The Griffin and the Minor Canon
10/17/2009 § 1 Comment
“I have had a contemptible opinion of you ever since I discovered
what cowards you are, but I had no idea you were so ungrateful…”
Lately I have been moderately obsessed (if one can be moderately obsessed) with American writers. Add this to my regular obsession of fairy-tales and I’ll practically flip my lid. So when I discovered Frank Stockton a while back one might have mistaken me for a human shaped Tupperware with an upside down lid. Needless to say I’ve been reading a lot of Frank Stockton…along with my regular regimen of literature which currently includes City of the Century and Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which is, to my happy surprise, quite good. I’ll try to post about both when I finish.
I wish I could say that Stockton wrote tales with the beautiful, whimsical, heart-breaking quality in which Oscar Wilde fashioned his tales, because that’s what I always want with more recent fabulists, but I cannot say that. Few people can write like that. However, whatever Stockton lacks in ornate prose he more than adequately makes up with originality and sheer likability; and also some good old fashioned American sense.
The Minor Canon, one of the titular characters in the story is a well-liked, average, member of the clergy, just trying to do the best for his town. Just a regular guy really. Then along comes this Griffin who has never seen what he looks like but hears of a carving of himself in a village. He heads to the village and the townspeople freak out and hide. The Minor Canon is the only one to face him and after his initial fear, which never truly subsides (for it isn’t often one confronts a Griffin), he finds the creature somewhat exasperating as the Griffin decides to follow him around constantly, enjoying his kindness and common sense which much of the village lacks.
The story is fun. Lots of fun. The plot is fun. Basically, everything is fun. The sparse dialogue is always entertaining, being made up of little quips that the two characters often exchange.The ending is abrupt and kind of sad, and even though kind of out of left field, made me like the story more.
Of his stories it is my favorite, though all of them are worth a read. A Tale of Negative Gravity is also unique and parochial (as I’m sure the Nobel Lit board would agree with). What’s wrong with parochial? The Bee Man of Orn, is also a good and quick read. Both of these have illustrated editions by Maurice Sendak.