Friday, April 01, 2011

Chesterton Sighting: Among Humorists

I was at the library when I spotted a book by Paul Johnson called Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward. The title alone attracted me, but I would probably have passed it by, except on the cover among the list of the "humorists" was ... G.K. Chesterton.

Okay, I had to take it out. He refers to Chesterton as "A Living, Talking Gargoyle," and begins the chapter on GKC with "It is hard to think of Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) without laughing. Or I find so."

He points out that Chesterton found humor in even serious subjects: "GKC never regarded humor as inappropriate, intrusive, or out of place. On the contrary. It was, or should be, welcome always and everywhere, especially in religious discussion."

He gives some background on GKC, noting that like many of his generation he could have become just another "aimless bohemian," but "He was saved by marriage, his wife, Frances, being a sensible and practical person."

I agree with that conclusion. Frances was a gift from God.

Johnson does raise the rumors about the marriage being unconsummated - I find in many of the other chapters in the book he also tends to wander into matters of sexuality - but questions that assumption and argues that it may just be a way GKC's enemies to attack him.

He goes on to provide some interesting (though familiar) insights about Chesterton as a humorist.

The book is clearly intended for folks who might not be familiar with the writings and humor of Chesterton, or who perhaps have not analyzed the humor of some of the other featured humorists (Benjamin Franklin, Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, James Thurber, and Charlie Chaplin being among some of the others).

If you spot it, check out what he has to say about Chesterton. It's worth the read - and it's a quick read.

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