GKC – Introduction to My Old Favorite Author   Leave a comment


Ideally, I will be adding to this category of post at least weekly. We’ll have to see how that actually plays out. In the meantime…

Gilbert Keith Chesterton has probably had more of an impact on my intellectual development than any other single author. I actually remember the very first time I read one of his books. It was Ash Wednesday of my junior year in high school. The weather was gorgeous, so I took a book I had recently bought to my backyard.

Orthodoxy, the book I was reading, floored me. I remember pacing around my backyard wanting to shout at every new page. The writing was entertaining, the arguments were original, and seventy years after he died Chesterton was defending what I loved (theological orthodoxy) in a way I could respect.

I read twenty of Chesterton’s books in the next year. For the first handful, I was dubious right up until I started reading. A book about orthodoxy? An Autobiography? Something called  The Everlasting Man? How could those be interesting? And every time I was won over in the first few pages (though I will admit the real juice of The Everlasting Man doesn’t come until after the first several chapters). I read everything I could get my hands on, including Chesterton’s (often unimpressive) poetry and his (excellent, at least in themselves) reviews of books I had never myself read.

Since my liberalization, my opinion of Chesterton has changed drastically. I still love many of his methods and his writing style, I have come to cringe at much of what he writes. His characters are often crude embodiments of a well meaning (and less often not so well meaning) racism. His worldview is gendered in a way that I was uncomfortable with before (he did not approve of women getting the vote, at least early in his career) and find appalling now. And I often find him leveling criticisms at others that his own beliefs could not withstand.

So yes, my opinion of him has changed over time.

But I still love Chesterton, and I am quite certain that his influence on my intellectual development has been mostly positive.  So, in the spirit of my favorite injunction from the Bible, “Test everything, and hold on to what is good,” I propose to write a series of posts sorting through the good and the bad of Chesterton’s writings.

As Chesterton has said, “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.” While my own limited abilities might not be up to shedding some light on Chesterton, it remains true that he deserves to have some light shed on him.

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Posted 06/10/2012 by reluctantliberal in GKC

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