Monday, May 11, 2009

10 Books A Day: #22

The Coloured Lands...G. K. Chesterton...Sheed and Ward

Wisdom And Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton...Joseph Pearce...Hodder & Stoughton

A Chesterton Anthology...sel. P. J. Kavanagh...Ignatius/Bodley Head

The Autobiography of G. K. Chesterton...G. K. Chesterton...Sheed and Ward

Gilbert Keith Chesterton...Maisie Ward...Sheed and Ward

G. K. Chesterton: Collected Nonsense and Light Verse...sel. Marie Smith...Dodd, Mead

G. K. Chesterton: Radical Populist...Margaret Canovan...Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

The Man Who Was Thursday...G. K. Chesterton...Dodd, Mead

The Poet and the Lunatics...G. K. Chesterton...House of Stratus

The Works of G. K. Chesterton...G. K. Chesterton...Wordsworth Poetry Library

With today's batch of books we move to the shelves of the next wall. Now might be a good time to mention again the code by which I indicate what kind of book each volume is: plain type is for common paperbacks, italics for trade paperbacks or soft covers, and bold for hardbacks. Within the comments all titles are in italics, as per common usage. Prepare yourselves, for I have enough Chesterton to last two more posts besides this one.

G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) was what I would consider a writer's writer. Beloved of course by the likes of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Dorothy L. Sayers, he was also able to capture the admiration of the likes of H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, John Crowley, and Neil Gaiman, who, if unable to share in his beliefs, like his spirit. That spirit is one of fun, thankfulness, and appreciation of the good things in the world, along with the feeling that these things are worth struggling for and defending if they are endangered, without being enslaved to the seeking of them.

The Autobiography was finished by GKC shortly before his death, and is famous for talking about almost everything but the documented facts of his life; it is rather better than that, being a memoir of how he felt and came to feel about it all. Ward's biography came about ten years later and deals more with the facts; Pearce's biography is just a few years old and is something of a melding of the two, and a mediation of the decades-long insights on GKC and the influence of his works that have occurred since his passing. Canovan's work deals with GKC's political beliefs, especially Distributism; this is a firm belief that to preserve the freedom of a country the land and the means of the production must be firmly in the hands of the people, and not the state. Under this system, for example, the government would not be able to take the land you had bought if you did not pay taxes on it, which makes it essentially a rental from the state, rather than true property.

Although GKC is famous for his novels, poetry, short stories, and essays (his collected newspaper articles alone could and do fill several 700 page volumes) his only higher education was in the Slade School of Art. For a while he supplemented his income by providing illustrations for books by his friends. In The Coloured Lands and Collected Nonsense and Light Verse one can see various examples of his drawing, including reproductions of his famous paper puppets that he constructed all his life.

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