Friday, March 17, 2023

When did you ...

A fellow over on Twitter posed a question: When did you realize C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton were right about pretty much everything?

I had to think about that one.

My own contact with Lewis and Chesterton began in the 1970's. In late 1974 I read the Chronicles of Narnia. I read Chesterton's St. Francis of Assisi in the spring of 1975. Both authors were important to helping sort out my faith at that time.

Though I had encountered the writings of both, I gravitated toward Lewis. Indeed, I began to buy and read his books/collections. By the early 1980's I had read a couple of biographies about him, and:

The science fiction trilogy. The Screwtape Letters, Till We Have Faces, Mere Christianity, The Allegory of Love, The Four Loves, The Abolition of Man, The World's Last Night, Of Other Worlds, God in the Dock, Surprised by Joy, A Grief Observed

I found in Lewis a kindred spirit. I did indeed think he was right about pretty much everything.

I began reading more Chesterton in the 1980's, in part because of learning about his influence on Lewis, and in part because he was touted for writing two of the spiritual classics of the Twentieth Century: Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man. So I read both. His thinking helped me to clarify my own. I saw he was also right about things. But I still preferred Lewis, whom I found easier and more pleasurable to read.

I became more immersed in Chesterton in the 1990's and, in particular, after joining the Chesterton Society in the early 2000's, subscribing to Gilbert, and attending the local annual Chesterton conferences. In the last 20 years I have read multiple books by and about him, includign several biographies. Of Chesterton I have read:

The Man Who Was Thursday, Manalive, G. K. Chesterton's Early Poetry, The Coloured Lands, Tremendous Trifles, What's Wrong With The World, The Autobiography, Magic, Heretics, Chesteerton in Black and White, The Well and the Shallows, and Eugenics and Other Evils.

Dale Ahlquist has produced a number of studies I have read: Knight of the Holy Ghost,  The Gift of Wonder,The Complete Thinker, and The Apostle of Common Sense. 

There have been other works about him as well.  

Yes, when I discover an author I like I become fixated.

I still find Lewis easier and more pleasurable to read. And, to be honest, I have found some of Chesterton's dated racial terms and stereotypes uncomfortable to read. But I still read both - most recently reading The Great Divorce and rereading Out of the Silent Planet, Mere Christianity, and The Screwtape Letters, all by Lewis, and currently rereading The Everlasting Man with the local Chesterton Society. 

Last year, I reread two of the Narnia books: The Silver Chair and The Last Battle

As for Chesterton, I read
The Ballad of the White Horse
Lepanto: With Explanatory Notes and Commentary
The Secret of Father Brown

"The Donnington Affair"
“The Vampire of the Village”
St. Thomas Aquinas

I have a goal of reading all the Father Brown mysteries. I'll finish that goal this year. I'll also likely be reading another Chesterton title with the local Chesterton Society. As for Lewis, I will be rereading some of his books - it's been 40 years since I binged on him.

Going back to the fellow's Twitter question: I began seeing Lewis as right about pretty much everything in the 1970's, and Chesterton in the early 2000's. 

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Speaking of Clerihews


Over the years I've been fortunate to have a number of my clerihews published in Gilbert . The current tally is 50 individual poems. Due to some mix-up, four of those were published a second time.

The last one published was a Robert Burns one in the May/June 2022 issue.

Although I did not attend the Conference last year, I did submit several clerihews for the Clerihew Contest. Alas, they did not make the winners' list, nor have they appeared since in any issue. So unless one of those that I submitted last July make it into print in the future, the tally will likely remain at 50.

Not a bad total.

Oh, I'm still writing clerihews, and will continue to post them here, but I've stopped submitting to the magazine for now.

