Friday, December 15, 2023

A Christmas Carol

G.K. Chesterton’s “A Christmas Carol” helps us see the world as a child does

A Christmas Carol The Christ-child lay on Mary’s lap, His hair was like a light. (O weary, weary were the world, But here is all aright.) The Christ-child lay on Mary’s breast, His hair was like a star. (O stern and cunning are the kings, But here the true hearts are.) The Christ-child lay on Mary’s heart, His hair was like a fire. (O weary, weary is the world, But here the world’s desire.) The Christ-child stood on Mary’s knee, His hair was like a crown, And all the flowers looked up at Him, And all the stars looked down. G.K. Chesterton

Chesterton’s little “Christmas Carol” is simple enough for a 2-year-old to understand. Actually, a very young child might understand it better than the rest of us, knowing so well how comforting it is to be cuddled close by his mother. The poem makes use of very few details, and no literary conceits, to draw us into the room with the Holy Family.

The genius of the poem though, is in the way Chesterton ... (See the rest here.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Smirky General?


Attorney General Letitia James
is fond of playing games.
Her latest is attending a trial and practicing her smirk
instead of showing up at the office to work.



David Jeremiah
eschews the prosperity path in preaching about the Messiah.
Yet part of his path is seeing how much money he can capture
by marketing the myth of the Rapture.

The American Solidarity Party: An Option for Chestertonians?


The November/December 2023 issue of Gilbert, the magazine of the Society of G. K. Chesterton,contains a review by Chuck Chalberg of The Political Economy of Distributism by Alexander William Salter.

Chalberg concludes the review with, "All three (Chesterton, Belloc, and Ropke), plus Salter himself, seem to agree that politics can never be the solution, much less the ultimate answer. And yet, once again Salter wiggles for room with a nod in the direction of something called the American Solidarity party. Created in 2011, its platform is 'not shy about its debt to distributism.' It's also more than a few votes shy of relevance, totaling only 42,305 for its presidential candidate in 2020. Thank goodness we will always have Chesterton and Belloc, as well as the Alexander Salters of Texas Tech and elsewhere, to keep steering us in the right direction."

That mention of the American Solidarity party in a way that seems dismissive of it stopped me short. Chalberg may not have intended to be dismissive, but still, he did declare the party "a few votes shy of relevance."

Ironically, his review is published in the magazine of a society that I last heard had just 2,000 members. Surely he would not suggest the Society is not relevant because of the small number of members?

The Chesterton Society is small, but it would seem to be a natural ally of a party that espouses many Chestertonian and Christian ideals, including distributist economic policies.

He also refers to the party in a way that suggests he really doesn't know much about it.

Yes, the party garnered "just" 42,305 votes for President in 2020. But that was only the second presidential election in which the party ran a candidate. In 2016, the first time it ran a candidate, it received 6,697 votes. So from 2015 to 2020 a six-fold increase. What might happen in 2024 with an actively campaigning candidate, Peter Sonski?

Moreover, in 2016, the party was listed on only one ballot; the other votes were by write-in. In 2020, the party was listed on nine ballots. And in 2024?

Perhaps this is a party Chestertonians should investigate. Given its platform, they just might find it relevant.

Here is a link to the party's website: American Solidarity Party

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Two Clerihews (based on recent news)

Matthew Perry, 
boarded Charon’s ferry. 
As Charon pushed off, Perry was heard to crack. 
“That parachute really WAS a knapsack.”

Taylor Swift 
has an annoying gift 
for always creating a hit song 
out of yet another relationship gone wrong.

Saturday, October 14, 2023

The American Solidarity Party and Distributism


The American Solidarity Party is a relatively new Christ Democratic party that espouses ideas very much in line with Christian and Catholic teachings - and, of course, Chesterton's ideas.

The party, for example, embraces Distributism.

From the party's principles:

The American Solidarity Party believes that political economy is a branch of political ethics, and therefore rejects models of economic behavior that undermine human dignity with greed and naked self-interest. We advocate for an economic system which liberates people from being cogs in a pitiless machine, instead creating a society of widespread ownership, or distributism. (Emphasis added.)

