Thursday, June 30, 2005

Thursday on Thursday

"The rare, strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a time table, with tears of pride."
- Gabriel Syme, in GKC's The Man Who Was Thursday

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Hilaire Belloc through the letters of Hester Balfour

Christine Flynn, a graduate student at Boston College, has put together the website Hilaire Belloc through the letters of Hester Balfour.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Finding the Ethics in His Elfland

The Matthew's House Project appears to be a fairly new place on the internet. Its stated purpose is "to develop a place in which the intersections of faith and culture can be explored." Director Zachry O. Kincaid is fond of G.K. Chesterton, and he references GKC in several of his Project writings thus far. His June article is titled The Narrative World of G.K. Chesterton: Finding the Ethics in His Elfland and begins with:
The purpose of this work is to analyze G. K. Chesterton’s fiction by coming to his fiction writing with a particular set of principles: boundary, miracle, and adventure. While these are my terms, they represent a categorization in keeping with “Ethics of Elfland,” in Orthodoxy, his primary defense of Christian theology as opposed to modernism.

These categories are significant because they provide the reader with terms to analyze Chesterton’s narrative work as a defense of Christian theology. In his work, boundary is legitimate when it includes the supernatural, miracle, when it recognizes the limitations of reason, and adventure, when it involves a renewed sense about the world. Once you understand how Chesterton uses boundary, miracle, and adventure, you become more aware of how these principles function outside the narrative world of Chesterton, in everyday life.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Wild Colts & Common Sense

A new blog has appeared: Wild Colts & Common Sense resides at The blogger claims GKC as the blog's patron saint. Posting thus far has emphasized learning disabilities; writing about Chesterton: "Like many atypical age 9, G.K. was thought to be a 'little slow' by his parents and went to see a 'brain doctor' regarding it." The next post was about Tom Cruise's learning disability and now his advocacy. It might be an interesting blog to watch.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Lie Detectors

In "The Mistake of the Machine," Father Brown tells Flambeau that he has no confidence in the new invention now referred to as "the lie detector." The priest then proceeds to tell his friend a story that backs up his opinion. It has taken ninety years for the world to catch up with the wisdom of Father Brown on the subject, but in October of 2002, news sources were reporting on the loss of credibility that had finally and officially overtaken the polygraph test and its practitioners. As journalist Steve Chapman reported in a typical news story, "A report issued last week by the National Academy of Sciences recommended that the federal government stop using polygraphs to screen for security risks. Why? Because, in the words of the study, these devices are 'intrinsically susceptible to producing erroneous results.' That's academese for 'I wouldn't trust one as far as I could throw it'." (Washington Times, October 16, 2002).

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Gotham City and the Fact of Sin

From a review of Batman Begins by Marc Newman; published by American Family Association - AgapePress News:

The Biblical World of Batman

No one, perhaps, has said it more effectively than G.K Chesterton: "Modern masters of science are much impressed with the need of beginning all inquiry with a fact. The ancient masters of religion were quite equally impressed with that necessity. They began with the fact of sin -- a fact as practical as potatoes. Whether or not man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was not doubt at any rate that he wanted washing."

While films like Spider-Man, The Incredibles, and the forthcoming Fantastic Four posit an essentially good world that needs to be saved from an anomalous, encroaching evil, Batman is blunt. The world is not a good place -- it is seething with sin. Even when admitting that there are some people trying to do the right thing, as did Bruce Wayne's philanthropist father, it was twisted by his home town, Gotham City, into evil. Before I am set upon by people who think this view too bleak and pessimistic, it must be noted that this view is no stranger to the Scriptures.

Our world is described in the Bible as "a crooked and perverse generation" where no one "does good" (Phil. 2:15; Rom. 3:12). The people who inhabit it are enslaved to sin (Rom.6:6). Our struggle is described as "not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Eph. 6:12). But make no mistake -- these are forces that control those they have enslaved.

Gotham City is sin writ large. The niceties of "civilization" have been stripped away and what viewers see is raw motive. Like Abraham contending with God over Sodom, we are seeking at least some righteous to warrant the saving of the city. Enter the flawed hero -- Batman.


Friday, June 17, 2005


Of the 132 clerihews published in the original collection Biography for Beginners (1905) about one-sixth (23) were attributed in whole or in part to "GKC." [The First Clerihews, Oxford, 1982]

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Democracy of the Dead

The Democracy of the Dead is a collaborative blog, nearly one year old, "dedicated to analyzing politics, culture, and religion through the voices of those still living and those who have departed but left us their wisdom." It takes its name, of course, from what G.K. Chesterton wrote in Orthodoxy:
If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.

Books on Liberty

David Gordon, in his article The Meaning and History of Liberty: An In-Print Bibliography posted at the Ludwig von Mises Institute website, writes about his project to compile an annotated bibliography of "the 100 most important books on liberty." His working list of 125 books in print includes one from GKC:
Chesterton, G.K. What’s Wrong With the World? Chesterton uses his immense gift for paradox to show the fallacies of those in revolt against the natural order. He refuted contemporary feminism in advance of its birth.

For Love of Golf

Alex Kuczynski writes today in the NY Times:
If a thing is worth doing, G. K. Chesterton wrote in 1910, it is worth doing it badly. He was defending the amateur against the professional, championing the rights of the average man or woman who does a wide variety of things out of love rather than one thing out of ambitious professionalism. And if there is any other sport in America in which most people, including me, play badly, it is golf. But many of us, including me, do it for love. That said, I did ask a clerk if they stocked women's golf gloves that have a special cutout for your engagement ring.

