Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wherein an obscure taste is suggested if not confided

He was cut short by a bang and a blaze of light, which seemed close to his eyes. As the car sped on it left a floating patch of white smoke behind it, and Syme had heard a shot shriek past his ear.

My God! said the Colonel, someone has shot at us.

It need not interrupt conversation, said the gloomy Ratcliffe. Pray resume your remarks, Colonel. You were talking, I think, about the plain people of a peaceable town.

The staring Colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his eyes all around the street. It is extraordinary, he said, most extraordinary.

A fastidious person, said Syme, might even call it unpleasant.

Those who cannot endure a little satire with their webs of knightly tripe ought to do all they can to avoid G.K. Chesterton, who carried John Buchan's gentleman amateur hero deeper into his inherent androgyny of form than the Presbyterian cavalier could have imagined. 

Yet those who welcome how a written thriller allows a voluntary rep-rieve from laughter, can only gain more respect for satiric pacing in film at the same time. Great comedy is more than merely polite in its deference to proportion, more than simply ethical in that deference's production of art. It sets a mark of humaneness, and we like to see it. The gentleman amateur hero of androgynous invention - from Cervantes, for example, to Peter Sellers - has the genius to dance girlishly with a globe, to let comedy lend courage against right-wing bullies; and was sorely missed in the bullhorn days of the nation that deported him.

G.K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday
  A Nightmare 
Penguin Books, 1986©

Charles Chaplin
source: Ancient Industries

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