Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chesterton Interviews Dan Brown

Carl Olson knocks it out of the park with this post. Here is a snip:
G.K. Chesterton, the famed British journalist, author, apologist, and wit recently sat down (in the form of his books, as he was not physically available) with Ignatius Insight editor Carl E. Olson and discussed the best-selling novelist Dan Brown—whose new novel, The Lost Symbol, is released September 15—and the importance and place of good and bad fiction.

Ignatius Insight: I was somewhat surprised to learn that you haven't been entirely negative about Dan Brown's novels, including The Da Vinci Code.

Chesterton: My taste is for the sensational novel, the detective story, the story about death, robbery and secret societies; a taste which I share in common with the bulk at least of the male population of this world. There was a time in my own melodramatic boyhood when I became quite fastidious in this respect. I would look at the first chapter of any new novel as a final test of its merits. If there was a murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I read the story. If there was no murdered man under the sofa in the first chapter, I dismissed the story as tea-table twaddle, which it often really was. But on the whole I think that a tale about one man killing another man is more likely to have something in it than a tale in which, all the characters are talking trivialities without any of that instant and silent presence of death which is one of the strong spiritual bonds of all mankind. I still prefer the novel in which one person does another person to death to the novel in which all the persons are feebly (and vainly) trying to get the others to come to life. [1]

Ignatius Insight: Are you saying, then, that you believe something good can be found in Brown's novels?

Chesterton: Every now and then, after wading through a hubbub of hundreds of words, we find a word that seems to have gone right by accident. We must not complain; nothing in this mortal life is perfect; not even bad poetry. [2]

In one sense, at any rate, it is more valuable to read bad literature than good literature. Good literature may tell us the mind of one man; but bad literature may tell us the mind of many men. A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.

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