Book Meme: Mel’s Day Fourteen

Book Meme Challenge:

Favorite Book of the (Professed) Favorite Author

Every single book of Chesterton’s is worth reading.

Some are better than others, of course.

Like his work on St. Thomas Aquinas. He was hired to write a biography, paid in advance, and given a year to complete the work. Two week before it was due, G.K. decided that he should get started; he sent his secretary to the library to get a few accounts of the Saint, leafed through them, leaned back, and began to dictate. The resulting book is acknowledged even by Thomistic scholars to be the most insightful and brilliant examination of the Dumb Ox.

Similarly, his book on St. Francis of Assisi is an astounding and beautiful exploration of the Middle Ages  – Chesterton objects to the term ‘Dark Ages’ – and a man who marked the changing of a time.

The Flying Inn is delightful, celebrating the paradoxes of Christian Joy and Christian Sacrifice. (And beer! And cheese!) Orthodoxy presents what might be the most compelling argument and explanation for being a Christian. The Everlasting Man . . . . every person must read or have his humanity revoked.  Napolean of Notting Hill is hilarious, charming, awesome and full of awe.

But my favorite favorite is a lesser known Chesterton work,

The Poet and the Lunatics

This book might not be the most clearly written, nor the most cleverly organized. It is merely a set of short stories that follow the poet Gabriel Gale around England as he does ludicrous things and makes lunacy look heavenly. In all senses of that word.

Gabriel is absent-minded, doesn’t pay the slightest attention to social order, likes to stand on his head, and can pin man to a tree with a pitchfork and be thanked for it.

He appears to be dreamy and crazy, but he is deeply aware of the minds and hearts and souls of people and his logic – when explained – makes fantastically perfect sense.

Of course, he is bound by a strange code of honor to protect the world from a destructive kind of lunacy. And in his own art, he revels in Creation. And so these two seemingly at-odds ends travel side by side, like The Ultimate Paradox of Life.

[After being found standing on his head by the Lady of his heart . . .]

“It’s all very well to talk about being topsy-turvy. But when the angels hang head downwards, we know they come from above. It’s only those that come from below that always have their noses in the air.”

Despite his hilarious manner, she approached him with a certain sub-conscious fear; which was not lessened when he lowered his voice and added: “Shall I tell you a secret?”

At the same moment were heard overhead the first heavy movements of the thunder, through which his voice came, perhaps, with an accidental air as of loud whispering.

“The world is upside down. We’re all upside down. We’re all flies crawling on a ceiling, and it’s an everlasting mercy that we don’t drop off.”

At that instant the twilight turned to a white blaze of lightning; and she was shocked to see that his face was quite serious.

She said with a sort of irritation, “You do say such crazy things,” and the next moment her voice was lost in the thronging echoes of the thunder, which seemed to shake everything, shouting the same word again and again… crazy, crazy, crazy. She had unconsciously given a word for the worst thought in her mind.

As yet no rain had fallen on the garden slopes, though the noise of it was already troubling the river beyond. But even had it done so, she herself doubted if the man would have noticed it. Even in more normal moments he seemed to be one who singly pursued a solitary train of thought, and he was still talking, like a man talking to himself, about the rationality of topsy-turvydom.

“We were talking about St. Peter,” he said; “you remember that he was crucified upside down. I’ve often fancied his humility was rewarded by seeing in death the beautiful vision of his boyhood. He also saw the landscape as it really is: with the stars like flowers, and the clouds like hills, and all men hanging on the mercy of God.”

There is also murder, mystery, drama, romance, beer, Sacramental life, art, food, science, song, and joy.

And God  . . .  this book is so full of God that He colors every sight, sound, sense of the reader, even when He is not immediately noticeable. All Chesterton books are like that in their own way, but here the necessity for the poet to look through God’s sight is made obvious. And therefore Beautiful, and to human sight topsy-turvy.


4 thoughts on “Book Meme: Mel’s Day Fourteen

  1. Well that’s a fine recommendation. *adds to reading list* I solemnly promise to read the essential Chestertons.

    J. Holsworth Stevenson at the Libation Library has some interesting reviews” of some of Chesterton’s books. You might be interested, eh?

  2. I see a lot of people posting Chesterton quotes around the web and elsewhere, but few who have delved into his minor works, and fewer still who seem to “get it” as clearly as you do. I’m an avid Chesterton fan and I’ve posted some reflections about his work on my blog. My personal favorite is ‘Orthodoxy’, though I also like his essays and his poetry. I haven’t yet read ‘The Poet and the Lunatics’ but I’ll get to it someday.

  3. Pingback: Epic Manly Men of Fiction « Egotist's Club

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