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lonesomepoint

lonesomepoint

The Everlasting Man - G.K. Chesterton It's difficult for me to review The Everlasting Man adequately, largely for two reasons.

One is that G.K. Chesterton, being both a philosopher and a man of letters, here speaks in a style both rambling and strongly reminiscent of a lecture (or series of lectures). It's not patronizing, but the most important ideas Chesterton means to communicate can easily become buried. Ask me what the book is about, and from remembering the description I saw before I read it, I can tell you it's supposed to be a study of history and anthropology working under the assumption that the Bible is true and Jesus Christ is who He said He is; but press me to tell you what the book is about based on what I actually read in it, and I 'll probably have to say..."lots of things." C.S. Lewis is easier to follow.

The other is that Chesterton (also a Catholic par excellence) draws very extensively on Catholic philosophy for his interpretation of history and anthropology. I'm mostly ignorant of Catholic doctrine and philosophy, leaving me unable to fully appreciate (meaning "absorb," not "like" or "accept") all the...nuances, probably...of everything he says to illustrate his broader points. But something I picked up that I hadn't really thought of is that there were, according to Chesterton, two kinds of paganism. One was the "diabolism" represented by the Canaanite tribes' worship of their monstrous fire god Molech; the other was a softer idolatry born of the demands of the imagination; it's related to poetry and the need to make it.


I just remembered to mention something else, the real failing of the book. I already knew Chesterton was Eurocentric, having read that in reviews; but Chesterton's displays of cultural and (occasionally) racial arrogance are more blatant than I expected. He makes it clear that he considers everything outside European civilization the province of ignorant savages. That was enough to roll my eyes at (and I'm a conservative), but after he stepped below that by making some reference to "niggers" (he might not have been referring to Africans--I forget), I felt embarrassed for him while simultaneously appreciating the rest of what he has to teach. It doesn't help that later in the book, he takes a gratuitous cheap shot at Americans.

It's a book I should read again in the near future.