Gregory wagged his heavy, red head with a slow and sad smile.
“And even then,” he said, “we poets always ask the question, ‘And what is Victoria now that you have got there?’ You think Victoria is like the New Jerusalem. We know that the New Jerusalem will only be like Victoria. Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets of heaven. The poet is always in revolt.”
“There again,” said Syme irritably, “what is there poetical about being in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick. Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I’m hanged if I can see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is—revolting. It’s mere vomiting.”
Author: G.K. Chesterton
Mini-Synopsis: After sounding forth against anarchy to an anarchist poet, undercover detective Gabriel Syme finagles his way onto a secret council of anarchist bombers who call themselves by the days of the week. Hoping to find a way to reveal himself and the council to the police without breaking his promise of secrecy to the poet, he begins his investigations with zeal and fear—only to discover that none of his new companions are who or what they seem.
Little Notes: This book defies review, probably because like most nightmares—and it claims to be a nightmare in its own subtitle—it defies comprehension. At least, on first read. Half suspenseful detective novel and half fanciful pursuit of God, the novel juxtaposes the unmixable; the scene near the end with the thrones and the descriptive clothing, which reminded me forcibly of Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, didn’t seem to have much to do with the scene in the underground room near the beginning.
Possibly I just need to read it again, perhaps in turn with That Hideous Strength. Usually I can understand Chesterton, even with his backwards aphorisms, but I wasn’t sure what to make of this. I will say, however, that there’s a touch of comprehension to be had in this quote from his own commentary upon the novel:
“It was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was, even when my thoughts were considerably less settled than they are now. It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair which the pessimists were generally describing at that date; with just a gleam of hope in some double meaning of the doubt, which even the pessimists felt in some fitful fashion.”Chesterton is ever worth reading for his gleams of hope. And for his humor, which is to be had in plenty in this story, and for his beautiful prose. Even when his story is openly as changeable and confusing as a dream.