We believe the American economy should be reordered to place human dignity first and to recognize that the family is the basic unit of economic production. We are committed to policies that emphasize local production, family-owned businesses, and cooperative ownership structures.

Policy should encourage and incentivize families who run their own small businesses and help them to provide just wages to their workers. Government policy must not favor large corporations, help them to outcompete small businesses, or encourage administrative bloat.

In order to discourage the overexpansion of corporate power, businesses should be progressively taxed for each location and for the expansion into varied types of merchandise and services.

We call for the expansive use of antitrust legislation to break up “too big to fail” multinational corporations and banks. We also call for the breakup of media conglomerates, big technology companies, and over-concentrated industries that leave the United States particularly vulnerable to industrial accidents and disruptions. We support limiting the political power wielded through the legal construct of “personhood” for organizations and corporations.

We call for the restoration of the requirement that corporations must serve a public good in order to be granted the benefit of limited liability. We support the prohibition of corporate bylaws and the repeal of state legislation requiring shareholder profit to trump considerations such as employee well-being and environmental protection. We seek to limit the political power wielded by organizations and corporations.

We recognize that “one who oppresses the poor taunts one’s Maker.” Economic rentiers and speculators who produce nothing, but only extract money through corrupt relationships with public power, need to pay their fair share through taxes on land and financial transactions. We call for increased regulation of the banking industry and stock market to prevent corporate bailouts; instead, we favor distributing ownership shares of capital to the common people.

We call for community-oriented, non-interest-based lending practices and mutual-aid organizations supplemented by countercyclical social credit to replace predatory lending agents that target working-class communities. We must reject a financial system based on saddling workers with debt and interest payments, and instead embrace one that encourages productive activity. We call for greater legal responsibility on the part of creditors and vendors for vigilance against fraudulent activity, such as identity theft. We support initiatives for a debt jubilee and other forms of debt relief.

We call for the end of foreign ownership over domestic farms, real estate, and industry. We seek increased support of small family farms, cooperative farms, agricultural land trusts, and community gardens. We also call for the end of punitive zoning laws that unfairly target our poorest citizens by preventing them from engaging in small-scale agriculture and animal husbandry. We call for a program of family gardens, distributed animal husbandry, food-handling education, and food-preservation education based on the World War-era “victory gardens,” in order to end food scarcity and instill resilience in supply chains.

We acknowledge that natural monopolies and the common inheritance of the natural world need to be closely managed and protected by the public, not surrendered to oligarchs. We call for policies that deliver citizens their fair share of our common wealth so as to widely distribute private property and for the inheritance of natural resources in the form of a citizen’s dividend and baby bonds. Land-value taxes should be imposed to fund infrastructure projects rather than bond payments and property taxes so that those who benefit the most from public works shoulder the burden and land improvement isn’t penalized.

We support the right-to-repair movement. When possible, products should be made with the possibility of adding, modifying, or removing parts or software so that people can repair rather than replace the product, and this should be incentivized with regulatory policy.

We call for the Surface Transportation Board to ensure railroads meet the needs of their customers and to forbid railroads from participating in stock buybacks and dividend payments if they do not meet a satisfactory rating. Precision-scheduling policies that have stripped railroads of the personnel needed to safely operate trains must cease. We call for an expansion of rail networks to connect more communities in order to reduce our reliance on long-distance trucking logistics and to provide alternatives to air and car transport for personal transportation. Toll roads must be scaled by vehicle weight and size in order to appropriately account for maintenance costs.

We recognize that it is dangerous and harmful to have large portions of our supply chain reliant on foreign powers. We call for an interventionist industrial policy to return manufacturing to our country.

Monday, September 25, 2023

G.K. Chesterton on why today’s TV shows are so boring


From Aleteia -

Fr. Michael Rennier - published on 09/24/23

As I kept losing interest in "prestige" TV shows, I began to ask myself what particular quality I was missing from them. Chesterton showed me the answer.

I’m just going to come out and say this. Sometimes, when you’re a writer, you simply have to grit your teeth and make a blunt statement. Prestige television — the high-toned, sophisticated dramas that win all the awards — is boring.

Not all of it, to be sure, but enough that I started to grow suspicious. Something is wrong with modern storytelling. For instance, that show about big city lawyers bending the law in clever ways while trying to justify the guilt of their moral complicity? I made it about halfway through the series and bailed.

And that show about the science teacher who becomes a drug dealer and slowly becomes corrupted? It was like watching paint dry. Or the anti-hero mobster in Jersey who is ruthless with his enemies but has a conflicted, soft side with his family and talks to his therapist about his feelings of guilt, as if that somehow makes him a sympathetic guy? Not interested.

Does this make me a philistine? Probably. Does it mean I have trouble appreciating modern-day art? Almost certainly. Perhaps the issue is entirely within me. Maybe I’m the one with the defective sensibilities. I prefer turning the television off to re-read Lord of the Rings or stories of the saints or old fairy tales — or even re-watch old sitcoms from the 80s.

For a long time, I would force myself to watch prestige television. After all, so many award committees couldn’t be wrong. But as I watched, I couldn’t help but to lose interest. After this happened enough times, I began to ask myself what it is, what particular quality I was failing to find compelling.

Stories that lead nowhere

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, suggests the answer. The problem with modern storytelling is that it overwhelmingly focuses on the human ego. Stories now tend be full of anti-heroes, rebels against the system, people with something deeply wrong with them. Most plots go from nowhere to nowhere; no progress is made. The whole point is a psychological deep dive into the allegedly fascinating twists and turns of the human mind, how we morally complicate our decisions before bearing up under the guilt or making ambiguous justifications.

Man watching action show on retro modern TV in futuristic setting

The result of all this interiority is a world in which the anti-hero, the superior or extraordinary person the story focuses on, makes their way through a unique life. There are no dragons to be fought and overcome. There is only endless interior introspection. Each person a hero of their own story. Each hero a suffering Prometheus trying to make meaning in a senseless world.

How to make the world smaller

But, as I tell my parishioners all the time, sin is boring. Moral conflict and self-justification, all the ways we rebel from God and try to take control of our own destinies, rebellion, these things tend to make us feel larger in our own estimation, but they also make the world smaller. To paraphrase Groucho Marx, a world in which my ego is the most fascinating thing is not a world I want to live in.

This is why Chesterton says that the truly exciting stories are those that make us smaller so the world can become larger. If stories aren’t defined by our personal proclivities and willfulness, suddenly the magic enters back into everything. The world becomes an exciting, romantic place. These types of stories are about ordinary people — people like you and me — who encounter an extraordinary universe, who are challenged by it, who genuflect before its beauty, who are in awe of the divine power that created it.

In this way, ordinary people discover grace. We are set upon a heroic journey and discover that something new and extraordinary develops within us.

The extraordinary in the ordinay

Chesterton has quipped that there is nothing so extraordinary in this world than an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children. Modern storytelling misses this entirely.

Ordinary people have a far more exciting time than the heroes you see on TV because that which is strange and odd actually strikes them as strange and odd. They find their surroundings cause for fascination and wonder. As Chesterton says, this is the type of person who realizes that it just might be appropriate to fast 40 days just to hear a blackbird sing.

Retro futuristic TV showing man reading "The Man Who Was Thursday" by Chesterton

The truth of fairy tales

Chesterton harks back to an older form of storytelling – fairy tales. “Fairy tales are the entirely reasonable things,” he writes. Compared to them, everything else rings slightly false. Fairy tales seem to be the stuff of dreams but, in fact, they hold even more truth than a history book. They represent the common wisdom of mankind, which is why fairy tales have an enduring quality. Which of us hasn’t gone back and watched the cartoon fairy tale movies we viewed in our youth? Many of us, I suspect, have introduced these tales to our children.

As a parent, I have read my children fairy tales not because I dismiss my children as childish. On the contrary, I read books like The Little Prince to them every night because I take my children very seriously. I’m introducing them to a world full of virtue and challenges, a world in which God is present, a world in which, if they keep at their heroic journey despite the obstacles, they can slay dragons.

There’s a good reason that storytelling that defaults to an anti-hero is boring, but a tale like Lord of the Rings is the most enduring and popular story of our generation. The anti-hero strives for nothing but self-justification. The hobbits are normal people striving for redemption. To me, the latter is far more exciting. Chesterton agrees. So do a lot of other people, it seems.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Tolkien the Catholic - National Catholic Register

Something from Joseph Pearce!

Tolkien the Catholic| National Catholic Register: COMMENTARY: Literary giant’s deep faith, often overshadowed by his commercial success, imbued his work.

Friday, September 01, 2023

Vivek Ramaswamy Clerihew

Vivek Ramaswamy
is fond of making origami.
As was shown during the first debate,
some of his views are similarly pretty but light-weight.

Monday, August 28, 2023

How About a Little Owen Barfield?


Owen Barfield (1898-1997) was one of the Inklings, and was one of the people who influenced C.S. Lewis. Indeed, Lewis once described Barfield, whom he considered a friend, as "the best and wisest of my unofficial teachers."

Barfield and Lewis around 1940

Here are a few quotations from Barfield: 

“The obvious is the hardest thing of all to point out to anyone who has genuinely lost sight of it.”
― Worlds Apart

“When the velocity of progress increases beyond a certain point, it becomes indistinguishable from crisis.”
 Night Operation

“True understanding is unattainable without both love and detachment,”
― History in English Words

“Understanding what another human being says to us is always a matter of translation.”

“There is no surer or more illuminating way of reading a man's character, and perhaps a little of his past history, than by observing the contexts in which he prefers to use certain words.”
― History in English Words

“Before the scientific revolution, [man] did not feel himself isolated by his skin from the world outside to quite the same extent that we do. He was integrated, or mortised into it, each different part of him being united to a different part of it by some invisible thread. In his relation to his environment, the man of the middle ages was rather less like an island, rather more like an embryo.”
― Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry

“It was a question of steering Christian dogma between the Scylla of pantheism and the Charybdis of materialism and its logical conclusion, scepticism.”
― History in English Words

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Non-Entries for the Clerihew Contest


THE 42ND ANNUAL CHESTERTON CONFERENCE: Chesterton and Saint Francis gets underway tomorrow in Minneapolis. 

I'm not attending. 

It's not a slight against the conference or anyone involved, but I tend not to attend conferences that require travel any distance or staying overnight. 

I hope it's a successful conference. 

Unfortunately, my not going means that I can't take part in the annual Clerihew Contest.

If I were there, here are some of the entries I might consider submitting:

--- Before Chesterton

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
sat in her parlor frowning.
Robert had bought her something labeled "Serra da Estrela cheese,"
that clearly wasn't Portuguese.

The replacement Apostle Matthias
was chosen by lot, not by bias.
Alas, except for his selection.
he's eluded all other historical detection.

Inspector Javert
felt an insatiable desire for a chocolate eclair.
But since the bakeries would not open until well after dawn
he obsessed instead about Jean Valjean.

Fyodor Dostoevsky
was plagued by vices that proved pesky .
To pay his bills he took a successful gamble
creating characters who were prone to verbally ramble.

We can probably assume Saint Blaise
is in Heaven these days.
Martyrdom likely led him to eternal glory
and not just some fish story.

--- During Chesterton

Hilaire Belloc
walked off the end of a dock,
but being in the middle of a debate,
he failed to recognize his fate.

Lord Peter Wimsey
was never deterred by evidence flimsy,
but his confidence suffered years of strain
when faced with the mystery of Harriet Vane.

When reading Robert Frost
I often find myself getting lost
in thoughts of walls and trees and snow and roads,
but never once of toads.

