I went with some students and fellow teachers to see the new film version of The Great Gatsby.
There are some things to praise about the film, some to criticize. There are good moments and performances, but not enough to make it a great film or for me to heartily endorse it. In too much of it, flash and style take precedence over substance. And I'm not happy with some of the ways it strays from the novel.
But I began to wonder what Chesterton made of the novel when it came out.
I haven't found any comments by Chesterton about the book or even about F. Scott Fitzgerald yet - though they may be there (wiser and better-read Chestertonians may know of some).
But I have seen references to Fitzgerald - a fallen Catholic - being familiar with Chesterton's writings. There's even a post on this blog that predates my joining the team:
A collection of the letters of F. Scott Fitzgerald shows a number of references
to Chesterton as the writer struggled in 1917 with his unsuccessful first draft
of This Side of Paradise. He wrote Edmund Wilson that the novel "shows
traces of Chesterton," and that he put "Barrie and Chesterton above anyone
except Wells." Fitzgerald complained to biographer Shane Leslie of "gloomy,
half-twilight realism," asking "Where are the novels of five years ago?"
Fitzgerald included Chesterton's Manalive on his approved novel list,
and also confided to Leslie that he was planning to quote some Chesterton
gibberish on his new novel's title page ("Highty-ighty, tiddly-ighty,
tiddley-ighty, ow!" from The Club of Queer Trades). [A Life in
Letters, Edited by Mat-thew Bruccoli, Scribner's 1994, pp. 12-20] - Eric Scheske (July 28, 2005)
“Men are ruled, at this minute by the clock, by liars who refuse them news, and by fools who cannot govern.” - GKC
I have been thinking about this week's Benghazi testimony. People died. Requests for help were not honored.
Meanwhile, Obama administration officials testified and gave speeches that were false. It's going to be hard to prove that people deliberately lied, but it's clear that the "truth" was shaped by the administration to suit its political ends.
Will anyone face charges? I seriously doubt it.
Will someone lose his or her job? Maybe - though some folks who have already left their jobs may serve as handy scapegoats.
Will political futures be affected? Perhaps. I think the odds of Hillary Clinton running for President in 2016 just grew longer. Of course, the average American voters - people of severely shallow thought and limited memory - may not even recall hearing about Benghazi by the time the 2016 primaries roll around. Heck, many will likely have forgotten whatchamacallit by the All Star break.
I'm not a supporter of the death penalty, but I'm tempted to think Chesterton may have had it right: “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged. ”
Live Action continues to expose the abortion industry. They view themselves as investigative journalists. I wonder how Chesterton, as a journalist, would have viewed their actions. He certainly would have agreed with their aims.
“No animal ever invented anything as bad as drunkenness – or as good as drink.”– G.K. Chesterton
Tonight, I decided to have a beer. I don't know why; just in the mood.
As I sipped my Guinness Stout, I wondered if that was one of the beers Chesterton drank. Perhaps a scholar out there has studied the particular brands he drank. Perhaps a dedicated Chestertonian might then set a goal of drinking a pint of each brand the great one imbibed. I would be happy to volunteer.
Given GKC's distributist ideas, perhaps he preferred locally brewed beverages. Ales and porters of London and its environs? Hmm.
But perhaps he did sample a Guinness. I'll settle for that now.
At the Catholic school where I teach, I've been sneaking in Chesterton - essays and poetry in a couple of classes. Just a taste, but at least some of the students have now heard of him.
I've also been wearing him on dress down days like today. Specifically, I have a Chesterton Academy sweatshirt. People assume it's a tribute just to Chesterton, not that it represents another high school. I don't explain. But I do proclaim.
I've read a goodly amount of Chesterton's writings. My tally is no where near the amount the great Dale Ahlquist has read - I suspect he has studied even Chesterton's shopping lists ("Two cigars, three pieces of chalk, brown paper, ...") - but it's more than most people. I credit his biography of St. Francis with helping to save my faith, and I followed that up with such books as his biography of Aquinas, The Everlasting Man, and Orthodoxy, a slew of his essays, and a broad selection of his poetry.
But I had not read many of his Father Brown stories.
I had read a few of the Brown mysteries - the ones that are regularly anthologized - and I enjoyed them.
So this past Christmas I was delighted when youngest daughter gave me a first American edition of The Wisdom of Father Brown that she had found in a used bookstore.
I had a few other things to read first, then I got to this treasure full of anticipation.
With each story I grew more disappointed.
I am a fan of mysteries. I've read almost all the Sherlock Holmes tales, many of the Tony Hillerman Navajo stories, a number of Parker's Spenser books (where I learned a better way to cook pasta!), all the Father Dowling books my local library had, and I even got to interview the incredible (though sadly, now late) Ed Hoch, who's stories I love.
I just didn't think the mysteries in this Father Brown book were particularly good as mystery stories.
Then I got to "The God of the Gongs."
I was more than disappointed. I was offended.
I understand that it was a different time period and that racial names were viewed differently then, but I found the frequent use of "Nigger" jarring. If it had just been that - I've read The Adventures ofHuckleberry Finn - I could have understood the use of that word. But there was also an attitude of racial superiority that came through in various lines about Italians, darker races, and Blacks, and when Father Brown observed, "That negro who has just swaggered out is one of the most dangerous men on earth, for he has the brains of a European, with the instincts of a cannibal," I nearly threw the book down.
I don't think Chesterton was a racist. I think he was a product of his time.
I would not be surprised if such attitudes might be found in some of his other writings - I've only begun to mine the mother lode. But they have literary riches that outweigh such racial slag.
But as for the Father Brown tales ,,,
I'll finish reading the book - it was a gift and I feel obligated - but it may be a while before I'll read any more Father Brown mysteries. I've lost the desire.