All posts by Phil W

Chesterton’s blog

Well, blimey, Bert! Look what I’ve copped. The blog of the American Chesterton Society (ACS). They have a rare, autographed book of Chesterton poems for sale with a charity angle on it, and they point to a review of an interesting book I hadn’t seen before, The Flying Inn. The reviewer writes that the book “was condemned to many years of neglect, presumably because of what was then seen as the quaintness and irrelevance of its subject matter — an Islamic attack on and infiltration of England.” The ACS says, “This is a hilarious satirical romp in which Chesterton inveighs against the forces of dreary and oppressive modernity, in the form of Prohibition, vegetarianism, theosophy, and other movements.”

When Is a Town Beautiful?

My sister pointed out this sentence so I want to ask you what you think. How does sentence, published in a novel, strike you: “The beauty of [the town] was evident even in the autumn twilight.”

The paragraph goes on to describe the beauty of the town, especially in autumn with its tree lined streets . . .its hair with a luster as Fall hits the air. . . . I know you in Autumn, and I must be there. I’m sorry. I lost myself in another thought for a moment.

Anyway, what do you think of that sentence?

Perhaps It Was a Dream

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

More than cool reason ever comprehends.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,

Are of imagination all compact:

One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,

That is, the madman; the lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:

The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;

And, as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen

Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing

A local habitation and a name.

Such tricks hath strong imagination,

That, if it would but apprehend some joy,

It comprehends some bringer of that joy;

Or in the night, imagining some fear,

How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!

My wife and I drove down to Atlanta last night to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Atlanta’s New American Shakespeare Tavern. Almost too much fun. I was weary of laughing by the end.

The play seemed to end before it truly ended. In fact since Act V is mostly a poorly written tragedy performed by buffons who have “never labour’d in their minds till now,” it’s appropriate to have only a weak connection to the rest of the story. In that act, the silliness wore on me–well done and the crowd was roaring, but my laughter softened a bit. Maybe it was the lateness of the night.

It was a great play, though. I’ll see it again sometime.

You Laughing at Me? You Laughing at Me?

Frank Wilson points out a call for humor suggestions by Scott Stein. “What’s So Funny?” is the title of a course Mr. Stein will be teaching this fall at University of Pennsylvania. He says, “I would welcome suggestions about what to include on the reading list. . . . No choice is too obvious. After all, somehow I never got around to reading P.G. Wodehouse until this year.”

I don’t see James Thurber on the list yet. I think his grammar guide is hilarious, and I’ve been meaning to read Is Sex Necessary? or, Why You Feel The Way You Do for a while.

Two Types of People

1. There are two types of people in the world: those who divide people into two types and those who don’t. (attributed to Robert Benchley)

2. “There are basically two types of people. People who accomplish things, and people who claim to have accomplished things. The first group is less crowded.” (Mark Twain)

3. There are two types of people in the world: those whom we are happy to see again and those whom we are happy to see go away.

4. There are three types of people in the world: those who can count and those who can’t.

old jokes

Chesterton on blogging, sort of

The Jollyblogger points out advice from G.K. Chesterton to Christian journalists and applies it to Christian bloggers. It comes to use by way of Gilbert Magazine.

The “bad Christian journalist” seems to write from a worried, panicked, mindset. The sky seems to be falling to him. . . . There is no sense of “Christ the overcomer” in this, only “Christ-and-His-cause-are-about-to-be-defeated-and-we-better-do- something- now-or-we’re-all- gonna-die, . . . aaaaahhhh!!!!”

New Light by Annette Gilson

Brief Summary: Beth comes to St. Louis, Missouri, hoping to start a new chapter in her life. She doesn’t expect to have visions and get caught up in the drama of a New Age commune.

In New Light, Annette Gilson’s remarkable debut novel, her narrator, Beth, tells the curious story of her experience in St. Louis shortly after arriving from New York. It opens with what I consider the sticking point of drama, Beth’s intense visions. Without explanation or drug use, she feels her spirit burgeon, swelling into the night sky, pressing so close to stars as to feel their burn. Her vision gives her common ground with Houdini White, a scientist who has been studying vision phenomena and the New Age communities which claim to work with them. One of those communities, called New Light, is relatively close by, so Beth and Houdini visit it for several days.

It’s a quiet story, broken up by Beth’s short discussions of mystical science and conflict between the characters. Gilson’s writing carries the tension and mystery effectively throughout the book. (I love the conclusion.) At New Light, Beth and Houdini meet a leader named, The Mother, who cultivates a mystery for the dozens of people living with her. Everyone there is supposed to be a visionary, but each one comes at it differently and all interdependently. Because Beth has experienced vision outside the group, she could have remarkable gifts for their enrichment.

But do these supernatural visions tell them anything? Nothing that deep introspection wouldn’t. In this novel, supernature appears to exist as a nebulous expression of oneself. The message resolves to this: watch your world and those in it; be aware of yourself and your surroundings, then maybe you’ll have more peace than the people who strive and yearn too much.

Perhaps this is understandable peace, which is the reason the Lord God described his peace as beyond understanding. Like the poor community which doesn’t complain about filthy water, the understandably peaceful decide to be content with transcendence that doesn’t surpass their skin.

I Thought the Phrase Was ‘Cut the Cheese’

A couple language links:

  1. Today, I learned of the Big Bad Book Blog through Books, Inq. The most recent post addresses words and phrases with sound similar to the ones the speaker/writer intends, like “cut the muster” which is meant to be either “cut the mustard” or “pass muster.”
  2. Phil Schroeder of Thinklings wonders if the phrase “criss-cross applesauce” is a p.c. attempt to relabel “indian style” sitting.

Both of these posts get me thinking about the natural changes in language. “Cut the muster” could become the “right” phrase for describing something that meets our standards. I suppose it would be ignorance ushering in the change, but isn’t that part of a living language? I believe “criss-cross applesauce” is a mislabeling of cross-legged sitting, but give it several years and it may become correct.

I enjoy reading about English peculiarities, and I want to write and speak correctly, but I know that living languages don’t toe the line of the stickler, as it were. They change usually for bad reasons. Now, we no longer say “art,” “wert,” “gloam,” “eftsoons,” or “peradventure.”

P. D. James at Harrogate

Crimeficreader has posted notes from the festival interview with that wonderful author, P.D. James. One interesting note, Crimeficreader says: “James believes that imagination is a gift, that it is something you’re born with. When she was a child she knew she wanted to be a writer, but described herself as a ‘late starter’ – a comment that I’m sure will give hope to many.” Perhaps that’s so, but I know that imagination needs regular nurturing to grow and bloom.