Heretics, by G. K. Chesterton

June 19, 2011 at 17:36 (Book Reviews, Highly Rated Books, Literature, Philosophy, Theology) (, , , , , , )

9/10

Gilbert Keith Chesterton is a very funny man, which certainly comes in handy when he takes it upon himself to scathe and blister his peers. His denouncement of their heresies begins as piecemeal accusations and isolated comments on extremely idiomatic character traits and specific published works, but does come to some coherent sense by the end of the book, when it becomes apparent that neither Shaw nor Kipling nor the Yellow Press are his true targets; and the entire work coalesces into a remarkable study of humanism and the realisation that the train is blowing full steam ahead towards “progress” – without any real idea what it left behind, or what the “progress” actually is.

Chesterton offers some wonderful insights into the redeeming qualities of dogma, religion, ritual and several other dirty words that he rehabilitates so eloquently as to build a swift and beautiful case for common sense and the re-evaluation of fundamental questions of what is good and pure and true–and why.

The book does lose some of its flair and excitement towards the second half, but chiefly because Chesterton populates his examples and his case studies initially with timeless writers and thinkers, and later with figures and entities personally aggravating (or known) to him, but less significant for the rest of us. Despite this, he retains his wit and his penchant for the surprising paradoxical proverb until the end, and provides an excellent complementary volume to Orthodoxy, operating magnificently as either a stand-alone or companion piece.

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