Monday, February 06, 2006

Gilberts, anyone?

Let me know if your Gilbert arrived so we can start talking. And also let me know if there is a particular article you'd like to talk over.


  1. My copy arrived Saturday and I've read most of it. I especially enjoyed Campbell's grist on watching paint dry. And was inspired by Olsen's success with his Four Men feasts.

  2. I liked the Four Men feast idea, too, although technically, I can't do it, being a woman and all. Are you going to do it? It sounds like a lot of fun.

    And I have to admit I haven't read the "waiting for paint to dry" article yet. I better get cracking.

  3. Campbell's article on waiting for paint to dry is one of his finest, a perfect example of how reading Chesterton can help one poke holes in any old cliche -- such as the idea that watching paint dry is boring -- giving one a new perspective on it.

    The biggest crime in the literary world right now is that Belloc's immortal novel, The Four Men, remains out of print. I'm working with a few people right now to change that, so please keep that intention in your prayers. Among other things, The Four Men is living testimony against the false notion that Belloc was nothing but a snarling curmudgeon. The Four Men is one of the most whimsical books I've ever read.

  4. I am just now getting started in my issue of Gilbert yet I am still thinking about the first “Dear Sean” letter from Robert Massa of Scituate, MA. Is Chesterton’s and the Distributist’s view of the Big Shop out of date? Have Home Depot and Wal-Mart really scaled the “Bluff” Chesterton so eloquently illuminated in The Outline of Sanity? Is Distributism lost in the turn of the 20th century? Yes, as Mr. Massa points out many of today’s Big Shops are clean, well stocked, and low-priced. One could even put forth a somewhat tortuous but perhaps credible argument that they are champions of widespread private property through the equity market and public trading.

    I am somewhat of a rookie Distributist, but I don’t think Chesterton would contend that we can do away with today’s big shops entirely. In the January/February 2005 issue of Gilbert (precise arrival date uncertain) Chesterton writes in the “Straws in the Wind” essay:

    “It takes all sorts to make a church; it takes all sorts to make a Distributist state; in one sense, it includes those who are not Distributists. Just as we wish economic power balanced between various citizens, and not trusted blindly to one monopolist, so we want social and moral power balanced between different types and tenures, and not all blindly trusted to one monotonous ideal. We do not so much wish the world to be Distributist as wish it to be more Distributist; but not necessarily more and more Distributist.”

    I often use this quote as a way to introduce Distributism. We can’t all be peasant farmers. We can, however, think of “Progress” as a means rather than the goal itself. Is Home Depot progress? From a Distributist point of view, not likely. It is probably more of the “mere mad stampede towards monopoly . . . (where) the last traditions of property and liberty are lost.” (Outline of Sanity, IHS, 2001, p. 70) Can Distributism survive in a world of Home Depots? I certainly hope and believe so. I think Chesterton would argue that I should be more concerned with the welfare of my local hardware merchant than the dividend of Home Depot stock.

  5. My copy arrived on Saturday as well, but I'm trying to read through it slowly and make it last!

    As for distributionism, I think the key is consumer choice. I'll pick on Wal-Mart, since they're the favorite "Target" of choice these days. While Wal-Marts do offer a variety of cheaply made products, the service is usually non-existent, they overwork their employees, and the check-out lines are usually ridiculously long. In my town, unfortunately, the local chains are almost exactly the same (except the long lines)!

    So I don't see much difference.

  6. Hmm ... my wife gave me a Gilbert subscription for Christmas. Should my 1st issue have arrived by now?

  7. Brian, we are somewhat behind and struggling to catch up. Even so, you should have gotten something by now. Send me an e-mail at, and I'll forward it to our subscription service, asking if your first issue has been mailed yet.

    Your servant,

  8. I got my issue Saturday, and it is read and in the wife's pile. I quit subscribing a while back because of my exasperation with the whole "distribuatarian" thing that infects the GKC loving culture. Any sort of utopian plan requires that everyone join, which is the built-in failing. But I ordered the SANITY publication so I can live up to my display name with more information, and not just give voice to my ODD impulses...

  9. "ODD impulses"?

    Thanks for resubscriging, Kurm. I hope you are not disappointed.

  10. Yeah, chestertoniaan -- Oppositional Defiance Disorder, which I'm the poster child for. Or my wife says so, at any rate.


  11. kurmuhjan - Enjoy the ride GKC will take you on when you read Outline of Sanity; I am sure he will address your concerns about Distributism much more eloquently and persuasively than I could hope to.

    I would also recommend the tape of Father James Schall's talk at the recent Chesterton Society Conference. The talk was entitled, "Chesterton - The Real Heretic" and at one point, Father Schall quotes Chesterton with:

    "It is idle to talk to a Catholic and optimism and pessimism for he himself shall decide whether the universe shall be for him the best or the worst of all possible worlds."

    Our Faith is founded on a Utopian ideal. Distributism is one way we can, with God's grace, pursue our ideals.

  12. Finally! I got my G!

    For me there was one absolutely striking and thrilling item - and it was the very first one.

    A dramatic presentation (a one-man show) was recently made of GKC's Orthodoxy. How I would like to see it!

    But there's something even better - it was done by a high school senior! This is so heartening and gratifying!!!

