Book Meme: Mel’s Day Thirteen

Book Meme Challenge:

My Favorite Author

Did we not already do this? How am I supposed to choose ONE favorite author? My favorites change as often as my mood. Even then, if I am supposed to objectively judge which author I believe to be BEST, would that not give away the grand finale surprise of my all-time favorite book?

So I will qualify: from the authors of whom I have read a lot from their entire body of work, who are fun to read for school, and who are academically inspiring when read for fun, my favorite is . . .

G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton has a large body of work. (And also a large body.) He wrote mysteries, essays, fairy tales, and witty little reflections on life, travel, virtue, education, and humanity. He was a soul of geniality and wit and charm. He could demolish the opposition with an argument so clever and fun and new that the vanquished left smiling. Even if his logic was slightly strange and fantastic.

It is said that while both Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton won every debate they encountered, the difference was that Belloc’s opponents were left seething and frothing at the mouth in anger – Belloc was a sharp, almost cruel wit –  and Chesterton’s opponents thought that Chesterton was their new best friend.

Chesterton’s interest was blatantly centered in finding The Best Way of Life. This he saw everywhere; he could find virtue in chalk, romance in standing on one’s head, and absolute joy in cheese.

And he does so with such vim and vigor and sheer delight that his love is contagious.

Supposedly Chesterton struggled with depression, which gives me great hope. If a man inclined to be melancholic could conquer himself to such an extent that he is commonly seen as a cuddly teddy-bear, than I can pick myself up and smile more often than I feel like. He is my hero, on a personal as well as a literary level.

In addition, Chesterton’s wonder and love in the world gives a practical example of how to live. We are human beings, body and soul, creatures of paradox by nature. And so, how can we live except by embracing the paradoxes of life? Therein lies the secret to romance; to approach the world with wonder and joy, as a thing both astonishing and comfortable.

I have often had a fancy for writing a romance about an English yachtsman who slightly miscalculated his course and discovered England under the impression that it was a new island in the South Seas. . . . I am not here concerned to deny that he looked a fool. But if you imagine that he felt a fool, or at any rate that the sense of folly was his sole or his dominant emotion, then you have not studied with sufficient delicacy the rich romantic nature of the hero of this tale. His mistake was really a most enviable mistake; and he knew it, if he was the man I take him for. What could be more delightful than to have in the same few minutes all the fascinating terrors of going abroad combined with all the humane security of coming home again? What could be better than to have all the fun of discovering South Africa without the disgusting necessity of landing there? What could be more glorious than to brace one’s self up to discover New South Wales and then realize, with a gush of happy tears, that it was really old South Wales. This at least seems to me the main problem for philosophers, and is in a manner the main problem of this book. How can we contrive to be at once astonished at the world and yet at home in it? How can this queer cosmic town, with its many-legged citizens, with its monstrous and ancient lamps, how can this world give us at once the fascination of a strange town and the comfort and honour of being our own town?

This was the man who on his wedding day held his own Rite of Passage by drinking a glass of milk at a bar – a Farewell to Childhood – and then buying a gun with which to protect his household. This is the man who, after wondering wandering around in abstraction finally telegrammed his wife, “Am at Paddington station. Where ought I to be?” This is the man who used a sword-cane and wore a cape cloak. This is the man who wrote an entire book in defence of drinking as one of the pillars of Christianity. This is the man whose love and hope and faith were even larger than his body.

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One thought on “Book Meme: Mel’s Day Thirteen

  1. Excellent examination. What articles of his I’ve read (and one story) fit your descriptions of his works in general, and I can’t wait to dig into more of what he wrote. I especially like that contrast between Chesterton and Belloc. The man who defeats your arguments and wins your friendship in the same debate has snatched a far more tangible victory than a man who can only demolish and antagonize his opponents.

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