Monday, November 10, 2008

an impression of Belloc

I have a friend who has supposedly been working through Orthodoxy for years now. Not sure what his projected completion date for the first pass through that one is. I think the problem is that he uses the book as a sedative; Mortimer Adler wrote in How to Read a Book "To use a good book as a sedative is conspicuous waste." The winding roads of Chesterton's prose are difficult to follow during a late night reading. So my friend took a break to try out some Belloc, and wrote me his impression today:
I am now finishing up How the Reformation Happened. Belloc’s writing appeals to me more than Chesterton (at this point). I like the framework of “yes, I wrote that, I meant to, and here’s why it’s true. Idiot [implied].” I also enjoy paragraphs.

11 comments:

Doug P. Baker said...

Years in Orthodoxy? It is such a beautiful memorable book, it could easily be memorized in less!

And prefers Belloc? Prefers Belloc to the tag on his mattress perhaps, but not to Chesterton! No, say is isn't so, Joe.

Tim J. said...

I just finished The Everlasting Man, and Orthodoxy seems light and easy in comparison (but still great).

Having finished T.E.M., there's only one thing to do... start reading it again!

I haven't read so much of Belloc, but I will. What is best to start with... Heretics?

Joe said...

Tim wrote: "I haven't read so much of Belloc, but I will. What is best to start with... Heretics?"

Tim:

Heretics is by GKC -- you probably meant The Great Heresies.

What do you want to read? poetry, history, religion, politics? The Path to Rome has it all and is readily available. Any collection of his essays would be good to poke through. Matthew Anger recently self published a collection of Belloc's writing that looks good from the intro and contents, but I have not actually had it in hand to read it.

- Joe

Tim J. said...

Yes, I meant "The Great Heresies".

Durr...

I actually started reading GKC's Heretics a while ago (online) but never finished.

the plodding friend said...

Thanks for the solidarity in admitting that you have some as-yet -unread Chesterton lying around, Tim.

In my defense, my allotted reading time is subject to many, a-hem, interruptions. In giving Chesterton his due, I have had to put his writing aside on more than one occasion (lest I pick them up again and wonder what I was reading).

As a minor balm for Doug's disappointment, I began reading Orthodoxy again. Fittingly enough, I found myself at the following timely passage:

"There is no fear that a modern king will attempt to override the constitution; it is more likely that he will ignore the constitution and work behind its back; he will take no advantage of his kingly power; it is more likely that he will take advantage of his kingly powerlessness, of the fact that he is free from criticism and publicity. For the king is the most private person of our time. It will not be necessary for any one to fight again against the proposal of a censorship of the press. We do not need a censorship of the press. We have a censorship by the press."

So in a brief bought of panic, I put it aside once again. I am afraid that if I finish it, I will learn both how and when the world ends.

Joe said...

Howdy Friend:

You may know I've a large amount of unread Chesterton as well.

Due to our recent discussions I started rereading Orthodoxy last night. Forgot how much I enjoyed it. At current rate of consumption I'll be finished before our domino night next week. Should make for some excellent discussion over beer and smoke. It could practically be the founding of a local Chesterton Society.

the plodding friend said...

Wonderful. Now we get to see how many times Joe has read Orthodoxy in the time it takes me to read it once.

In addition to beer and smokes, I suppose I'll have to bring a cane sword.

"I have spoken of orthodoxy coming in like a sword."

(Doug is write, this book should be memorized.)

Doug P. Baker said...

Hey Plodding Friend and gallopping comrades,

Your panic is justified. If/when/if you finish Orthodoxy you may well know more than you want to. But you will know it in the best prose that English has ever experienced! So, death! doom! destruction! I'll take 'em just so they're crisply giftwrapped.

I can see that I need to hang out on this blog more often. You guys are hillarious!

the plodding friend said...

Finished. And restarted.

To elaborate...

Last night, finding myself free of, a-hem, interruptions, I finished the prolonged first-pass at Orthodoxy. Realizing that I had virtually no recollection of how it began, I looped back and started over. In doing so, I can summarize why I had difficulty in my plodding (barring interruptions):

-There is no "filler" text. At any given point, the work is thick with quotables deserving of reflection.
-I do enjoy paragraphs, and even though I am being trained and subjugated in the "stream of consciousness" methods, they are cumbersome to digest if in fact they are everywhere coherent and in depth.
-Unlike many writings, which may merely add to your knowledge base or entertain you with prose, this reading exposes you to the danger of actually changing the way you think.

Given these, I wasn't quite sure if I was prepared to start thinking like a 300 lb. British theologian. It seems that you "and Friends" have already donned that cape. Mine is being altered at the haberdashery.

Anonymous said...

“yes, I wrote that, I meant to, and here’s why it’s true. Idiot [implied] (emphasis mine)

Lol! I loved that description!

Just to let you know.

(I haven't really read much of Belloc's work, outside of three poems and a few quotes. But now I have to read him more! Heh.)

Mike

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