"Ugh," he said. "We don't stock those. Please."

In some senses, it is still a man's sport.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Chesterton Sheds a Tear

"For over 300 years, London's Fleet Street was the heart of British journalism, home to many of the country's leading newspapers — and the pubs that fueled their employees. On Wednesday, however, the industry saluted the end of an era at a ceremony marking the departure of Reuters from its Fleet Street headquarters.

"The exodus is the final knell for an era when booze-fueled journalists in the male-dominated publishing world would swap yarns with sources and competitors in the pubs."


Sunday, June 12, 2005


"Journalism, as G.K. Chesterton observed, tells us that Admiral Bangs has died without having told us that Admiral Bangs had been born. It takes notice of religious people only when their activities begin to threaten secularism; it failed to notice the rise of the Christian Right and militant Islam until they had already become impossible to ignore, whereupon it reacted with alarm verging on hysteria."

Joe Sobran.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Belloc Essay On Line

Semper Fidelis has reproduced Belloc's "The Protestant Heresy." Link.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Ahlquist and the Chesterton Society

Katherine Kersten writes in the June 6, 2005, Minneapolis-St Paul Star Tribune:

Five years ago, Dale Ahlquist was a well-paid lobbyist with a wife, three kids and an upscale house on a Bloomington cul-de-sac. Then he quit his job and waved goodbye to his corporate paycheck. Now he's that rare thing: a guy who can't wait to get up in the morning and go to work.

Ahlquist doesn't have to go far -- just upstairs to his home office. There, amid overflowing bookcases, is the headquarters of the American Chesterton Society, of which Ahlquist is founder and president.

Ahlquist launched the society to spread the word about a man many Americans have never heard of: British writer Gilbert Keith (G.K.) Chesterton, who died in 1936. In the early decades of the 20th century, Chesterton -- 6 feet 4, 300 pounds, cigar clenched firmly in teeth -- was one of the best-known celebrities in London. Today, he's almost forgotten.

Who was Chesterton, and why would anyone give up a fat paycheck to tell the world about him? Ahlquist is more than happy to explain: "Chesterton was a complete thinker," he says, "who was equally at home in history, theology, philosophy, art criticism and literature."

For example, says Ahlquist, "Chesterton wrote the essay that inspired Mahatma Gandhi to launch the movement to end British colonial rule in India. He wrote the book that converted C.S. Lewis, the famous Christian apologist, to Christianity."

All in all, he notes, Chesterton wrote 100 books, five novels, hundreds of poems, 200 short stories (including a series of mysteries about a detective priest, Father Brown) and over 4,000 essays and newspaper columns.

Writers as diverse as T.S. Eliot, Agatha Christie and Marshall McLuhan praised Chesterton's work. Never far from controversy, he debated the greatest names of his time, including H.G. Wells and Clarence Darrow. To debate Chesterton, Ahlquist adds, was to lose.

Ahlquist discovered Chesterton by chance. "When I graduated from Carleton College in 1980," he says, "I'd never heard of Chesterton." On the plane to Italy for his honeymoon with his Italian-born wife, Laura, he picked up Chesterton's "The Everlasting Man" (the book that changed C.S. Lewis' worldview) about the place of Christianity in history. "I fell in love immediately," he confides, "I've been married to Chesterton as long as I've been married to my wife."

Click HERE to read the entire article.

Friday, June 03, 2005

GKC Back In the Pop Culture

From a review of Cinderella Man:

"The film is based on the true story of James J. Braddock, whose inspiring rags-to-riches comeback in the dark days of the Depression prompted newspaper writer Damon Runyon to slap him with the epithet “the Cinderella man” — a rather milksop moniker for a boxer, and even for a boxing movie. I guess the fairy-tale reference made more sense to Runyon’s readers and Braddock’s fans than, say, “the Nicholas Nickleby of boxing,” though that would have been more accurate on several levels. Of course, it would have made an even worse movie title.

"Still, as portrayed in Cinderella Man, for sheer decency and dogged heroism Braddock is every bit the match of Dickens’ archetypal hero. G. K. Chesterton’s characterization of Nickleby as “poor, brave, unimpeachable, and ultimately triumphant” applies equally well to Braddock, whose Depression slump is as grueling and unremitting as anything in Dickens."


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Motion Picture GKC

The first Father Brown motion picture, a 67 minute feature starring Walter Connolly as the priest, Paul Lukas as Flambeau, and Robert Loraine as Valentin, was released by Paramount in 1935 with the title Father Brown, Detective. Chesterton saw the film himself and said he liked it. Several inadvertent flaws in the film's presentation of clergymen suggested to Chesterton the basic idea for a new Father Brown story, "The Vampire of the Village." [The Motion Picture Guide: 1927-1983, vol. E-G, Chicago: Cinebooks, 1986, 823; Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, New York 1943, 597]

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Subtle but Effective GKC

Michael Coren relates a priceless anecdote about Chesterton in his biography of H. G. Wells:

Wells was disarmed by Chesterton's good nature, disturbed by his inability to pigeon-hole the man. On a summers day in 1907, for example, Wells and Chesterton went to Oxford to attend a lecture. Walking together after the address Wells began to harangue his friend about the "bloody hand of Christianity." The diatribe lasted for over 35 minutes, without Chesterton making the slightest objection. At the end of it he turned to Wells, smiled and said, "Yes, you do have a point."

The Invisible Man, New York: Athenaeum, 1993, p. 80