...in which Chesterton mocked novels that are populated with sensitive souls who are tortured by kindness and cheerfulness.
This is from The Moviegoer by Walker Percy (himself a Catholic):
"Are you all right?"
"I am all right. I am never too bad with you."
"No thanks to you. On the contrary. The others are much more sympathetic than you, especially Mother and Sam."
"What about Merle?"
"Merle! Listen, with Merle I could break wind and he would give me that same quick contgratulatory look. But you. You're nuttier than I am. One look at you and I have to laugh. Do you think that is sufficient ground for marriage?"
"As good as any. Better than love."
Earlier in the novel, one character has revealed the festering, squalid banality of her soul in this shocking scene:
It seems she has just finished reading a celebrated novel which, I understand, takes a somewhat gloomy and pessimistic view of things. She is angry.
"I don't feel a bit gloomy!" she cries. "Now that Mark and Lance have grown up and flown the coop, I am having the time of my life. I'm taking philosophy courses in the morning and working nights at Le Petit Theatre. Eddie and I have re-examined our values and found them pretty darn enduring. To our utter amazement we discovered that we both have the same life goal. Do you know what it is?"
To make a contribution, however small, and leave the world just a little better off.. [...] We gave the television to the kids and last night we turned on the hi-fi and sat by the fire and read The Prophet aloud. I don't find life gloomy!" she cries. "To me, books and people and things are endlessly fascinating."
The glum protagonist, we are told, "can talk to Nell as long as I don't look at her. Looking into her eyes is an embarrassment."
The poor fellow! Imagine how awful it is for him, confronted with a mother of grown-up children who enjoys life and finds it fascinating! I think the lady would have been damned by him just as much if she preferred to go to bingo and watch TV.
The world is full of phonies and only me and you are really authentic, really alive! And I'm not even that sure about you, to tell you the truth!