    I hope he will make every effort to come to the next conference.

  13. The tape sounds interesting. How would one order a copy? I don't see it immediately on any site I've found so far...

  14. The tape ordering instructions are on the back of the latest magazine; they had been on the ACS web page, but probably they are getting ready for the next conference already. Thank God it only about four months more to wait - and I hope to meet many of you then!

    But Dale or someone at ACS headquarters will be glad to help. To save you having to trans-click, here is the information:

    The American Chesterton Society
    4117 Pebblebrook Circle
    Minneapolis, MN 55437

    Telephone: 952-831-3096

    Fax: 952-831-0387



    Incidentally, there should be plenty of knowledgeable distributists there, who will be quite happy to discuss the topic.

  15. Ooops! Well, when the wife is finished with it, I'll have access to the back of the mag again! Thanks!

  16. Well. I was fillping through this new issue and found something ...

    Whew! is that - that light - is that the sun? why is the sun still shinig? It... it can't be...

    Pardon me
    if I don't seem
    tobe able to direct fingerstotype
    mywords properly - it's a result of reading an eminently satisfactory story...

    A kind of excapee, lost hapter or outtake from Tales of the Long Bow somehow with Manalive strewn on top and the usual deep eipgrams ("what's worth doing")... whattotype... argh whattotype... howcome there's no Gaudete key in ASCII, gotta submit an upgrade request to the ISO... !!! startling to read a new Chesterton story.!!!
    Or one so close as makes no difference. It does not happen every day. Or every year.

    It's called "The Song." It is definitely a worthy "variation on a theme"... Argh. I can't explain - it's great!!!


    It even conforms to the dictum of GKC's The Return of Don Quixote and hence ought to be suffixed with that work's great epigram:

    Iit in matrimonium...

    Hee hee.

    PS to Mr. Bruen: GKC was similarly tone-challenged. (Or should that be TOON challenged?)

  17. I just read it again. (And calmed down a little... a very little...)

    It's impressive. Lots of little things in such a short story...

    Here are just a few:

    "he had a hard enough time praying once" (Excellent. Very like GKC)

    ...the acolytes with flashlights...

    OH WOWOWOW!!!... Were there ten, perhaps, and did five carry extra batteries??? again a very GKC kind of allusion

    ...the lunacy which is far more reasonable than the world's reason... (if you want something really shocking in this vein, read Dorothy L. Sayers' explanation of the words of the Good Thief to Jesus on the Cross - it's in her The Man Born To Be King radio play.)

    Deep, man, real deep. Well worth the price of admission. So can we expect an ACS publication - ah, maybe More Tales of the Long Bow ???

    Hmmm. "What's worth doing..."

    GO FOR IT!!!

  18. Dr. T, I am very gratified that you liked that story. I hope we get more contributions from Mr. Bruen.

    (It was "about a dozen" acolytes with flashlights, btw.)

  19. "about a dozen" could be 10, or 12, or 14, couldn't it? There is the word "about" in there...

  20. That's what I thought - then again there is a DIFFERENT symbolism in the bridgeroom having TWELVE acolytes...

    Hence - this is EXACTLY the kind of trick GKC used. Very VERY good.

    The best analogy I can give on short notice is that optical illusion of the picture of staircase which looks like it's going down - no, up - no... or the 3-d cube - it has two modes of viewing. GKC seems to have seen both, and yet still more.

    But this wasn't a GKC story! Wow.

    In an extended, short-story form, a few more strokes and hints would make this even more striking. And maybe give a bit more of the detail elsewhere... I am sure Beth Reily had reddish hair... hee hee.

    I strongly urge Mr. Bruen to proceed - he has a very definite knack. More, more please!

  21. Dr. T. you will be happy to know that Mr. Bruen has offered to submit another piece to GM. I can't say more because I don't know any more at this point. But even if I did I'd still keep mum because I hate to spoil the surprise. :)

  22. The greater crime than the Four Men being out of print is all of the ill-informed and semi-literate Catholics who think they understand Chesterton's sensibility and like his thought and writing, but somehow think Belloc is lesser in a literary sense and not as Catholic or as good a Catholic apologist. Such could not reveal a more benighted and utterly unCatholic mind. Also, whoever holds such is a tadpole. Belloc was Chesterton's mentor and godfather; Belloc was Chesterton's superior in poetry, history, and theology. Belloc was a better essayist, qua essayist, thought it is unquestionable that Chesterton was an extremely good if not great essayist. While it is true that Chesterton has a more conciliatory and flippant and fun style, sacrificing intensity and depth for effervescence and wit, Belloc outpaces Chesterton in his breadth and expression and style by far. No one was more fashionable or influential that Belloc in his own time. He was brasher and more truculent and lasted longer than Chesterton. CHesterton was a master of loving his neighbor and opponent and pleasantly engaging his audience. Belloc was no less so, just with a more forthright and in your face style. They were known as the ChesterBelloc. One's taste may run more to Chesterton, and that is not to be faulted, but most often one finds ignorance as the reason for dislike of Belloc. Or what one has read is so limited that one has never truly experienced the greatness of Belloc as in The Four Men, Path to Rome, Cruise of the Nona, The French Revolution, and on and on.


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