Tuesday, July 01, 2008

GKC in current New Yorker

I'm hearing through the grapevine that there's an article on our man in the current New Yorker and I'm curious to know if anyone's seen it yet?

I'll have to make a trip to my library tonight.


  1. You can find the abstract here, although it isn't pretty.


    With remarks like: "Chesterton wasn’t a fascist, and he certainly wasn’t in favor of genocide, but that is about the best that can be said of him."

    I'd say it was on the par with a news report saying, "President Bush doesn't beat his wife and certainly isn't in favor of child abuse, but that is the best that can be said of him."

    If you'd like to see what Chesterton actually believed about those topics, read my recently released book, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II. And you can download 21 pages of quotes from it at my website, InklingBooks.com. Pass that file on to your friends.

    During WWI, Chesterton was attacking the very ideologies that Nazism would later exploit. During the 1930s, while the Illustrated London News for which he wrote would print propaganda photos of Hitler with children, Chesterton would write articles blasting the leaders of Britain and France for doing nothing the deter Hitler's schemes.

    Contrast that with Bertrand Russell who, in a 1917 article "The Ethics of War," ranked as ethical wars in which a superior race acquires the territory of an inferior race and drives it into extinction. His pacifism, opposing WWI, arose from the fact that it was a war within the superior European race rather than a proper Darwinian war between races.

    You can't find a closer parallel to Nazism in the literature of the day, but I suspect we'll have to wait a long, long time before we see The New Yorker publishing something saying, "Bertrand Russell was certainly in favor of racial genocide, but since he's on the political left, we can only say good things about him"

    Unlike the Chesterton remark, that claim would be quite true.

    --Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books, Seattle

  2. David Roberts7/02/2008 4:13 AM

    Well when it says, "He officially converted in 1922 and right around there is where the Jew-hating comes in.", that is obviously not true.

  3. Here I've just been recommending GKC to a friend whom I'm pretty sure reads the New Yorker... What lousy timing one of us has. BTW said friend told me that growing up she heard a story about GKC (the only thing she could remember about him). The story was that he was buried alive and when they dug him up they found claw marks on the inside of his coffin, Now, as far as I know the great man wasn't a ever dug up after burial, nor was there any doubt about his demise. However, it sounds like the story she was told holds about as much water as the stuff this New Yorker writer is offering. She swears, however, that she heard this story more than once (and she grew up in a Catholic home pre-Vatican II), just like the notion of Chesterton as an anti-Semite, pro-Nazi, seems to have been spread about more than once.

    Has anyone else heard about GKC frantically attempting to get out of his coffin??? Maybe we should put the New Yorker on the story...

  4. liz, the story about the coffin is exactly the story that was spread about another great Catholic writer, Thomas a Kempis. The story goes that the reason TaK wasn't canonized is because they found the claw marks you alluded to and this therefore revealed a certain un-saintly lack of detachment from the world. Not sure if that story is true but i am certain that GKC wasn't buried alive.

  5. The Commonweal blog has some commentary on the New Yorker article.

    More of the same. They state "It is a mistake to try to defend Chesterton (or Belloc) against the charge of anti-Semitism."

    As if they are plugging their ears and singing "LA LA LA LA I can't hear you" when you try to talk reasonably to them.

  6. Michael: Thanks for telling about your book (though I imagine it was not hard to do)!

    Can we expect an insightfull, short, angry, hillariously funny and to the point letter to the New Yorker?

    BTW, in an early essay GK reviews a German book on race superiority and concludes with words to the effect that "Until someadmits on scientific grounds that his own race is inferior, I do not take such matters seriously".

    Which essay? Where do I find it? I seem to remember The Man Who Was Chesterton?

  7. Perhaps you mean this?

    "I shall begin to take seriously those classifications of superiority and inferiority, when I find a man classifying himself as inferior."
    GKC, The Outline of Sanity CW5:168

    --Dr. Thursday

    A note: In general, the best way of getting sources of quotes is by means of the Quotemeister over on the main ACS web page.

  8. Thanks, however that was definitely not the original essay, my best Dr. Thursday;-)

    I'll have to resign to check with the quotemaster.

  9. I think after the tarring of Pope Pius and the subsequent acquital, charges of anti-Semitism in historical figures has been greatly defined downward. Who can take the charge seriously? It's like the word "racist": overplayed.


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