G.K. Chesterton...

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Haven't read any, have been trying to find something good for a little while. Is it worth it to buy anything new? And if so, what?

School me.

The Second Drummer Drowned (Atila the Honeybun), Monday, 1 March 2004 19:01 (sixteen years ago) link

Chesterton's a love-or-hate author. I love him. Are you interested in his religious writing (Orthodoxy), his novels/plays (The Man Who Was Thursday, a big favorite of Neil Gaiman's), his lit-crit (the stuff on Dickens and Chaucer is terrific), or his punditry (What's Wrong With the World, or the prescient Eugenics and Other Evils)?

Phil Christman, Monday, 1 March 2004 19:54 (sixteen years ago) link


isadora (isadora), Monday, 1 March 2004 21:38 (sixteen years ago) link

Everyone should read The Man Who Was Thursday; the early Father Browns are also great, as are The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Club of Queer Trades. But he's quite easy to overdose on.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Monday, 1 March 2004 23:34 (sixteen years ago) link

I loved Heretics. a collection of lit and non-lit essays.

scott seward (scott seward), Tuesday, 2 March 2004 23:48 (sixteen years ago) link

If you start with "The Man who was Thursday" be sure to get the
Annotated edition edited by Martin Gardener. His writing style
is different but he is worth the effort!!

Steve Walker (Quietman), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 02:49 (sixteen years ago) link


The Napoleon of Notting Hill is one of my favourite books, but bizarrely I never got into Thursday.

Andrew Farrell (afarrell), Wednesday, 3 March 2004 16:47 (sixteen years ago) link

if you like borges, you might want to go to his selected nonfiction and look up chesterton (one of borges's idols: it makes a lot of sense, in some ways borges is the modernest version of chesterton's romantic, chesterton + kafka/gnostics) and see what you think from that. Father Brown and Tuesday are all very fun, though kind of pat and precious in the way that a good fantasy novel can be those things. Also if you want something literal and "realistic" or don't like metaphoric language, then you might not want to get into chesterton (Father Brown is like the metaphoric, metaphysical equivalent of the boringly realist empirical Sherlock Holmes). FB might be a good place to start, since they're short stories, but Thursday seems better (?).

ken chen, Tuesday, 9 March 2004 00:53 (sixteen years ago) link

I just posted this to the thread about memoir: his autobiography (titled "Autobiography," I think) is really good too.

Phil Christman, Tuesday, 9 March 2004 17:58 (sixteen years ago) link

three years pass...

did GKC write any 'invasion literature'?

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Tuesday, 9 October 2007 11:43 (thirteen years ago) link

i will bump this till i get an answer.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Tuesday, 9 October 2007 11:44 (thirteen years ago) link

What are you talking about.

Casuistry, Tuesday, 9 October 2007 19:33 (thirteen years ago) link

before the first world war in england there was a whole shitload of 'invasion literature', famous shit like 'the riddle of the sands' and loads more less famous shit. anyhoo ya boy GK did do a novel abt anarchists and maybe that counts, thinking about it, but anyone know if he did other work in this field?

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Tuesday, 9 October 2007 22:57 (thirteen years ago) link

GK did do a novel abt anarchists

Well, there you go! What more could you ask?

Aimless, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 02:01 (thirteen years ago) link

'The King of Notting Hill' isn't exactly invasion literature, like 'The Battle of Dorking' (which I assume is the sort of thing you're after), but it does have a civil war taking place in London. As far as I know, that's the closest Chesterton came.

James Morrison, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 05:52 (thirteen years ago) link

thanking you james.

he did a whole shitload of short stories, aimless, is all. wondered if anyone had ventured into them.

That one guy that hit it and quit it, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 08:47 (thirteen years ago) link

Google doesn't seem to think he did.

Casuistry, Wednesday, 10 October 2007 16:01 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

Anyone read the Father Brown story "The Sign of the Broken Sword"? It's rather horrifying in a way that none of the other stories I've read are - there's no action whatsoever, just a logical explanation of inhuman brutality. Props to my sister for telling me to read it.

clotpoll, Monday, 12 November 2007 02:16 (thirteen years ago) link

nine years pass...

Article in the LRB about the Chestertons - more A.K., but G.K. does get a look in. The Flying Inn - cue wikipedia: "It is set in a future England where the Temperance movement has allowed a bizarre form of "Progressive" Islam to dominate the political and social life of the country." - seems like the grandaddy of every tiresome right-wing dystopian novel of the past fifteen years.

Quite disturbing the way the article ties Chesterton's love of Merry Old England into these fascist impulses, via an appreciation of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream and medieval (Catholic) England. I know that sentimentality about the shires is frequently reactionary but that particular cocktail - a medievalist populism, I guess - is something my dad was very much into from a socialist pov.

Anyway, the article does talk a lot more about his cousin, so I run the risk of conflating, but: whenever I hear G K Chesteron's politics discussed, he's characterised as a conservative (and indeed I've seen him praised by modern conservatives); is "fascist" a fair assessment?

