July 23, 2004

Intriguing Excerpts...
...from the 100 greatest books, via Steven Riddle:
27. CERVANTES. DON QUIXOTE... Cervantes' great, ironical, romantic story is written in a style so noble, so nervous, so humane, so branded with reality, that, as the wise critic has said, the mere touch and impact of it puts courage into our veins. It is not necessary to read every word of this old book. There are tedious passages. But not to have ever opened it; not to have caught the tone, the temper, the terrible courage, the infinite sadness of it, is to have missed being present at one of the “great gestures" of the undying, unconquerable spirit of humanity.

86. GILBERT K. CHESTERTON. ORTHODOXY...Mr. Chesterton has his own peculiar “religion”—a sort of Chelsea Embankment Catholicism, in which, in place of Pontifical Encyclicals, we have Punch and Judy jokes, and in place of Apostolic Doctrine we have umbrellas, lamp-posts, electric-signs and prestidigitating clerics...If we don't become “like little children”; in other words like jovial, middle-aged swashbucklers, and protest our belief in Flying Pigs, Pusses in Boots, Jacks on the top of Beanstalks, Old Women who live in Shoes, Fairies, Fandangos, Prester Johns, and Blue Devils, there is no hope for us...

87. OSCAR WILDE...His supreme art, as he himself well knew, was, after all, the art of conversation. One might even put it that his greatest achievement in life was just the achievement of being brazenly and shamelessly what he naturally was—especially in conversation. To call him a “poseur” with the implication that he pretended or assumed a manner, were just as absurd as to call a tiger striped with the implication that the beast deliberately “put on” that mark of distinction. If it is a pose to enjoy the sensation of one's own spontaneous gestures, Wilde was indeed the worst of pretenders. But the stupid gravity of many generals, judges and archbishops is not more natural to them than his exquisite insolence was to him.

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