When you meet a fictional character like Ignatius J. Reilly, you may be forgiven for thinking he’s a grotesque version of Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff. When I first read A Confederacy of Dunces and met Ignatius, I thought he was like a lot of people I knew growing up in New Orleans. He wasn’t so much grotesque as he was normal. The novel is now 40 years old, and Alexander Larman at The Critic says it’s a book that can change your life.
For several years now, the British Library has been publishing the Crime Classics series, bringing back long-out-of-print mysteries by both well-known and largely forgotten authors. Most of the stories are from Mystery’s Golden Age, the 1920s to the 1940s, with mystery author Martin Edwards serving as general editor. I’ve read about 20 of them, and they’re wonderful. This week at CrimeReads, Edwards was interviewed about the enduring popularity of traditional mysteries.
It’s a common question people ask of novelists: who is this character based on? Or, who inspired your hero / your villain? In my own case, the most likely answer is that characters come from my imagination, or are a composite, or (the really true answer) I don’t know. I can think of only one character in five novels that drew inspiration from someone I actually knew, and even that person wouldn’t recognize it. Richard Russo at Harper’s Magazine has a different answer, and he asks the question, when does imagination become appropriation?
The tendency to fall for conspiracy theories spans the political and social spectrums. The reality is that we tend to fall for them, no matter how smart and wise we think we are. Jordan Standridge at The Cripplegate takes a look at Jesus’s resurrection and what he calls the dumbest conspiracy theory in history.
More Good Reads
Life and Culture
The danger of safetyism – Matthew Crawford at UnHerd.
When Zoom Becomes a Prison – James Jeffrey at The American Conservative.
The Code and the Key – David Mamet at National Review.
Writing and Literature
The Book of Repose: Horizontal and Vertical Time in 'Laurus' and in Lockdown – Nathan Beacom at Plough Books.
Furtive Wings of Glory – Kevin Belmonte at Eerdword.
Bodying Forth the Classics: A Manifesto – Jessica Hooten Wilson at Church Life Journal.
Back to the Sources: Notes on Chesterton the Historian – Jane Lewis at Mere Orthodoxy.
American Tolstoy: Herman Wouk – David Rose at The Critic.
Bilbo’s Garden – Rebecca Martin at The Rabbit Room.
Maigret’s Room – John Lancaster at The London Review of Books.
Every Morning He Hallowed Himself – James Matthew Wilson at The North American Anglican.
Ode to Spring – Adam Sedia at The Chained Muse.
The Letter That Changed Emily Dickinson’s Life – Martha Ackmann at Literary Hub.
Philip Larkin: A Very English Bleakness – David Whippman at Society of Classical Poets.
Four Poems – Maryann Corbett at A New Cedameron.
In Our Memory Lock’d: Memorial Day and the Need to Remember – Jon Schaff at Front Porch Republic.
Really Bad Reviews of Really Good Books – Tim Challies.
5 Truths to Remember While the Police Station Burns – Jesse Johnson at The Cripplegate.
Big Journalism Embraces Propaganda Model – Rod Dreher at The American Conservative.
Leaping the Fence: On English gardens and style – Nicola Shulman at New Criterion.
‘Aila’ Au: Forest Eater
Painting: Seated Man Reading, oil on paper board (1927) by Yun Gee (1906-1963).