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Father Brown

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I'm reading the Father Brown stories by G K Chesterton and wondered is anyone was well versed in them or had at least read them? I'm still not sure whether I like them or not, they're not as good as Sherlock Homes I don't think.

Matt

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One of my earliest memories of my courtship of D is of the time she came over to my apartment, and then my sister coincidentally stopped by with a copy of the Father Brown stories, and my sister encouraged me to read the first story aloud, and so I did, pronouncing the name "Flambeau" with an exaggerated accent every time it came up, and causing my sister and my then-not-quite-girlfriend-yet to crack up a fair bit. Ah, happy times.

Haven't read any of the OTHER stories, I'm afraid.

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I've read pretty much all of them.

I've read a lot of Conan Doyle too, though not in a while, and purely as detective fiction I would agree that Conan Doyle is probably generally better. Chesteron is cleverer and often more interesting, but he can be gimmicky and not always plausible.

A lot of his stories make some sort of theological or ecclesiological point. Often they turn on Fr. Brown turning out to be more skeptical (one whole collection of stories is called "The Incredulity of Father Brown") or knowing than other supposedly more jaded or worldly-wise people, either because of what he's learned as a confessor or because of his philosophical grounding.

More comments on Father Brown by way of introduction of the Alec Guinness film (which alas is not as good as it could have been)

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Ah great - just the ticket SDG. As I've been reading them I've been thinking that they would make a good film and wondering why no-one has made this into a film (oh they already have Page-Boy)

I agree with the gimmicky / plausibility thing though. But then as I grew older I began ot realise that so many of Holmes' early deductions rested on an aeful lot of coincidences coming together.

That doesn't stop me wanting to watch the rathbne version of "dressed to kill" any less though.

Matt

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This might be stating the obvious, but I think Sherlock Holmes works so well as a detective character b/c detective stories play into the Enlightenment longing for reason to triumph over the world around us, and Sherlock Holmes is seems to be a veritable embodiment of those rationalistic ideals. And he gives the aura of invincibility, whereas Fr Brown is humble & self-effacing. That's why I think Holmes will always be a the classic fictional detective.

I think Conan Doyle also made effective use of elements of horror in his stories. Like exotic snakes crawling toward you in a darkened room & secret societies that never stopping hunting down their prodigals & people will dark secrets in their past that bubble up.

One interesting way to study Holmes is to compare him to Jacques Futrelle's American rip-off, Prof Van Dusen. Many detective story fans know "The Problem of Cell 13", in which the prof declares he can escape from any prison cell. This book includes that story & others. The other stories range from so-so to laughably bad, but I think it's hilarious that the author repeatedly extols the hero's large hat size (must be a big brain under there, eh?), lack of brawn, lack of social skills, and lack of grace around the gentler sex. He is obsessed with the inexorable march of iron-clad logic ("two & two make four ALL of the time, not just some of the time"). Oh, and his nickname: "The Thinking Machine." Have you gotten the picture here?

Chesterton is a totally different ball game, of course. In his first collection of Fr Brown stories, I think he took some glee in portraying Fr Brown as bumbling & ignorant, but lo & behold at the end of the story who was the only one who knew what was going on? Why, it was the "dumb" priest! This must have been how Chesterton felt at times about his faith & the world around him.

In the second story collection, it seemed like Fr Brown was aided in solving many crimes by finding character flaws in people (e.g., puritans, pagans, scientists) that stemmed from flaws in their belief system. This kind of thinking shows up in the anti-anarchistic / apocalyptic / inverted detective story The Man Who Was Thursday. This kind of worldview criticism is rather un-PC today, but it seems hard to get too mad at Chesterton b/c he always maintained some charm when making these jabs.

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Good article, SDG. Sounds like the movie was mostly concerned with the sequence of events & a few basic character attributes, but the movie-makers didn't really "get it" in terms of the way Chesterton viewed the world & so fit Fr Brown into their understanding of the world instead?

Speaking of movie adaptions of famous detectives (off-topic apologies in advance), can there be any worse than the black & white movie version of Miss Marple who bested the villain in a swordfight? Spunky old lady, that.

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Good article, SDG.  Sounds like the movie was mostly concerned with the sequence of events & a few basic character attributes, but the movie-makers didn't really "get it" in terms of the way Chesterton viewed the world & so fit Fr Brown into their understanding of the world instead?

That is a reasonable way of putting it.

Speaking of movie adaptions of famous detectives (off-topic apologies in advance), can there be any worse than the black & white movie version of Miss Marple who bested the villain in a swordfight?  Spunky old lady, that.

Yikes!

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Thanks Joel for that post - very interesting.

The thing is that Brown isn't as humble as I think I was expecting, so I just read the one where someone gets killed by a small hammer, and not only did it seem reasonably obvious to me from the start, but also that Brown seemed a bit smug about it all. Perhaps that's why I'm disappointed?

Matt

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Hmmm... smugness. Is it possible to be humbly smug? ;-)

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I am proud of my humility, and humbled by my pride. smile.gif

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Thanks Joel for that post - very interesting.

The thing is that Brown isn't as humble as I think I was expecting, so I just read the one where someone gets killed by a small hammer, and not only did it seem reasonably obvious to me from the start, but also that Brown seemed a bit smug about it all. Perhaps that's why I'm disappointed?

