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Saturday, August 21, 2010

GK Chesterton's Defense of Pulp Fiction

Excerpts from A Defense of Penny Dreadfuls

In this matter, as in all such matters, we lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the 'lower classes' when we mean humanity minus ourselves. This trivial romantic literature is not especially plebeian: it is simply human.

[T]his is what we have done with this lumberland of foolish writing: we have probed, as if it were some monstrous new disease, what is, in fact, nothing but the foolish and valiant heart of man. Ordinary men will always be sentimentalists: for a sentimentalist is simply a man who has feelings and does not trouble to invent a new way of expressing them.

If the authors and publishers of 'Dick Deadshot,' and such remarkable works, were suddenly to make a raid upon the educated class, were to take down the names of every man, however distinguished, who was caught at a University Extension Lecture, were to confiscate all our novels and warn us all to correct our lives, we should be seriously annoyed. Yet they have far more right to do so than we; for they, with all their idiotcy, are normal and we are abnormal. It is the modern literature of the educated, not of the uneducated, which is avowedly and aggressively criminal.

[W]ith a hypocrisy so ludicrous as to be almost unparalleled in history, we rate the gutter-boys for their immorality at the very time that we are discussing (with equivocal German Professors) whether morality is valid at all. At the very instant that we curse the Penny Dreadful for encouraging thefts upon property, we canvass the proposition that all property is theft. At the very instant we accuse it (quite unjustly) of lubricity and indecency, we are cheerfully reading philosophies which glory in lubricity and indecency. At the very instant that we charge it with encouraging the young to destroy life, we are placidly discussing whether life is worth preserving.

He sure did hate intellectuals and all other kinds of thinkers and learned men hahaha. For someone like GK Chesterton, being right (or wrong) is entirely beside the point. It's all good and fun and cool, but one can take only a small dose at a time, or one would despair enough to convert to Catholicism too. Excessive cleverness can eat up reality like a black hole eating up matter. In all his anti-hypocrisy observations, intellectual dueling with his contemporaries, and swirling arguments, the ground you stand on quickly disappears, and soon enough there is nothing left beneath your feet. At least that is how I feel every time I take a slight overdose of GKC.


CAVA said...

对了Father Brown系列你看过没有?感想如何?

Jun said...

看过,我有一本Father Brown全集。很好看。跟GKC的其他文字一样mind-tickling,但是没有那么剧烈与intense,比较容易消化。我还有一本悖论故事集,更加mind-tickling。

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