--- After Chesterton

Alfred Hitchcock
developed a bad case of writer's block
despite his use of a bran muffin
as the MacGuffin.

As an actor, Tom Baker
was more of a character than a heart-breaker.
But I think his Doctor is worthy of a clerihew,
even though at mention of his name some folks just say, “Who?"

In the kitchen, Julia Child
was amusing but never wild.
To fill that void
we had to rely on Dan Aykroyd.

Megan Rapinoe
picked up a banjo.
As she played a tune on it,
she sang, "That #$@&*! is full of %@!#*"

The Brits now have their third Chuck,
and so I wish them lots of luck.
He finally achieved one of his two main goals,
the other, of course, being Mrs. Parker Bowles.

Dale Ahlquist
peered into the fog and mist.
He is certain that somewhere out there
is an undiscovered Chesterton text awaiting his care.

Who know if any of them might have won recognition. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Joseph Pearce of Faith & Fantasy


Joseph Pearce continues to offer looks at Chesterton, Lewis, and others.

In The Imaginative Conservative he published an article called "Faith & Fantasy: Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling & Other Tellers of Tall Tales"

It begins:

Tall tales are still being told. The light still shines. The torch is still being handed from generation to generation. Thanks be to God, the giver of the light, and thanks be to Chesterton, Tolkien, Lewis, and all other legend-makers and torchbearers of tradition.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.

                 —J.R. R. Tolkien (From “Mythopoeia”)

This is a festive year for all admirers of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. This September will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Tolkien’s sailing into the Mystic West, while this November marks the sixtieth anniversary of Lewis’s passing through the stable door and going further up and further in. It would seem appropriate to celebrate these joyous landmarks with an acknowledgment of the legacy of Tolkien and Lewis and of those who influenced them and were influenced by them.

Let’s begin with the connection between “faith and fantasy” which is inseparable from “faith and reason”, as was made evident by Tolkien in his seminal essay “On Fairy-Stories”:

Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they ever get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.

Check out the rest!


Saturday, July 01, 2023

From OSV: The Long Journey of Lewis


Our Sunday Visitor has an article by Russell Shaw about the conversion of C. S. Lewis, "C.S. Lewis and his long journey toward Christianity"

Mapping the spiritual journey of C.S. Lewis doesn’t mean finding that one, special turning point at which he declared himself a believer — that’s clear enough — but tracing the long series of events that led up to it. Fortunately, like St. Augustine writing his Confessions centuries earlier, Lewis himself provides a detailed itinerary of the steps that finally brought him to the point of saying, “I believe.”

Lewis is remembered today as a writer and Christian apologist — arguably the finest of the 20th century. He was not only a prolific writer but remarkably diverse, with an output that included children’s books, scholarly volumes, science fiction, works on Christian doctrine and a moving, intensely personal account of his grief-ridden quarrel with God after his wife’s death.

His books have been adapted for stage, screen and television, and he has been the subject of several biographies. While there is no telling how many people he has reached, the number clearly is in the millions. But his emergence as a Christian writer was long in coming. In “Surprised By Joy,” the autobiographical story of his conversion, he provides a careful, candid explanation of how he “passed from atheism to Christianity.” ...

Check it out.

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Lewis Lectures - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis

In subsequent lectures, the other books are explored. There are also lectures on other Lewis books.

I have not viewed them all, so I post this out of interest, not necessarily as an endorsement. But they may be fine!

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Another C. S. Lewis Sighting


Amid all its pop culture pieces, Parade Magazine paid attention to C. S. Lewis!

In the article "From Narnia to Wormwood to the Four Loves—Here Are the Best 125 C.S. Lewis Quotes,"  K
elsey Pelzer offers up some familiar - and unfamiliar - words of wit and wisdom from Lewis.

"Many of us may remember the awe and wonder we felt when Lucy first encountered the world of Narnia after walking through an old wardrobe. One inventive man and author was able to stretch our imaginations to new lengths through his epic fantasy series, and he did not stop there. From so many of his well-written novels and musings, we have the 125 greatest C.S. Lewis quotes to share!

