Archie Goodwin on Eye Strain

Maria went, back inside, and shut the door. It was just as well, since it’s a strain to keep your eyes where they ought to be when they want to be somewhere else.— Rex Stout, Too Many Clients … [Read more...]

Leo Marks on Deciphering Mangled Codes

‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ caused forty-eight hours of purgatory when an F-section agent spelt hell with three ‘l’s.— Leo Marks, Between Silk and Cyanide: A Code Maker's War 1941-45From an outstanding book I'll be reviewing next week. … [Read more...]

Aaron Lansky on Being like Moses


We are who we are, where we are, when we are. And in that sense I prefer to compare us not to Chone Shmeruk, a twentieth-century Yiddish scholar, but to Zushya, a nineteenth-century Hasidic rabbi. “When I die,” Zushya foretold, “God will not ask me, ‘Zushya, why weren’t you more like Moses?’ God will ask, ‘Zushya, why were you not more like Zushya?’”— Aaron Lansky, Outwitting HistoryI like this. The Christian life isn't about becoming more like this or that particular saint; the Christia … [Read more...]

Fr. Ronald Knox on Sheepdogs and the Clergy

A sheep dog enjoying his job.

The shepherd doesn’t run after the sheep when they get straying; he shouts to his dog, and the dog runs after them, barking at them in a very rude way. When you see a sheep dog doing that, it ought to remind you of my sermons; you should think of the clergy yapping at you and saying, “You ought to do this,” and “You mustn’t do that”; they do it because they are acting under the Shepherd’s orders. I don’t say the clergy don’t sometimes enjoy it; but then, I dare say the sheep dog enjoys it.— F … [Read more...]

Harry Dresden on Elevators

My office is in a building in midtown Chicago. It’s an older building, and not in the best of shape, especially since there was that problem with the elevator last year. I don’t care what anyone says, that wasn’t my fault. When a giant scorpion the size of an Irish wolfhound is tearing its way through the roof of your elevator car, you get real willing to take desperate measures.— Jim Butcher, Grave Peril … [Read more...]

Paarfi of Roundwood: On Brevity


Paarfi of Roundwood is the supposed author of Steven Brust's "Khaavren" romances, which begin with that most excellent tale The Phoenix Guards. Paarfi, a Hawklord of the Dragaeran Empire, is a scholar and historian who has learned (evidently through first-hand experience) that the rewards of scholarship are great but unsustaining, while the rewards of writing popular trash for the consumption and amusement of the masses put dinner on the table. The Phoenix Guards is one such amusement, a tale … [Read more...]

Jack Aubrey on Valued Servants

Every captain in the Royal Navy had his personal steward, a manservant responsible for attending to his clothing and anything else he needed. Jack's steward is an old seadog named Preserved Killick, a man of rude habits, a grumpy disposition, and a tendency to raid the Captain's stores for dainties, but also a man of great and undoubted loyalty. This passages follows after a particularly positive evidence of Killick's devotion to his Captain's needs:Killick was in many ways a wretched … [Read more...]

Jack Aubrey on Midshipmen

man of war

In the Royal Navy in Jack Aubrey's day, there was no naval academy. Boys from naval families went to sea at a young age as "midshipmen", also known as "young gentlemen". They were treated as officers—of a sort—so as to learn both seamanship and the art of command, and might with luck and skill ultimately "pass for lieutenant" and become real officers. But as they came to sea before showing any affinity for it, and because they were often quite young, the midshipman's birth on a man-of-war was … [Read more...]

Stephen Maturin on Losing at Chess

Chess men

Captain Jack Aubrey is on a mission in the Baltic, and accompanying him is a young Swedish officer named Jagiello. One evening after dinner, Stephen Maturin and Jagiello have occasion to play chess.‘What is that noise, like bears on the roof?’ asked Jagiello, breaking off.‘It is the launching of a boat. And from the howling of the mariners I collect that it will be some time before we see our dessert. What say you to a game of chess while we are waiting? It may be no conclusive test … [Read more...]