Paul H. Fry


Once you've uttered the word "quarrel" - or better, the more tradition-haunted querelle - you don't really need to add that it's between order and. adventure. Can there be a quarrel about anything else? The "ancient quarrel between the philosophers and the poets," between Ancients and Modems, between classic and romantic, between phallocentric reason and the aleatory sex that is not one, these are all just new excuses for picking the same old fight. But if we can achieve any distance from our partisanship on such occasions, we begin to sense how easily the terms in our duality of choice can change places (you might hear "the adventure of order" promoted in this or that educational keynote address, or perhaps "the order of adventure"); and we also begin to sense how easily each term can harbor both sides of the quarrel within itself. For example, deconstruction, presumably an adventure contrasted with the orders of semiotics or semantics, nevertheless itself produces both a discipline, "rhetorical reading," and a gay science, the "seminal adventure of the trace."

Or, as to this last point, think of the detective novel: If you invoke the sequence Dupin, Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Umberto Eco's William of Baskerville, you seem thereby to invoke the forces of order, the dream of reason's little gray cells marshalled against superstition and muddleheadedness; whereas if you name the providential Father Brown, the dithering Miss Marple, the mystical Campion of Tiger in the Smoke, the apocalyptic Con Op of Red Harvest, and the unintelligible Marlowe of The Long Goodbye, you thereby produce, within the same rule-bound genre, an offsetting rhetoric of adventure, an equally stubborn insistence on the importance of bold intuition. But what is the difference? In Agatha Christie's novels, Poirot (for all his faith in little gray cells) and Miss Marple (for all her faith in intuited predictive homologies among village behavior patterns) are both equally successful in the last chapter because they both perform exactly similar feats of deduction from empirical data. It is precisely in the final analysis that the quarrel between order and adventure - Poirot and Miss Marple or Tony Hillerman's comparable Leaphorn and Chee - goes up in smoke.