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.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Merry Christmas


               came to save all,
               the lowly and the great,
               but chose to come as one of the

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Toward the Gleam (T. M. Doran)

One thing I did notice among some recent books written by Catholic writers of a certain school is fictionalized versions of actual historical figures. This proved true in Toward the Gleam by T. M. Doran. 
Among the folks who show up are G.K. Chesterton (who at one point saves the life of the main character!), C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Agatha Christie, Edith Stein, and Winston Churchill (!). The main character is also a famous individual (under an assumed name). I won't reveal who he is, but I was able to figure it out early in the book.

Chesterton actually shows up just twice - but, as I mentioned, he arrives at just the right moment to save the main character.

Lewis and Barfield show up a few times, offering insights and advice.

And Christie, appropriately, provides a mystery.

The premise of the book is that a college professor (a philologist) on a hike finds box made of a strange metal containing a book written in mysterious runes. The main character spends years trying to translate the runes, eventually discovering the book is about an ancient previously unknown civilization.

Along the way a criminal mastermind, who seeks knowledge from that civilization thinking it would give him great power, discovers the main character has something connected with that civilization, but does not know exactly what it is. The villain tries to cajole, bribe, then threaten the main character and his family and friends in an effort to obtain that artifact. Some attempts on the life of the main character are made (and along the way several people are indeed killed), but he is saved through luck, his own resources, and the help of his friends (the folks mentioned earlier).

I won't reveal more of the plot.

The characterizations were believable. The plot moves along. The philosophical discussions don't bog down the story. It was fun recognizing the famous folks and what this book is really about. There are a few elements that stretch credulity (it is fiction, after all), but all the loose threads are resolved by the end.

A Chestertonian would find much in this book to like. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I'll continue, for now


In my last post, I noted that so few people seem to be following this blog any more - even the former team members.

I got no responses. 

This used to be a respectable blog. There were some good writers. When they asked me to join I felt honored.

I've decided to continue for now. Chesterton and the "friends" - writers who knew him, were influenced by him, or who are like him in some ways - are too important to simply ignore.

Who knows, maybe some time in the future someone will be inspired by something here. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2022

So ...


I've been attempting to keep this blog alive. But it seems that very few people read the new posts - even my fellow team members appear to have abandoned it entirely.

Is it worth the time and effort? I know blogs are considered passe, but then, some people think Chesterton is passe. 

Any responses? 

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Chesterton and Anti-Semitism

In 1978 I was counselor and a life guard at a summer camp. During one session, the boys' cabin I was working with played a softball game against a girls' cabin. The girls trounced the boys.

After the game,  my fellow male counselors and I chided the boys for allowing girls to beat them. We were echoing the kind of comments we had heard our high school coaches saying to us.

That night, a couple of the female counselors approached me. They pointed out the inappropriateness of our comments disparaging girls playing sports. I listened, recognizing they had a point.

When I think of that incident, I also recall times when, as a grade school and middle school student in the 1960's, friends and I made a number ethnic jokes. We thought we were being funny; I realized when I was older we were being offensive.

Was I a bigot or a sexist? No. But I was guilty of saying some inappropriate things. 

The summer camp incident and the ethnic jokes were all reflective of the times, and of my ignorance.

Which brings me to G.K. Chesterton.

There has been a recent flap involving individuals charging him again with anti-Semitism. The flap has led to one once stalwart Chestertonian rejecting Chesterton and his supporters/defenders, and to some former Chestertonians, like ex-lovers, gleefully supporting his criticisms.

I'm not here to chastise the fallen-away stalwart. He explains himself well, and he makes some good points. I hope with time there may be a reconciliation.

But it did lead me to reexamine my own unease about some of the things Chesterton has written. He did write some things about Jews that made me uncomfortable. He also bothered me when in multiple instances he referred to Blacks as n*****s.

I recognize, however, that I'm judging those comments and words through the lens of my own times and awareness. Consequently, I've always I considered such troubling comments and word choices as reflective of the times in which he was writing. I certainly have seen even worse comments from other writers of his time. I once wrote a clerihew about Rudyard Kilping, for example:

I don’t know if Rudyard Kipling
ever had problems with tippling.
The concerns that he’d face
involved imperialism and race.

Still, Chesterton did write a number of things that clearly are offensive. But I consider that he, like me, acted out of ignorance and reflected his times. 

That does not shield him from criticism or even exonerate him.

A sin committed out of ignorance is still a sin. The culpability is in part mitigated, but there is still culpability. 

Despite those troubling things he wrote, I remain convinced that Chesterton was NOT an anti-Semite. 

However, I also understand that what he wrote is offensive to many people, and has been an impediment to his being officially recognized as a saint. He may never be able to overcome that impediment.
That doesn't mean he's not a saint, just not an official one. 

But he is not an anti-Semite.

He's just a flawed human being, as am I.