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 09:03 (three years ago) link

no, it's not -- he was a well known and very vocal distributist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

this kind of sentimentality for the middle ages was widespread across most politics before ww1: william morris was a marxist and his fiction and aesthetic is full of similar backward-looking stuff -- left and right hating what factories and capitalism were doing to the world they loved

one of the father brown stories is set in italy and features an actual futurist -- i.e. based on marinetti's gang -- who's a poet and a likeable rascal and ends up as a journalist (working for the daily mail i think): the villain is a corrupt businessman; he's generally very friendly towards socialists in these stories -- he thinks they're chumps but for the right reasons…

haven't read "the flying inn" and probably should -- gkc's approach to fiction is more absurdist than ranting, so i'm guessing that prophecy is more about the ridiculousness than the dystopian threat; his most famous novel "the man who was thursday" is a cheerful critique of anarchism that ends up revealing that god is the jolly prankish leader of the anarchists

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 09:48 (three years ago) link

which father brown story is that one, mark?

flopson, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 12:14 (three years ago) link

picked up a Father Brown anthology this winter bc of Borges

flopson, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 12:17 (three years ago) link

The Paradise of Thieves

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 12:19 (three years ago) link

chesterton loved by conservatives because of his bold stances against female suffrage, contraception, public education... if he was sympathetic to the futurists maybe it's because they were misogynistic arseholes too.

ledge, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 13:35 (three years ago) link

ledge and his lone battle against the idea that someone with bad politics could be a great writer :D

he's not sympathetic to futurism per se -- he thinks it's silly (because he's a conservative) -- but he's good at sympathetic sketches of people he thinks are philosophically very wrong

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 13:42 (three years ago) link

where's odysseus btw, wasn't he going to report back on his travels in browniana?

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 13:42 (three years ago) link

Chesterton's Fence is what makes him attractive to modern conservatives, in my experience.

LRB article makes a case that, in addition to his medieval sentimentalism, GK was scornful against parliamentary democracy, a nationalist and an anti-semite; not uncommon in his time obviously, but kinda close enough to fascism? Mussolini was a socialist too, etc.

None of which means he can't be a good writer!

his most famous novel "the man who was thursday" is a cheerful critique of anarchism that ends up revealing that god is the jolly prankish leader of the anarchists

You make it sound so sympathetic - I read it as an angry young man and was angered by its perceived smugness - "ah you poor leftist atheist, little do you know that your actions too are all in God's plan!". Need to try rereading.

Unfortunate framing aside, the idea of an undercover mobile pub does sound ace.

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 14:24 (three years ago) link

But fascists were modernists far more than they were conservatives. Several of the Father Brown stories take potshots at versions of Nietzsche's thinking. Not that Nietzsche was a fascist either -- but the entire "supermen who remake morality anew" shtick was something that fascists (and some marxists) really liked the sound of, while GKC spent a lot of time and energy poking fun at it.

Adding: I've actually now opened the new LRB and found the essay -- at a very quick scan it's a bit careless smooshing up what GKC said and did, as opposed to what his brother Cecil and his second cousin A.K.Chesterton said and did. And I don't entirely buy the essay's implication that distributism was just a kind of a front for fascism.

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 14:48 (three years ago) link

yeah it certainly treats the Chestertons as a collective, which I'm sure erases many important nuances

Daniel_Rf, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 14:50 (three years ago) link

ledge and his lone battle against the idea that someone with bad politics could be a great writer :D

I do dislike his fiction, and his pompously windbagful essay style, and of course his conclusions - all that I can dismiss as a matter of taste. His arguments though are truly dreadful, specious through and through. He's an armchair sociologist with a great many opinions and zero knowledge of those he is making grand pronouncements on behalf of - women, the working classes, families, 'savages'. Woke he ain't.

ledge, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 18:19 (three years ago) link

woke he indeed ain't, won't and can't argue with that

mark s, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 18:24 (three years ago) link

Doubtless he would scoff at the word, if not the notion, dismissing things based on their names being a favourite ploy.

ledge, Wednesday, 3 May 2017 19:18 (three years ago) link

three years pass...

I've been reading a compilation of Borges' essays and the write-up on Detective Fiction nudged me (as they have various ppl in the thread) to look out for the Father Brown Stories. I got a 'Best of..' at Oxfam and none of the stories mentioned here ("The Sign of the Broken Sword", "The Paradise of Thieves") are in it, which is annoying. I don't remember connecting or liking "The Man Who was Thursday" which is why it has taken me a while..

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 17 September 2020 14:22 (four months ago) link

Father Brown stories are ace, gotta admit.

Daniel_Rf, Thursday, 17 September 2020 14:28 (four months ago) link

The Invisible Man (talked about here: G.K. Chesterton's 'Father Brown' vs Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 'Sherlock Holmes') is included -- its really good!

xyzzzz__, Thursday, 17 September 2020 21:08 (four months ago) link

"Man Who Was Thursday" seemed to use a straw man definition of anarchism, of being against society. It didn't make me interested in exploring his other works.

wasdnous (abanana), Thursday, 17 September 2020 22:24 (four months ago) link

a straw man? in chesterton? never! (caution: sarcasm)

neith moon (ledge), Friday, 18 September 2020 07:03 (four months ago) link

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