Clive Staples Lewis was a popular British writer who authored over 30 books during his lifetime. A former atheist, C.S. Lewis became a Christian after many debates and conversations with his Oxford colleague and friend, J.R.R. Tolkien (author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy). C.S. Lewis' religious conversion greatly influenced his writing, as one can see in some of his best-known works like The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Four Loves, and more.

We have the best C.S. Lewis quotes on friendship, love, faith, pain, and one of his greatest passions: books. Whether you're familiar with his fantasy stories and/or theological writings, or have never heard of them, plenty of these famous C.S. Lewis quotes are bound to strike you as profound and insightful."

Among the quotations: 

"Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” (Chesterton would agree!)

"We meet no ordinary people in our lives.” (Another one likely getting a nod from Chesterton)

"I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

"You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.”

"The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”

"Adventures are never fun while you're having them.”

"Do not dare not to dare.”

"Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.”

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

"The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God's love for us does not.”

Check out some of the other quotations here.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Happy Birthday Gilbert!


Gilbert Keith Chesterton, born May 29, 1874.

“The first fact about the celebration of birthdays is that it is a good way of affirming defiantly, and even flamboyantly, that it is a good thing to be alive.” – G.K. Chesterton.

Except, of course, he is no longer alive!

But we will still celebrate. 

Saturday, May 13, 2023

C. S. Lewis Sighting


One of my favorite periodicals is the St. Austin Review (StAR)..

I just got the May/June 2023 issue, and it is dedicated to C. S. Lewis. 

The issue  includes numerous articles and review related to Lewis, beginning with the editorial by Joseph Pearce: "The Mere Genius of C. S. Lewis."

Other articles include: 

A Literary Communion of Saints: C. S. Lewis and the Power of Literature
The Great Divorce: A Novel Answer to an Immodest Proposal
Ablution versus Abolition in C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength
If You Haven't Read Narnia Yet
C. S. Lewis' Genius for Apologetics

And a number of other Lewis-related articles and reviews. I have not read them all yet, but I am looking forward to it.

If you have not discovered StAR yet, and you enjoy intelligent examinations of literature and culture from a Catholic/Christian perspective, I urge you to consider subscribing.

My own contact with Lewis began about the time I first encountered G. K. Chesterton.

As I've noted previously, in the mid 1970's when my faith was wavering I happend to come across some works that righted my spiritual ship: The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton, and St. Francis of Assisi by G. K. Chesterton.  

Around the same time, though, I also came across the Chronicles of Narnia by Lewis. I read those all in a one week period!

I continued to read Chesterton after than first encounter - but I read even more of Lewis. The science fiction trilogy, Till We have Faces, The Screwtape Letters, Mere Christianity, The Abolition of Man, Surprised by Joy, The Four Loves, A Grief Observed, and severl collections of stories and essay. 

I read all those works in a ten-year span. You might say I binged on Lewis!

It is only in the last 20 years that I have been reading enough Chesterton to catch up with the Lewis tally. 

Both writers well worth reading.

Saturday, April 29, 2023

About the Pearce List - Additions


In a previous post, I mentioned Joseph Pearce's Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.

Specifically, I noted what books by Chesterton and his friends made Pearce's list of 100 works of literature every Catholic should aspire to read.

It's a pretty comprehensive list. I've read in whole 55 of them. I've read most of The Canterbury Tales, but not all of them, so I did not count that. I've read some of the poems of many of the poets listed, but not all of their poems, so I don't count them. With the Tales and the poets I can say I've read in part six  more works he listed.

I have encountered other lists of great works of literature or Catholic works of literature that Catholics should read. Brandon Vogt, for example, has a comprehensive list.

In considering Pearce's list, I have few arguments. It's a good list. Some of the books are hard to find - even in our local library. My personal taste does not run to Jane Austen, so I doubt I'll put a lot of effort into reading more of her books (Mind you, I've taught Pride and Prejudice and even directed a play version of it!). I don't know why he included Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor - a play I rank among his poorer efforts.

