29 May 2010


Locus Focus: Take Three!

It's another wonderful Saturday for settings! This Saturday happens to be, as I have said earlier, the birthday of one of my favourite writers, G.K. Chesterton. So today I offer a short write up and reflection on one of his most magical settings . . .

Sunday's Home
The Man Who Was Thursday
by G.K. Chesterton

Very gradually and very vaguely he realised into what rich roads the carriage was carrying him. He saw that they passed the stone gates of what might have been a park, that they began gradually to climb a hill which, while wooded on both sides, was somewhat more orderly than a forest.

Then there began to grow upon him, as upon a man slowly waking from a healthy sleep, a pleasure in everything. He felt that the hedges were what hedges should be, living walls; that a hedge is likea human army, disciplined, but all the more alive. He saw high elms behind the edges, and vaguely thought how happy boys would be climbing there. Then his carriage took a turn of the path, and he saw suddenly and quietly, like a long, low sunset cloud, a long low house, mellow in the mild light of sunset.

All the six friends compared notes afterwards and quarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the place reminded them of their boyhood. It was either this elm-top or that crooked path, it was either this scrap of orchard or that shape of a window; but each man of them declared that he could remember this place before he could remember his mother.

That is a very vague description of the most important setting in the novel--and Chesterton knows it! He deliberately writes it that way. For how else could any one place match the childhood memories of six different men?

It's a fitting strategy, but it does make this setting tricky to write about. =P

Have I mentioned that The Man Who Was Thursday is subtitled A Nightmare? Sometimes I think the best way to approach this novel is as if it were a dream, in which the hard facts of waking life get to parade around in costumes which, like those the six friends get to wear to Sunday's ball, do not conceal the truth, but reveal it.

I've mentioned that all my own dreams are set in places which were very important to me but which I no longer see--some of which I will never see again because they have been "developed" by new owners. Two nights ago, I dreamed I was following four young men--who, from the looks of them, could have been either the Beatles or the Monkees--around my childhood home, which was also their childhood home . . . and all I could do was follow because they didn't want me to hang out with them! But the strangest thing was that my home was surrounded by coconut trees which made good climbing. I haven't figured out what it means yet, but I can say that it's very demoralising to be dissed by dream figures! All of which has nothing to do with the novel except to say that I totally get what Chesterton is about. (LOL!)

There are some truths that can only be understood in dreams; the truth about Sunday is one of them. The six friends who arrive at his masquerade ball are also detectives coming closer to the heart of the mystery--and it is the sort of mystery that requires just the right setting. (I have yet to make a proper survey of Detective Fiction, but I suspect a genre in which the setting of a crime is significant has been just as kind to the setting of its resolution. Chesterton really liked Detective Fiction.)

Now it's your turn!
Leave the link to your Locus Focus post in the linky
and take some time to check out and comment on those of others.
I can't wait to read what everyone has to say! =D

EDIT: In the rare event that Mister Linky's server is down and the links aren't available, you can refer to this list of Take Three's participants:

Bitter Lies Dojo, The Discworld (The Colour of Magic, et. al. by Terry Pratchett)

Pearls Cast before a McPig, Chrestomanci Castle (The Chronicles of Chrestomanci by Diana Wynne-Jones)

Null Epistolary, Cambridge (Manalive by G.K. Chesterton)

Birdie's Nest, Manderley (Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier)

Spike is Best, "A valley in South England remote from ambition and from fear . . ." (Hills and the Sea by Hilaire Belloc)

Image Source: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton


Paul Stilwell said...

"There are some truths that can only be understood in dreams; the truth about Sunday is one of them."

You make me realize how good this book is, how it is more deep than just an allegory, and that I'm going to read it again.

"Then his carriage took a turn of the path, and he saw suddenly and quietly, like a long, low sunset cloud, a long low house, mellow in the mild light of sunset."

Gah! I want to be *there*! The sentence about how they could remember it from before they could remember their mothers is very evocative. It's been more than a decade since reading this book.

I'm not doing anything tonight. Did you wanna get some gelato?

ninjapeps said...

my already meager writing skills have deteriorated from not doing any formal writing since college but I said I'd make an entry this week and I did. if I get another attack of productivity, I'll do the Dresden Files' Chicago next.

Enbrethiliel said...


Paul: I love gelato! Will you pick me up or will we take separate carriages to Sunday's house?

I was just discussing with someone else a book that has become so familiar over the years that I no longer see it properly. She is reading it for the first time and pointing out things I always felt to be true about the book but never really thought of as obvious the way she seems to. I wonder what you will see in it, if you do reread it, with over a decade between this and your last perusal.

Peppy: You're here! =D And I think your tribute to Discworld is pretty good. =) Thanks for linking up!

Sullivan McPig said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sullivan McPig said...

you're doing this on purpose are you? Making me so curious I just will have to try to get hold of this book and read it.

*grumbles about stupid typos*

Belfry Bat said...

It sounds almost like "the perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all!"

I haven't written about that, though. I'm still feeling warm and fuzzy about Manalive, so I've gone back for another bit of prosetry.

Don't let the "posted by" fool you either; it's all just some guy on the street.

Enbrethiliel said...


Sully: It's not on purpose at all! =P And to prove it, I am not going to post about this novel for the entire month of June! ;)

Bat: I'm ashamed to say that I had to Google that quote! =( I knew it wasn't Chesterton, and I was willing to bet my whole library that I had read it before--and that indeed, it was in that library--but I just couldn't place it.

Ah, Rivendell . . . ! One of these days, I shall have to do a Tolkien setting. (Unless someone else beats me to it!)

Paul Stilwell said...

Oh, I'll pick you up of course. Separate carriages? LOL. Forsooth, the other Days of the week might be scandalized.

Now I have two pending reports/essays/scattered thoughts (M.M. and T.M.W.T) to send you. It's good the books are slim.

Enbrethiliel said...


There are other times, however, when one wishes they were much thicker!

Suburbanbanshee said...

Re: seeing a novel clearly again

I've been listening to audiobooks of Doyle's A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. I first ran into these books when I was in 4th or 5th grade, I've reread them often since, but I guess I was always reading for the story and not the rest.

Doyle really does some interesting stuff with parallelism in both books, creating a sort of subconscious impression that directs how you're supposed to take it. But you don't notice, because Watson is always talking and explaining, and so is Holmes, and so is everybody else. All this talking, while tons of the most important stuff slips around in the background. Holmes and Watson as brothers paralleling all the other brothers in SIGN, for instance.

The other really weird thing is how many Jefferson Hope characteristics from Study in Scarlet become Holmes characteristics in SIGN. It's very very freaky.

Enbrethiliel said...


Banshee, if you were a casual reader from another book blog, I'd reply with something as bland as it is friendly, such as, "I'm glad to hear that you're having such a great experience with an old favourite!"--and leave it at that.

But since you're you to me and I'm I to you, I'm going to admit that the first and last time I read any Doyle was about three years ago and that it wasn't A Study in Scarlet or The Sign of Four! So I'm afraid I don't know what you're talking about, even though I have faith enough in you to be sure that it must be really good! =P