Matt

Interesting that you should mention that particular Fr. Brown story, since it is one of the only ones I remember from when I went on a Fr. Brown kick about 5 years ago. Perhaps it was the relatively gruesome nature of the crime which made it stick in my mind. But perhaps it was also the interesting redemptive imagery from the conclusion, which I think points to one of the Fr. Brown stories' redeeming qualities: the bit characters and potential criminals are often quite well-drawn (Chesterton was, after all, a stylist of renown). I actually like Fr. Brown's character also, he seems much like Professor Dumbledore in that combination of humility, wit, and occasional unmasking to reveal a clear-headed leadership.

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Just picked up the Kenneth More tv series version from the 70s. MIT be interesting though not very high scoring on isdbb. With all these Sherrlock Holmes updates around, I'm wondering if someone might do Brown as a modern day priest /pastor. Had a few chuckles at the potential of at one.

Matt

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I just read my first two Father Brown stories, "The Blue Cross" and "The Secret Garden". I bought a Wordsworth book that contained what is considered to be the best mysteries. My question is, why would Valentin invite Father Brown to his party in the latter mystery if he knew he was a shrewd sleuth based upon his detective skills in the previous story?

Also, looks like they are rebooting Father Brown.

http://www.digitalspy.ca/british-tv/news/a389038/harry-potter-mark-williams-cast-in-bbc-drama-father-brown.html

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I just read my first two Father Brown stories, "The Blue Cross" and "The Secret Garden". I bought a Wordsworth book that contained what is considered to be the best mysteries. My question is, why would Valentin invite Father Brown to his party in the latter mystery if he knew he was a shrewd sleuth based upon his detective skills in the previous story?

It's been a while, but isn't one of Valentin's characteristics pride in his abilities? He's been beaten once by Brown because he underestimated him, and now he's got the chance to play the game again, only this time he knows his opponent's skill?

Or maybe he just likes him. Later in the stories, once Valentin has reformed, he and Father Brown become pretty good friends.

Also, looks like they are rebooting Father Brown.

http://www.digitalsp...ther-brown.html

cool.png I mean, it looks like they're radically altering the world of the stories, but I'll watch as long as it's good. Probably will even if it isn't, just because.

Edited by NBooth

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I just read my first two Father Brown stories, "The Blue Cross" and "The Secret Garden". I bought a Wordsworth book that contained what is considered to be the best mysteries. My question is, why would Valentin invite Father Brown to his party in the latter mystery if he knew he was a shrewd sleuth based upon his detective skills in the previous story?

It's been a while, but isn't one of Valentin's characteristics pride in his abilities? He's been beaten once by Brown because he underestimated him, and now he's got the chance to play the game again, only this time he knows his opponent's skill?

Or maybe he just likes him. Later in the stories, once Valentin has reformed, he and Father Brown become pretty good friends.

Perhaps you're thinking about Flambeau? Valentin is a very proud man but

at the end of "The Blue Cross" he commits suicide.

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D'oh. Of course, you're right. Like I said, it's been a while. Too long, obviously.

Edited by NBooth

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Incidentally, I just learned that the BBC is showing its new Father Brown series, starring Mark "Brian Williams/Arthur Weasley" Williams as Father Brown. I've not seen many reviews for it, though--apparently the first episode just aired?

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Just watched the first episode last night. Liked it, but they did do the usual "update" of the material. Don't want to spoil it...

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My take on the BBC's new series "Father Brown," (very, very, very) loosely based on G. K. Chesterton's tales, or rather, on his "character."

 

The English anti-Catholicism regularly satirized in Chesterton’s stories is essentially moot here. Rather than a good-will ambassador of Romanism to Anglican and modernist readers, this Father Brown is a genial representative of enlightened faith to secular postmodern viewers — no bad thing in itself.

At the same time, the show is very much of its cultural moment, with themes of feminist and gay consciousness and the failings of the Church and Christian society woven into the stories. None of this is inherently objectionable, but where Chesterton sought to challenge as well as entertain his audience, the show wants only to be loved.

Still, I won't say I didn't enjoy it, and viewers with no familiarity with the source material will probably enjoy it more.

Edited by SDG

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That makes me sad.

 

Not that I'm RC, but I've spent a healthy portion of my professional career arguing that part of why great art is important is because it helps us understand what is "of the moment" by giving us a glimpse into another moment. 

 

I may have mentioned elsewhere that I noticed a couple of years ago that that anthology I was required to use for early American Literature was somewhat eccentric in the way it edited or expurgated texts, particularly to downplay the anti-RC sentiment of its time. I'm sure the editors thought that this would be disturbing or troubling to some modern readers, but the effect of taking much of it out (or changing it) can sometimes be rendering it invisible. I was surprised, when I started supplementing some of the reading with specific examples of what had been taken out, how many readers went from "Oh, you are just exaggerating, that's not part of the narrative we've been taught" to "Whoa....that's....harsh...."

Chesterton without the anti-RC satirizing would be a little like...I dunno...filming Harry Kemelman and calling it Friday David Small the Cultural Jew Who Got Along Fine with His Goyim Neighbors Slept Late.

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Thought I'd posted somewhere here before about this series, but apparently not. I have to say I'm a bit of a fan. I'm a bit ashamed to admit it of course; it's a show aimed at grannies playing in the middle of the day and shot on a next to nothing budget. Plus it's not really Father Brown.

But it's also strangely addictive. Williams' turn as Brown is certainly an above averagely positive depiction of a Christian leader and the mysteries are not predictable. And as much as I love the Deadwoods and The Wires of this world, it's nice to have something that, body count aside, is low on the offence scale.

So whilst there are cliche's aplenty (it's Marple really, only in clerical collar) I'm looking forward to a third series, wondering if I might catch the few episodes from the first two series I missed first time around (they aired over here once a day for a two week period). And FWIW I thought series two was better than series one so that's a good sign.

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