Archive for the ‘G.K. Chesterton’ Category

The Man Who Knew Too MuchThe Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I like Chesterton’s non-fiction more than his fiction. This is (if I recall) the second book of fiction that I’ve read from the great GKC. I have read more of his non-fictional work, and I like it more.

This book, like many mysteries, was a confusing ride. GKC’s word crafting is gorgeous – at points, simply startling. He was a man who knew how to use language. He had a purdy mouth.

The story is full of murder, political intrigue, and interpersonal difficulties. The author worked in some scathing criticism of “Capitalism,” as he saw it in his day. You know, the book was fun, but not super fun. Truth be told, when it comes to someone like GKC, if it ain’t really, really good, it just don’t match up with my expectations. I guess I just expect a great deal from GKC, and this book was, therefore, a slight disappointment.

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HereticsHeretics by G.K. Chesterton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m just finishing this book for the third or fourth time. Chesterton blows my little mind. He has such wonderful insight into what it is to be human. I think of him as a humanist that was a Christian. One of my favorite lines in this book is that “what is valuable and lovable in our eyes is man–the old beer-drinking, creed-making, fighting, failing, sensual, respectable man.” For Chesterton, man is incurably an idealist, a romantic, a thinking, feeling, paradoxical being. However, what is most human about humanity, what makes man man is that he’s a dogmatist. Man is the only created being that is necessarily drawn to generate a philosophy of life.

In this book Chesterton attacks those who either deny that such a philosophy exists or can exist and/or offer a philosophy that is inadequate. One of the difficulties of this book (and the reason I give it four stars) is how intimately tied it is to late 19th- and early 20th-century people and ideas. Thus, if one is really interested in understanding Chesterton’s criticisms in this book, one will likely end up doing some remedial work on men like George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells, George Moore, and others, and on such movements as Aestheticism, Neopaganism, and a host of other unsavory isms. However, with a little Google research or simply an open window to Wikipedia, most of these things can be adequately pieced together, and, thus, Chesterton’s judgments will be understood more fully. All of this work will pay off handsomely, as many of these ideas are still flying around today (especially on university campuses!).

One final word about Chesterton’s style: it’s like totally rad. It is just downright pleasing to read his words. It is not just that he has a powerful command of humor and paradox, it is that he knows how to turn a phrase. He knows how to make words dance and sing. He is worth reading simply for his style. This book is full of deep insight which is communicated in glorious prose.

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I’ve long been a fan of Martin Luther’s way with words. Granted, I don’t read German, but I marvel at his ability to turn a phrase, even when that phrase is translated into English. As to native Anglophones, we have one better (I think) than Luther.

G.K. Chesterton

I first read Gilbert Keith Chesterton as a seminary student. The fourth chapter of Orthodoxy (free audio here), in particular, modified my view of the whole world. This fabulous fourth chapter he decided to call “The Ethics of Elfland.” If you don’t want to read the whole book (really, you should read Heretics first and then Orthodoxy, both in their entirety), you absolutely should read this chapter. The upshot is that the world is magical, and that the “scientific” view of the world is actually excessively romantic and irrational. The correct view of the world should yield gratitude (and awe) – see Romans 1:21. Chesterton, even before his conversion, felt the desire to give thanks for the numerous amazing gifts all around and in him – the ones we all take for granted. Chesterton (as it typical) captures this with more flair than a waiter at Choctchkies: (more…)

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