A light spirit with a merry heart
Flitting in the Arcade of Elan
Hears the chime at the morn,
Loses alacrity in a heartbeat
With her lithe gait drooped fast
And sighs for the end of the feast.
Author’s Note: Today ends the dreamful 4-day Thanksgiving holiday, and I wanted to commemorate it with this poem of mine. To me, it was truly the most cherished holiday because I could have all those time to myself doing what I liked in the comfort of my room without having to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to take a 2-hour trip to work. Time is indeed a fashionable host that changes his attitude toward the coming and going guests. What’s more, “Nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defense.” – Shakespeare
Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward by Paul Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s gobsmacking to see how people misidentify humor with mockery or sarcasm in their misconception about laughter (the loud the better) as a product of a merry heart. Whereas humor should be appealing not only to the senses but also to Reason with a natural assistance of wit to discern the light side of life and to elevate it to wisdom of life it bears, people tend to derive funniness from faux-pas and gaucheness of targeted individuals as if they were Olympian gods and goddesses laughing at the sorrow and travail of mortals on earth. That being said, this aptly witty book by Paul Johnson is an intelligent receipt against the philistine understanding of humor drawn on his erudition and sharp witticism.
Johnson sees humor as a handmaid to hope in life that gives a jolt to a meaning of life, a mental and physical therapeutic means to make the strains of existential malaises bearable, and presents us a society of famous artists who shares the same views on the pristine essence of humor. Life is indeed a comedy in a long shot and a tragedy in close-up. If our human existential life is a tragedy at the core, it also has a periphery of comedy, which helps us to understand and embrace the attitude of “Amore Fati” Love of Fate, regardless of a boundary of classes, races, and genders. Accordingly, finding humor in human suffering is one of the manifest functions of arts in sublimating human emotions and thoughts into the aesthetically pleasing and intellectually satisfying artifacts.
From Johnson’s humorists, the persons of Charles Dickens and G. K. Chesterton strike me as scintillating artists of classless humor whose abilities to draw humor upon people of all walks of life and to look upon the bright side of existential life and kindly side of human nature, for human nature is the same in all professions as it is in water, not stone. Even madness does not look grim and dismal in the eyes of amiable Chesterton: “The mad man is the man who has lost everything except his reason.”
This is the fourth book by Paul Johnson I have read, and it never ceases to amaze me with his erudition and wit manifested across pages after pages at the expanse of his will to enlighten general readers in plain English accessible to all. If you think abrupt peals of boisterous laughter in disguise of hearty mirth in public places are none other than a sign of incivility and citizenship, then this is a fit read that you will enjoy to your quiet hear’s content.
View all my reviews
On reading Mr. _______________ ‘s article on the instapoets, I was appalled at his dyspeptic raillery on the poems of the known poets and incandescent snark on the literary merit of the works by playing a role of agent provocateur following the instapoets just to mock their works with malice.
Just because one does not like another’s work doesn’t ipso facto endow the person with right to desecrate the work and to insult the author by putting him/her in the pillory and, thus dispiriting the mind and the heart that are indeed “noble” and respectful. As a hobbyist writer of my blog in English, I am now indeed in more sorrow than in anger that there might be agents provocateur or double agents in hides of followers intent upon deriding my amateurish but sincere writings.
The instapoets, bloggers, and anyone dabbling in the craft of writing are the cult of Knut Vonnegut’s maxim: “To practice any art, how well or badly, is to make your sol grow. So do it.” I hope the author and his likes will understand it with magnanimity of the learned literati who will not use their learning to reason against these noble spirits.
Author’s Note: This is my letter to the editor of a certain magazine that I subscribe. I couldn’t believe that such a historically famed magazine with reputation featured such an article publicly deriding the merits of poets on social media just because the style of writing and the subject matters do not meet the subjective standards of the journalist, who even became a follower of the poets to make fun of them behind the curtains… To think that he’s pleased with himself as a guardian of the English literature with a cruel intention! That’s why I had to send a letter to the editor even if it will not be featured in the magazine. Mind you that practicing art is not a prerogative of the privileged.
It speaks in roars of gushing beads all wither,
the spirits incarnate on the mighty crest of waves:
The Joy, the Fury, the Beast, the Beauty
All riding on the crest of the impetuous waves
and casting a spell on the eyes of the lady
bewitching her in its net of wonder, evermore.
Scrolls of ancient sagas
Pictures of strange faces
Folios of collected letters
Sealed in the misty wonders
of the antemundane treasures
awoke her delight in the senses
in phantasmagorical displays
of the cabinet of curiosities.
Author’s Note: Looking at our family album suddenly brought me back to the time when my father opened an old cabinet in his library where the interesting artifacts from our ancestors were kept and explained to me what they were; At the tender age of childhood, it was a sight to behold in awes and wows engraved in my memory shrine. For it was truly a Cabinet of Curiosities.