Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ARCHIVED REVIEW: The Napoleon of Notting Hill (11/11/10)

The Napoleon of Notting Hill
by G.K. Chesterton

It is 1980 (the future) but everything is pretty much the same as at the turn of the century. Everything has become more gray, more normal, and the king is chosen through alphabetical order, since it is just as good as through birth.

In this humorless world lives Auberon Quin, a satirist, who thinks everything is funny. When he is chosen to be king, he decides to turn the world on its head. He draws up a proclamation, separating London into her different burroughs, making them walled cities, and commanding the Provosts of those cities to wear garish medieval garb, speak in high romantic language, and be followed around everywhere by trumpeters and halbriders.

Then, he meets the one Provost who takes it seriously. Adam Wayne sees romance in everything, everything is significant and glorious. Adam believes this so passionately that he starts a war over a road that will go through his neighborhood.

I loved this book so much! The entire book is an extended parable, examining those who don't take life seriously, and those who take even a lamppost deadly seriously. I was intrigued because I never knew which side G.K. Chesterton was on. He let each side speak their piece.

My favorite moment in the book involves Adam Wayne recruiting for his army and he goes into a succession of shops. The first is a grocer, and instead of seeing a plain grocer, he sees a purveyor of exotic goods from all over the world, and recommends he organize his shop by country, decking each display with silks and incense and artifacts from the country. He sees the chemist (pharmacist) as a dark, benevolent sorcerer, with a shop full of strange vials and colorful liquids.

He sees the ordinary as extraordinary, and by the end of the book, he has changed the world.

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