Chesterton

Someday, I shall write a grand apologia, spanning decades and daydreams, on Gilbert Keith Chesterton, and why he is, rather more than less, the greatest author of the twentieth century, if not of all time. Meanwhile, I shall expound momentarily and frivolously on my love for the author. Some girls fall for the fictional Gilbert of Anne of Green Gables; I have fallen for the nearly-as-distant yet fascinatingly larger-than-life G. K. C. His brilliance, his brains, his bombasity (bombastickness?), his Britishness — more specifically, and more significantly, his Englishness — caught my attention, gripped it, and never let it go. I have yet to read his biography (I understand Ian Ker’s is rather good? Anyone read it?), but his personality spills out and over every one of his works, overwhelming the reader with the thoughts and words and ideas and impressions that well up from his soul. Do I exaggerate? Possibly. Yes, most likely. But exaggeration is the essence of enthusiasm, is it not?

I began my Chesterton devotion with Father Brown. That bumbling, plebeian,  English-as-umbrellas R. C. priest could talk about paint drying and hold his listeners spellbound; it is Chesterton, of course, who writes the words, but the good Father speaks them entirely on his own. I have always enjoyed a good murder/mystery; from the time I could read, the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew paved the way for Lord Peter Wimsey and Miss Marple, who, in their turn, introduced me to Mrs. Polifax and Sherlock Holmes and … oh, all the rest. A good mystery satisfies the soul in a way that no romance could ever attempt to do: the fundamental moral outrage of the taking of a life is conclusively eradicated when a hero exacts contrapassic (contrapasso-esque?) justice from the villain, on behalf of the victim. It is the rush of adrenalin and the resounding “Yes!” that comes with aceing exams and winning rugby tournaments and finally perfecting that meringue recipe.

But I digress. Back to Chesterton.

Father Brown was probably seventh or eighth grade for me. A year or two later, I sat down with “The Everlasting Man” and a pencil. This was the first time I  ever dared take ink to a book: books were sacred. Books were precious. One did not deface the golden words of genius with the shoddy penmanship (and insipid thought) of a teenager. This time, however, my mother suggested I mark it up, as a help or exercise for the paper I was supposed to write. Timidly, I took up the pencil, and I drew a fine line under the first sentence of the introduction.

Ultimately, I marked up the entire book.

From there, the “relationship” took off like a spaceship. His choice of words, his humour, his inconceivably brilliant — I mean, truly astounding paradoxes, his gleeful voice, his joie de vivre … it all added up to one enormous truth: he loved life. He loved his God, he loved his country, he loved his life. And a man with that sort of love cannot be all bad. When he speaks of God, I want to fall to my knees on a marble floor and pray for sheer joy. When he speaks of England, I want to walk Hadrian’s Wall in the pouring rain and eat nothing but mushrooms and cheese along the way. When he speaks of life, I want to grab the next person I find and dance the Virginia Reel until my feet fall off and the music becomes laughter and the stars laugh in the sky.

Words are mighty things. Chesterton knew this, and he knew how to wield that strength.

The last Chesterton work I read was “Manalive,” the best not-meant-to-be-romantic (or is it?) romance I have ever read. If you are not one for non-fiction (“Everlasting Man”), or priests-as-sleuths (Father Brown mysteries), I would cordially recommend an introduction to Chesterton via “Manalive.” You must be prepared to laugh, though, and curl your toes, and appreciate the frivolity of words, as well as their weightiness, and the meaningless things of life, as much as the meaningful. It’s Chesterton, after all.

Frustrations

I must say, I have never considered myself a flighty female, but my painful lack of perseverance in my writing rather points to that conclusion, doesn’t it?

Never have I completed a project. Never have I fully edited a story. Never have I taken a blog (yes, I’ve tried several blogs before) past a scant six months. Always a project begins with such energy, such enthusiasm, to end only with a whimper. To end? Not even to end: to drag along, to putz and plod at a ponderous pace through the back alleyways of subconsciousness, doomed to live on forever with no end, no closure, no merciful death.

Oh, for a Stygian abyss, into whose miasmal depths I could pour forth my anguish and woe …

(Yes, I’ve been spelunking again).

Emotion, immured behind Prudence’s cruel façade of pleasantry and civility, struggles to make himself* heard. Oh, frustration. Blistering barnacles. The stupor of ill-spent Time begins to creep upon him, stultifying his consciousness, causing his limbs to lose strength, lose energy, lose use. How to explain the numbness of words, when zeal and passion have fled!

Some call it writer’s block. Others, perhaps, a mere temporary lapse of time, a time for percolation rather than thunderstorms of the brain. As for me, I find the words slipping from my grasp, with that dreadful sinking feeling — that knowledge — that they will not return to continue that project for perhaps months, years, eternities.

How to catch a writer’s second wind? How to take another step, and another, and another, when you’re only halfway there? How to turn away from the social sorceress’s glow, back to the solid black and white of redlining?

How?

Frustrations.

 

*(Herself? Is Emotion Female? [what a title for a thesis! — oh, but Sayers has something along those lines already. Bother.]).