Here's the published list in alphabetical order:

Achilles - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
After that day in Moriah, young Isaac - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017
Albert Einstein - Gilbert Magazine, September 2009

Alexa - Gilbert May/June 2020

Anne Rice - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

As a director, Ed Wood - Gilbert May/June 2020

A somber Marquis de Sade - Gilbert May/June 2017

At Nicaea, St. Nicholas - Gilbert! May/June 2019

Ayn Rand - Gilbert May/June 2020

Charles Bukowski - Gilbert January/February 2017

Condoleeza Rice - Gilbert Magazine, June/July 2007

Dr. Mary Gatter - Gilbert May/June 2017

e (cummings) e - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

Elizabeth Warren - Gilbert May/June 2020

Evangelista Torricelli - Gilbert January/February 2019

Fidel Castro - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

Fred Rogers - Gilbert November/December 2018

Geoffrey Chaucer - Gilbert May/June 2020

G. K. Chesterton - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017

Herman Melville -  Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

I don’t know if Rudyard Kipling - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

In his early life Thomas Merton - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

In those woods, Robert Frost- Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2009

Irascible St. Jerome - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017

Jackson Pollock - Gilbert! May/June 2019

Jean Paul Sartre - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

Lot's wife - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

Methuselah - Gilbert! July/August 2018

Napoleon Bonaparte - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017

One of the aims of ISIS - Gilbert May/June 2017

     One of the aims of ISIS - Gilbert May/June 2020

Paolo Uccello - Gilbert November/December 2018

President James Polk - Gilbert Magazine, May/June 2011

Prolific Stephen King - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

Robert Burns – Gilbert May/June 2022

Rudyard Kipling - Gilbert April/May 2007 

Saintly King Henry - Gilbert November/December 2018

Steven Wright - Gilbert May/June 2017

     Steven Wright - Gilbert! May/June 2019

St. Dominic - Gilbert November/December 2018

St. Francis of Assisi - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

St. Thomas Aquinas - Gilbert November/December 2018

There was a side of J. R. R. Tolkien - Gilbert Nov/Dec 2017

Titus Oates - Gilbert! May/June 2019

Tron - Gilbert November/December 2018

TV’s Dr. House - Gilbert Magazine, April/May 2007

Vladimir Kosma Zworykin - Gilbert Magazine, March/April 2011

Vladimir Putin - Gilbert (March/April) 2017

When Alexander Pope - Gilbert May/June 2017

     When Alexander Pope - Gilbert! May/June 2019

When he was young St. Polycarp - Gilbert May/June 2017

     When he was young St. Polycarp - Gilbert! May/June 2019

When talking with Socrates - Gilbert Magazine, January/February 2007

When Siddhartha Gautama - Gilbert Magazine, July/August 2009

Yvonne De Carlo - Gilbert! March/April 2021 

Friday, February 10, 2023

St. Blaise


It's probably safe to assume Saint Blaise
is enjoying Paradise these days.
Martyrdom likely led him to eternal glory
and not just some fish story.

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Where's the Chesterton Biography Movie?

In recent years we have been treated to biographical movies about J. R. R. Tolkien (Tolkien) and C. S. Lewis (Shadowlands, The Most Reluctant Convert). But as far as I know, we have had no biographical film about G. K. Chesterton, despite his friendship with Tolkien and his influence on Lewis.

Now Chesterton has appeared in segments of the in the EWTN series G. K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense. And, of course, his character Father Brown has been the subject of at least two movies (Father Brown. Detective and The Detective) and two television series (the first in 1974 and a current one that began in 2013 and is still being produced). I've even heard of  movies based on Magic and The Man Who Was Thursday, though I have seen neither

But no biographical movies. 

There's potential, certainly. His discovery of faith and his later conversion to Catholicism, his encounter with the diabolist, his courtship of Frances, the debates with Shaw, the Marconi scandal, and so on.

But no biopics.

I can think of a few possible reasons.

His books are not as popular or as widely known as those of Tolkien or Lewis. His audience tends to be more limited, and for a long time his reputation had waned or was obscured. 

His writing style, while popular in his day, is sometimes a challenge for modern readers, hence he is less read than Tolkien and Lewis. Father Brown is his most popular character, but the two Father Brown television shows were shown in the U.S. on PBS, which tends to draw a small audience. .   

Chesterton died in the 1930's while Lewis lived until the 1960's and Tolkien to the 1970's, so he is a more distant figure.

There have been accusations of anti-Semitism, which, while supporters have argued  persuasively against them, still linger. Certainly those accusations have interfered with his cause for canonization. One suspects the possibility of controversy has made movie makers hesitant.

