Parliament of Fools

Welcome! We fools are a mish-mash of lovers of the English language. Pull up a computer chair, and imagine with us that you're sitting by the fire in a local cafe. Sip your cyber-cappucino and discuss with us your thoughts on our latest reading assignment. Hopefully we'll experience all the joy of reading together, without the cost of Starbucks.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Chief Mourner of Marne

Back at last (momentarily, while no one needs a clean diaper, food, or entertainment). . . .

I think this story works especially well straight out as a mystery--the clues are all there and yet manage to turn themselves completely inside out at the end. Even more intriguing is the way the concepts of mercy and judgment are turned inside out; the "charity" (or today, "tolerance") of the world shown to be the cheap fraud that it is, useless for those who really need mercy. One doesn't have to accept the Catholic role of the priest to see the power of the Christian belief in both the horror of sin and the depth of God's mercy that can forgive the unforgivable.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Congrats! QOC

Our own QOC has given birth to a sweet little boy, Carl, by surprise c-section.

Born September 29th at 11:29 a.m.
Weight: 6 lbs., 11 oz.
Length: 19.5 inches.

We'll take a brief recess from studying so that mama and baby can adjust to their new relationship. The external relationship, that is.

Hurray! for a safe delivery, and welcome to the world little man.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Red Moon and many kinds of theft

Ostensibly, "The Red Moon of Meru" centers around an ordinary theft crime: the loss of a valuable ruby. But the story then examines layer upon layer of theft. The ruby's thief is obscured because the mystic wants to steal credit for the ability to mentally transport substances. (The Master of the Mountain seems likely to me to have been able to deceive himself into thinking that perhaps he had managed to transport the stone across space and time.)

Taking everything back a step further, the owners of the stone are themselves at least the receivers of stolen goods--heirs to an abbey long ago stolen from the church; and their eastern novelties seem to be at least in part stolen from their original sites. The story even suggests their religious and philosophical beliefs to be a kind of theft; taking what they like from each religion, an abbey here, the eye of a god there, without bothering to devote themselves to the truth of any one of them.

So which theft is the worst? The human law only punishes the theft of a little stone; stealing credit is beyond its scope and it has often been complicit in the great thefts. From a social standpoint, stealing credit or taking advantage of legal thefts are quite acceptable. But only the jewel thief seems to recognize the reality of his sin and thus have a chance at being made right with divine law.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

I'm really enjoying this

I like Chesterton and I'm wondering if these stories are representative of the bulk of his fiction? It is not similar to most things I would choose to read on my own, so I'm still getting my feet wet with what to look for, the patterns, the symbolism. Like you mentioned, QOC, there is significant use of imagery, like the lanterns, and the old abbey that the "Red Moon" takes place in. But I still feel like I'm missing out on something.

What are your tips for reading Chesterton? I have picked up on his style of prose, but I want to get deeper into it. I know it's all light-hearted, but there are deep issues involved at the same time.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Why did the Magistrate shoot himself?

Isn't it weird that the magistrate shot himself twice? Once in the mirror, thinking that it was the Justice. And then from the guilt, he commit suicide.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Mirror of the Magistrate

I think I picked this one mostly because I love the visual imagery in it: the garden and the colored lamps, that are at once danger signals to the detective and fairy lamps to the poet; the mirror at the end of the gloomy hallway that holds forever its last scene, the image of the murderer.

By the way, I can easily imagine a poet being so abstracted as to spend two hours gazing over a beautiful garden; but could a poet be so abstracted as to gaze over a beautiful garden and not notice a murder being committed and discovered right under his nose? Then again, I've been known to be almost that abstract, and perhaps his vantage point didn't allow him to see the pond well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Father Brown, Science, and Literature

Let the discussion commence.

I find Father Brown's comments on science as applied to human beings to be compelling. I haven't read much on criminology, but I have read quite a bit on education, and the same dichotomy exists there: between those who view education from a distance--the students as objects to be manipulated into producing certain outcomes--and those who start from the inside, from looking at themselves as learners and the students as fellow human beings. The former attitude has rightly been called "the language of hell."

Ideally, literature can counterbalance this danger in the sciences. Literature allows us to see other people from the inside, to realize that their failings and passions are also ours. To realize that we, too, are murderers.

Feel free to jump ahead and discuss any of the stories you want to. I'll try to post something on each one as we go along.