In our postmodern society, hero worship is both everywhere and nowhere. Celebrities, athletes, and messianic political figures are heaped with obsessive adulation, are shadowed with neurotic persistence, and enjoy their images everywhere the way idolatrous statues populated every ancient city. And yet, we fancy ourselves more staid than past generations, less impressed with feats of greatness or even mere notoriety, morose and blase in the face of impending existential ennui.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton blows the charade to pieces with one puff of his mighty cigar. This is not the kind of paradox he cares for, the insipid paranoia of a whole culture gone entirely wrong. Hero worship, he seems to say, is perfectly healthy and normal—not idolatrous hero worship, of course, but the kind that makes us want to imitate great men who accomplished much and didn't worry about what the world thought about them.
This is exactly the kind of hero worship Chesterton himself deserves, but that in his humility he would have dismissed with a shake of his shaggy head and a very British epithet. It's his humility in part that warrants our admiration, but also his eccentricity, his utter love of all things joyous and carefree, his wise understanding of Christianity and its ideals, his hilarious wit and good humor, and his pervasive and incontrovertible common sense.
If this all sounds a bit unbalanced, it is, but it's gloriously unbalanced. Why shouldn't we remember only the good parts? Why should Chesterton be submitted to the modernist microscope he so abhorred? Dale Ahlquist's answer is Common Sense 101, a delightfully one-sided homage to G. K. Chesterton and his philosophy of life, and an attempt to look at everything there is to look at from his perspective, with his eyes, and using his jumbled, razor-sharp brain.
Ahlquist's book isn't a simple panegyric, however. It's a genuine effort to see as G. K. saw, and to apply that wisdom to the world as we see it, a world that isn't so far from the one Chesterton himself knew. As president of the American Chesterton Society, Ahlquist knows his subject thoroughly; as an adult convert to Catholicism from Protestantism, he identifies with Chesterton on a variety of levels. There are few writers better suited to write this book.
Whether you're new to Chesterton or a longtime admirer/voracious devourer of his works, Common Sense 101 is an excellent introduction to the man himself, and a helpful guide for understanding his novels, essays and poetry. In our world, it won't due to keep our Christian worldview hidden, and Chesterton's was as visible as his gargantuan 6'4" 300lb. frame. Inasmuch as it was also biblical his worldview should be ours, and this book clarifies it admirably and joyously.
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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