And, to be honest, he was not photogenic, especially later in life when he was very heavy and dressed in eccentric ways. Even as a young man before he gained weight he was not exactly a looker. (I say this as one who always described himself as having a face made for radio!)

Though, apparently, Frances didn't mind!

Nor, fortunately, did my wife when it came to me!   

Whatever the reason, I am aware of no credible interest in a biographical film celebrating his life.

There may still be a chance some day of a Chesterton biography in our theaters. It could be something The Society of G. K. Chesterton might consider promoting, though I am not aware of any efforts on their part currently.

Until then, we will just have to content ourselves with the pleasure of reading his works.  

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Princess Diana


In response to some unkind comments about Princess Diana in the November/December Gilbert, I have only two things to say:

1. I was always taught it's rude to speak ill of the dead in that way.

2. Princess Diana is a distant relative. 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

C. S. Lewis and Mere Christianity

I bought my copy of Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis February 25, 1980.

I know this because the receipt is still in the book. I bought it those four decades ago at the now defunct Village Green Book Store here in Rochester, N.Y.

I was on a C. S. Lewis binge back in those days. I would only later really discover the greatness of  Chesterton. 

Currently, I'm trying to increase my spiritual reading, so I thought it was a good time to reread this book, which is based on radio addresses Lewis gave.

It's only been some 40 years, after all!

Unlike the Village Green Bookstore, the ideas in the book are clearly not defunct.

And as I was reading, it hit me that they seem really familiar. I have used many of the same explanations and arguments myself over the last 40 years.

The more I read, the more I began to wonder if this book was the source of some of my own thinking, or if what he wrote clarified ideas that were forming in my mind at the time that I read the book. His method of creating common situations, anecdotes, or "parables" to help explain more complex theological points - such as his description of a writer creating a novel to help explain how God is outside of time - is a technique I have used in my own teaching and theological discussions. Did I learn that from him? Or did he simply reinforce a tendency already in me?

I was not aware of it at the time, but I now know that his own conversion came about in part from reading G.K. Chesterton, so I began wondering if some of Lewis's ideas came from Chesterton or were clarified by reading him. Perhaps I'm just another link in a chain.

I'm almost done with Mere Christianity. I'm also rereading The Screwtape Letters as part of a Catholic reading group as well.

I suspect I will be rereading more Lewis when I am finished with these books.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Chesterton (and Friends) Reading in 2022

Each year, I keep a tally of works read - books, plays, etc. And a number of those works this past year certainly fit under the heading of "Chesterton and Friends."

Chesterton is well represented: 

The Ballad of the White Horse 
Lepanto: With Explanatory Notes and Commentary 
The Secret of Father Brown 
"The Donnington Affair" 
“The Vampire of the Village”  
St. Thomas Aquinas 

The last work was reread as part of the group reading by our local Chesterton Society. 

I had reread The Lord of the Rings last year. This year, Tolkien was represented by The Father Christmas Letters.

C. S.  Lewis put in an appearance with two of his Narnia books that I reread: 

The Silver Chair 
The Last Battle 

Though more of a predecessor than a "friend," George MacDonald also joined the tally with Phantastes. 

A more recent "friend" of Chesterton is Joseph Pearce. I read two of his histories:

Heroes of the Catholic Reformation: Saints Who Renewed the Church 
Faith of our Fathers: A History of True England  

I also read a recent novel in which Chesterton, Lewis. Tolkien, and Owen Barfield are characters! In Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran, Chesterton even saves the life of the main character.

Finally, Chesterton was a fan of  Dickens, and though Dickens is not a "friend" the way Tolkien or even Lewis would be, I think it's safe to include Oliver Twist in my tally.

Next year, there will certainly be more Chesterton, Lewis, and Dickens. I'm already in the process of rereading The Everlasting Man with my Chesterton Society group, and The Screwtape Letters with my Campion reading group. I'm in the process of trying to read all the Father Brown mysteries. I have only The Scandal of Father Brown and "The Mask of Midas" to go, so they are on my list for 2023. I recently got a copy of The Story of the Family by Dale Ahlquist, and will read that in the coming months. I also plan to reread Dickens' David Copperfield.  

Who knows what words of other friends will also pass before my eyes.