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Manalive

Manalive

by G. K. Chesterton
Publisher: Dover Publications
Trade Paperback, 160 pages
Price: $7.95

Innocent Smith is Innocent of all charges defaming his good name, and Smith in the Smithiest Smithness. Not a fool, certainly. Fools don't know what they're doing or why (though they may have reasons), whereas Mr. Smith acts only on the most premeditated grounds. Certainly the serious people around him only see the results, and to them the results are pure lunacy, but as Chesterton points out elsewhere it's only a sane man who can be truly eccentric because he has nothing to conceal.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was a mad genius himself, but without a shred of ill-will or anger. He once crouched on the peak of his roof throwing paper planes into the air and shooting them with a bow and arrows. A very Innocent Smith-ish activity, demonstrating exactly the principle Innocent teaches other people through his zany antics—that life, if it is worth living at all, is worth living completely in a state of total Joy, always recognizing the freshness and beauty and absolute fun of existence.

Manalive is very possibly the funniest book you'll ever read. Not only are the events hilarious, Chesterton's subtle prose poetry is testament to a life spent in faithfulness to his own philosophy. Not that he codified points and sub-points into a carefully structured Philosophy of the sort intellectuals are constantly attempting. The strength of his thought is that it is unsystematic and relies on the mirth of God for inspiration rather than careful analysis of scientific or logical data.

When it appears that Innocent may not be, Chesterton simply makes things more ridiculous, while revealing the purpose behind the hero's madcap. Did Innocent really leave his wife? did he break into a house? did he shoot at people? did he run off with other women? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. How could such a man be a hero? Very easily in Chesterton's universe, one which readers of Manalive are likely to willingly enter again and again and again until it becomes, not Chesterton's universe, but their own.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

 

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Mild violence, very mild sexual content
Summary: Is Innocent Smith truly innocent? The High Court of Beacon, composed of an Englishman, an Irishman, a Jew, an American, and a peevish doctor, hears Mr. Smith's case.

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