The list does seem very Eurocentric, with a heavy British emphasis, but Pearce is from England, so I'll give him a pass on that.

In the the chapters of the book he does touch on some other writers, but does not add any of their works to the list of 100. There are other writers he never mentions at all.. 

Among the works I'd add to such a list:

The Sonnets of Shakespeare (yes, a number of his plays are listed, but not his poetry)
Victor Hugo - Les Miserables
C. S. Lewis - The Screwtape Letter
Harriet Beecher Stowe - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Shusaku Endo - Silence
Sandra Benitez - The Weight of All Things
Phyllis McGinley - Times Three (Selected verse from three decades) 
J. F. Powers - Morte d'Urban, Wheat That Springeth Green
Michael O'Brien - Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, Strangers and Sojourners

Yes, some of my added suggestions are not "classics," but they are well worth reading


Thursday, April 27, 2023

Father Brown Goal Met

As a fan of mystery stories in general, one of my long-term reading goals was to read all of G. K. Chesterton's Father Brown mysteries.

Having now read The Scandal of Father Brown, I have met that goal.

All told, he wrote 53 Father Brown tales. They were collected in the Ignatius Press G. K. Chesterton: Collected Works.

There were five collections:

The Innocence of Father Brown (1911)
The Wisdom of Father Brown (1914)
The Incredulity of Father Brown (1926) 
The Secret of Father Brown (1927)
The Scandal of Father Brown (1935)

There were also three tales originally not included in the five volumes: "The Donnington Affair," 'The Vampire of the Village," and 'The Mask of Midas."

Chesterton once declared "I think it only fair to confess that I have myself written some of the worst mystery stories in the world.".

I don't agree with him. I have certainly read far worse mystery stories. And some of the Father Brown tales are wonderful mysteries. Even the "worst" of them are enjoyable.  

I do acknowledge, however, that some of the tales read as if he wrote them out of financial necessity or or in a hurry. I remember one tale, for example, where a character was referred to as another person's daughter a couple of times, then, later, as that person's granddaughter. Chesterton also uses some stereotypes when referring to certain ethnic groups, or used the "n" word when referring to Blacks. Yes, I understand that the stereotypes and words he used were not offensive in his time, but they certainly made me uncomfortable as a modern reader. When revealed, some of the crimes seemed implausible. 

Some of the tales were stretched out by theological or philosophical passages. Those enriched the tales for me, and set them apart from many other mystery stories. I think those passages helped ot make the tales timeless.

Now that I'm done with the Father Brown stories I need to explore some of his other mystery stories. 

I look forward to that. 

Sunday, April 16, 2023

When reading Robert Frost (clerihew)


When reading Robert Frost
I often find myself getting lost
in thoughts of walls and trees and snow and roads,
but never once of toads.

Monday, April 03, 2023

Inspector Javert Clerihew


Inspector Javert
felt an insatiable desire for a chocolate eclair.
But since the bakeries would not open until well after dawn
he obsessed instead about Jean Valjean.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

They Made the List

 Back in 2019, Joseph Pearce published Literature: What Every Catholic Should Know.

He discusses a number of authors in the book, then, in Chapter 25, lists "100 Works of Literature Every Catholic Should Know." 

It's a pretty comprehensive chronological list, ranging from The Iliad to Lancelot by Walker Percy. It does not, however, include theological works, hence works like The Everlasting Man did not make the list.

Still, it includes many works by some of our friends.

Hilaire Belloc:

The Path to Rome
The Four Men
Complete Verse

G. K Chesterton:

The Napoleon of Notting Hill
The Man Who Was Thursday
The Ball and the Cross
The Ballad of the White Horse

Maurice Baring:

Cat's Cradle
Robert Peckham

J. R. R. Tolkien

The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings

C. S. Lewis:

Out of the Silent Planet
That Hideous Strength
Till We Have Faces
The Chronicles of Narnia

Hmm. No Screwtape Letters?  

Still, it's a good reading list. 

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