Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton by Kevin Belmonte

May 28, 2011 | By | 5 Comments

“The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost.”

“The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because generally they are the same people.”

“The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.”

“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.”

“”The word ‘good’ has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.”

“Just going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”

“There is the great lesson of ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

“We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.”

“Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly,”
— G.K. Chesterton

It’s quotes like the above that made me want to dig more deeply into the wit and wisdom of Gilbert Keith Chesterton. Despite living a century ago, there is a freshness about his work that applies just as much today as it did back then. Upon seeing that a book about the life of Chesterton was available from Thomas Nelson for review, I jumped on the opportunity.

To get straight to the point, I was disappointed. Rather than gaining fresh insights into the man behind the larger-than-life literary legend, I primarily got a chronology of when each Chesterton book came out, and block quotes regarding what it was about and how it was received at the time. While lighter than I hoped on behind-the-scenes material, it does, as stated in the title, delve into the impact of Chesterton. To that end, it somewhat accomplishes its goal.

In regards to the life of Chesterton, we learn that his lighthearted, good-natured and gregarious nature had a way of endearing himself even to those like George Bernard Shaw who had diametrically opposed views. We also learn about his period of spiritual darkness as a young adult. There are other interesting tid-bits here and there. Overall, though, the book felt more like a dry text from a Church History class than an engaging story capturing an engaging man. Having said that, it is clear that Belmonte deeply respects and appreciates Chesterton, and the honor he affords G.K. shines through.

Overall, I have to think that there are better options out there. It took me months to get through this book and I can’t say with confidence that I got a lot out of it. I would start elsewhere.

(I was provided a review copy of this book by the publisher.)

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Category: Reviews

Comments (5)

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  1. roxy says:

    Really liked the quotes. You have some I haven’t read before.

    • Mark says:

      Thanks! Me too. I actually took most of them from the web rather than the book. Belmonte has another book titled “The Quotable Chesterton: The Wit and Wisdom of G.K. Chesterton”. I think I might have enjoyed that one much more.

  2. roxy says:

    I have personally always liked the “Father Brown” mysteries. They are really witty.

    • Mark says:

      Oh! Those sounded really interesting as well! He sure did write a lot of stuff and many different types of things.

      • roxy says:

        Yes, and I have a tendancy to read the fluffier stuff. I like mysteries. Dorothy Sayers wrote some good ones too, especially Busman’s Honeymoon. She was his friend.

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