Thursday, March 16, 2006

Naughts & Crescents, by Martin Gardner

Thanks to the anonymous commentator who wrote that there is a "new essay by Martin Gardner, 'Naughts & Crescents', in The New Criterion, March 2006. Gardner's commentary on GKC's The Flying Inn." The article is subtitled "On G.K. Chesterton's least successful novel."
Like Gilbert Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross, The Flying Inn is a comic fantasy almost totally forgotten today, even by Chestertonians. In view of the current explosion of Islamic fundamentalism, and the rise of terrorism against infidel nations, The Flying Inn has an eerie relevance to the Iraq war that keeps the novel from flying into complete obscurity.

Lord Phillip Ivywood, the novel's main character, is England's handsome, golden-voiced Prime Minister. He has come under the influence of a Turkish fanatic, Misyara Ammon, a large-nosed, black-bearded Muslim popularly known as the Prophet of the Moon. He has convinced Lord Ivywood that the Muslim faith is superior to Christianity. It is a progressive force destined to dominate the world. Ivywood has decided that Christianity and Islam should merge, with the Muslim crescent placed alongside the cross on top of London's St. Paul's Cathedral. Better yet, the cross should be abandoned for a new symbol that combines cross and crescent, perhaps called the "crosslam."
You can read all of "Naughts & Crescents" by Martin Gardner at The New Criterion; but you will need to subscribe or purchase the individual article to do so. (More than I have excerpted above is freely available at their website. So click to whet your appetite.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Many musings on GKC from Martin Gardner, including:

The Whys of A Philosophical Scrivener
By Martin Gardner. 1983.
Chapter 20 (pp. 326-342)
SURPRISE: Why I Cannot Take the World for Granted

"No modern writer lived with a more pervasive sense of ontological wonder, of surprise to find himself alive, than Gilbert Chesterton. Surely it is one reason why Borges was so fond of GK's poetry and fiction. In his autobiography Chesterton accurately calls it "the chief idea of my life" and defines it as not taking the world for granted, but taking it with humility and gratitude. It is to see everything, even the most common thing, as something both unexpected and undeserved. "The only way to enjoy a weed is to feel unworthy even of a weed." (23) All the evils of the world are a small price to pay for the privilege of existing.

One could assemble a large volume of excerpts from GK's books in which he plays beautiful and amusing variations on this theme of enjoying the world the way a
happy child enjoys it, as something miraculous. . . ."