Wednesday, October 12, 2011

ARCHIVED REIVIEW: Essential Writings of G.K. Chesterton (10/21/10)

Essential Writings of G.K. Chesterton
Edited by William Griffin

(the cover of the book is boring, so here is a fun caricature of GK).

This book is a collection of G.K. Chesterton's non-fictional writing on philosophy, social commentary and religion.

With this book, I have fallen in love with GK Chesterton: the man, if not the writer. He was an enormous man, with a fat walrus mustache. He dressed so shabbily that his wife dressed him in an opera cape, strange hat and a sword cane so that people wouldn't notice his shabby clothes because of the eccentricity of his dress. He ate a lot, drank a lot, and was merry a lot. He was jovial and generous, very spiritual, and yet not afraid to live in this world to the fullest. He valued Humor and Humility above all things, loved a good joke, and reveled in paradox.

All of this is revealed throughout his writing. In one essay, he expounds upon the luckiness of a man who thinks he has discovered a new land, but realizes upon arrival that he has sailed back to England. He gets both things that man needs most: the uncertainty and excitement of adventure and wonder, and the cozy stability of home. In another, he talks about how you should love the world for all its gladness, and if it is sad, you should then love it more. In another, he expounds upon how a child sees a tree and a lamp post with equal wonder, and how we should retain that wonder at every day life as we grow up. He talks about how the spiritual man is the only sane man, because he can see the smaller and the larger picture by the light of his belief, that virtue is not the absence of vice, but a "vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell." He wrote a series of essays entitled, "Why I am Not a Pagan," "Why I am a Christian," "Why I am a Catholic," "Why I am an Elf," and "Why I am a Clown." He talks about the silence of the universe being not emptiness, but mercy, because if we could hear the laughter of the heavens and experience the "frantic energy of divine things" we would be knocked down "like a drunken farce."

You see why I love him.

His writing does get convoluted at times, and his logic often does not follow. He runs very much on emotion and humor to get his point across, and you can very easily poke holes in some of his arguments. (There is a debate between GK and GBS at the end of the book, and this is extremely apparent when juxtaposing their styles of argument). However, I don't think he cares. He feels something, and wants to tell you why he feels that way. More often than not it is just because it is beautiful or awe inspiring, not because it is logical.

If you liked this book, you may also like:
The Napoleon of Notting Hill by G. K. Chesterton
The Man Who Was Thursday

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