Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rice Pudding, Ginger Snaps, and G.K. Chesterton

A lovely treat, especially for a cold and rainy evening.

Now reading Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday.

I'm still caught up in his introduction to the suburb of Saffron Park, which "lay on the sunset side of London, as red and ragged as a cloud of sunset". And the people who inhabit it, who aren't exactly poems (but look like poems) or scientists (but look like the kinds of creatures that a scientist would be thrilled to discover).

And now "the two poets of Saffron Park" are arguing about whether poetry shares a common spirit with anarchy or with order. I like the Underground Railway example, with one poet saying that people always look so unhappy on the railway because one stop follows another predictably without chaotic excitement, while the other poet says, no, it's exciting that the stops are so orderly, because think of how badly it could all go and what a triumph it is that people managed to build something that works so well:

"You say contemptuously that when one has left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have the sense of hair-breadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the word 'Victoria', it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of a herald announcing conquest."

So far my sympathies lie with the poet who favors order (what can I say, I find anarchists to be pretty dull on the whole and incapable of thinking things through). Though really at this point I know next to nothing about the characters (and the poet favoring order, Gabriel Syme, does have an annoying line about "books of mere poetry or prose"); I don't know where this is all going (in these cases, yes, I do like unpredictability), and this looks like it will be a really good book.

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