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To read Chesterton is to read an author unlike any other. October 22, 2012
For those unfamiliar with this Wilford Brimley doppelgänger from the early 20th century, the portly and prolific Christian author G.K. Chesterton wrote nearly 80 books, 4000 articles, 200 short stories, hundreds of poems, and even a few plays.
In other words, fans of Chesterton owe editor Kevin Belmonte a note of thanks for wading through such an immense literary output in order to create A Year with G.K. Chesterton. He could have compiled A Decade with G.K. Chesterton (Part 1 of 10) considering Chesterton's considerable contributions to the world of words. Fortunately, as the author of Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton, Belmonte knew where to start in order to create this devotional.
Multiple stories provide evidence of Chesterton's weighty wit, which shines through in much of his writing. While in London during World War I, a woman asked him why he was "not out at the Front," with "the Front" referring to the battle lines of their fellow countrymen. Chesterton promptly replied, "If you go round to the side, you will see that I am."
Chesterton took humorous criticism as well, as heard in this exchange between himself and playwright George Bernard Shaw:
Chesterton: "To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England."
Shaw: "To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it."
One could surmise that Chesterton brought all of his 6'4", 290-pound frame to bear on every iota of his writing. He could be equally as serious as humorous, as spiritual as practical, and as specific as to be universal. To read Chesterton is to read an author unlike any other.
Like many similar devotionals, the book's structure stays true to form. 365 readings correspond to each day of the year. Most sections span a page with the longest sections reaching two pages. Each reading begins with a short verse of Scripture, followed by the intellectual "meat" of the book—excerpts from Chesterton's works. Literary trivia buffs will appreciate the last part of every reading where Belmonte relays what happened on that particular day in Chesterton's life.
Even though these readings take only a few minutes, Chesterton's words are worth taking in slowly. While the outdated grammar and syntax may be offputting to some (he wrote from 1900-1936), the essence of what Chesterton attempts to convey still remains spiritually solid.
Personally, his winsome, thought-provoking, and sometimes seemingly contradictory phrases caused me to often re-read certain sections in order to ensure I fully gathered his meaning. Even if I had understood his train of thought, the re-reading often provided a wider perspective on what he was trying to convey. Since the readings in A Year are so short in the first place, it's little extra effort to take the time to parse his sentences for a better grasp.
Even if the devotional fails to grab your attention on a certain day, particular passages may lead you to read the fuller work where it was found, expanding your literary horizons to include an author whom C.S. Lewis cited as a major influence on both his conversion and his writing.
I recommend A Year with G.K. Chesterton for those already familiar with his works, for those who appreciate thoughtful, artful prose, and for those who have yet to be introduced to this unique voice in Christian literary history.
A Year with G.K. Chesterton is published by Thomas Nelson and will be released on October 30, 2012.
Review by FVmomentum
“A Year with G.K.
Chesterton will be a treasure, both for those who are coming to his wit and
wisdom as a fresh discovery, and for those who have known and loved his work
for years. . . . Chesterton’s talent for paradox, and his ability to embody
profound truth in simple images, makes him as compelling now as he was a
hundred years ago. . . . He was a prophet in his own time and a prophet for
ours, speaking out against insidious evils and kindling us all again to a
common love of the common good.”
—The Reverend Dr. Malcolm Guite, chaplain of Girton College,
“This world of ours has some purpose; and if there is a purpose, there is a Person. I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story, there is a Storyteller.”
—G. K. Chesterton
A Year with G. K. Chesterton daily brings this truth to life. And we are
heir to the winsome, arresting, utterly original outpouring of Chesterton’s
reasons for hope. During his lifetime, a host of perspectives clamored for his
attention, but he saw nothing as vital and alive as Christianity. Readers of
this book will find their faith strengthened and enriched, even as they see the
many reasons why George Bernard Shaw called Chesterton “a colossal genius.”
A true anthology, the best of Chesterton’s many works are presented in concise, memorable selections. From New Year’s Day to New Year’s Eve, each page contains a passage of Scripture and myriad moments for reflection, appreciation, and laughter.
“Chesterton once a
day? Well, that’s a start. It is good to see that someone is finally
recognizing the need for a daily minimum requirement of mirth and meditation
—Dale Ahlquist, President, American Chesterton Society
“Kevin Belmonte writes in the preface to this excellent book
that his editing of it has been a gift. As an author who has written regularly
on Chesterton I can understand his sense of gratitude at having been able to
spend so much time with a genius as genial as the great GKC. Thanks to
Belmonte's labor of love we can all spend a few moments of every day of the year
in Chesterton's inimitable company. All admirers of Chesterton and the
Christian truth he explicates so sublimely will be grateful to Kevin Belmonte
for this gem of a gift.”
—Joseph Pearce, author of Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G. K. Chesterton
"Who could not be grateful for a year spent with GKC?
The great subverter of everything taken for granted, he stretches and deepens
us with his insights, shakes us with his startling paradoxes and delights us
with his wit. Thank God there is no getting to the end of Chesterton."
—Os Guinness, author of A Free People's Suicide
|Publication Date||October 30, 2012|