Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dr. Thursday on Gype (copied from the American Chesterton Society blog)

"It would be quite pleasing at this point to consult a short and simple guide in which Chesterton lists several rules, most of which happen to relate in an ontological sense to Gype, but which he rather pedantically uses to explain how to write a detective story. [It was in G. K.'s Weekly for October 17, 1925, and reprinted in The Spice of Life] The first, of course, is that detective stories are not about darkness, but about light - that is, not about keeping something hidden, but revealing a secret. (Gype is about fun, not about winning.) The second is that the pivot of the detective story, the cardinal, the hinge on which it turns (see Tolkien for deeper meaning of "turn" in fantasy & fairy tales) must be simple. In the same way, any single round, inning, hand or period of Gype, in any of the countless forms it may take, must also be simple, regardless of the cumbersomeness of athletic gear, the size of the board, the variety of its pieces, the number of players, and the rest. Thirdly, the thing must revolve on something familiar, easily forgotten or overlooked, which means why a broom must appear on a football field (No, Harry, for sweeping, not flying) or a queen (Alice asks "of spades? or white?") on a scrabble board.For the fourth, and perhaps most important of all these rules, I must quote GKC directly, and you must bear in mind that it applies to Gype as well as detective stories:
...the fourth principle to be remembered, as in the other cases, people probably will not realize that it is practical, because the principles on which it rests sound theoretical. It rests on the fact that in the classification of the arts, mysterious murders belong to the grand and joyful company of the things called jokes. The story is a fancy; an avowedly fictitious fiction. We may say if we like that it is a very artificial form of art. I should prefer to say that it is professedly a toy, a thing that children 'pretend' wish. From this it follows that the reader, who is a simple child and therefore very wide awake, is conscious not only of the toy but of the invisible playmate who is the maker of the toy, and the author of the trick. The innocent child is very sharp and not a little suspicious.[I gave you the ref. already.]That is, Gype is possible only if it remains what it was founded for: a joke. There will never be a NGL (National Gype League) or offical Gype sportswear. Thank God.Finally, GKC concludes by saying "Every good problem of this type originates in a positive notion, which is in itself a simple notion; some fact of daily life that the writer can remember and the reader can forget. But anyhow, a tale has to be founded on a truth." You can read "that the ref can remember and the player can forget" if you like - provided that the game called Gype is also founded on a truth. Which means, (pace my friend and commentor) that Gype cannot be a matter of absurdity. It belongs to the universe of reason, and hence is the only sport which is Catholic in its essence. (More on that in a future discussion.)If you want better rules for the game, quick, go buy the Collected Works. That's all the more you'll find these days, unless someone locates GKC's and Wells' notes... But by all means, play - and if you do play, please write it up (with full details of the score, etc) and send it to us. The Chesterton University team is ready to defend its title..."

---------Quoted from a Dr. Thursday post

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