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"The mind that finds its way to wild places is the poet's; but the mind that never finds its way back is the lunatic's."
- G.K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World
Written 107 years ago, Chesterton's 'What's Wrong with the World' is dated on several topics, primarily regarding women. But even if it wasn't dated, that wouldn't change the essentials of why I am always simultaneously thrilled and frustrated by G.K. Chesterton. I may not agree with what he says, but I always adore how he says it. In that way he is like another English writer Christopher Hitchens. I would read Hitchens and practically yell and the book in parts, but God how I loved the gift of Hitch's words. Chesterton, if born 75 years later, may have had a sparing partner in Hitch. They seem very similar in rhetorical boldness.
Chesterton genius was (and probably still is) found in his playful use of paradox. He, I believe, is the master of rhetorical paradox. He doesn't just want to argue the point. He wants to twist the argument, reframe the debate, make a tangle of both sides, and show the world a third-way. He approaches issues of politics, class, sex, education and tries to show how often both sides of the argument are blind. He looks at a chessboard where both black and white pieces are stuck in a perpetual check and instead of suggesting a draw, he adds a couple pieces, or suggests billiards.
What is surprising is not how often I disagree with Chesterton, but how often I agree with a text that was written 107 years ago. It is also surprising (the math is easy here because he was born almost 100 years before me) to discover he was 35 when he wrote this book. It seems a bit curmudgeonly written for a 35 year-old. But that is also one of the charms of Chesterton. Even as a youth, his witty writings and his conservative attitudes seemed like those of a sarcastic, slightly drunk old sage than a haughty young intellectual. I may admire Charles Darwin more, but I'd probably want to drink with G.K. Chesterton.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful
Chillingly contemporary for a work from this era. Poignant. Challenging. Excellent audio performance as well.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful