.