On Lying in Bed: And Other Essays

Chesterton, G.K.; Ed. Manguel, Albert
Bayeux Arts 2000
ISBN 1-896209-50-5
519pp
Date finished: 2004-05-06

This thick collection of 91 essays by Chesterton is a mixed bag. He's entertaining on literature, uncomfortably accurate on modern society's fixation with money and the rise of legal strictures, and often carries an infectious sense of amazement at the world. Chesterton has a remarkable gift for compact images that jump out of the text at you. Picking pages at random:

Every one of these titles is flung at the head of the public as a drunken lord might fling a purse at his footman.

I am always meeting idealists with very long necks. Perhaps it is that their eternal aspiration slowly lifts their heads nearer and nearer to the stars.

I probably would like Chesterton much better if I only read his essays on literature. His religious essays are cloyingly dull and suffer from terminal smugness, casually racist asides speckle his writing and bring the modern reader up short, and his dislike of science is woolly and emotionally-driven, reading like a more stately version of today's Intelligent Design authors who misquote and distort and argue from ignorance.

Alberto Manguel's introduction is a bit apologetic about all this, and unconvincingly argues that Chesterton undercuts these attitudes in other parts of the text. Overall I'm glad to have read this collection, despite his not infrequent lapses, if only to absorb a bit of Chesterton's seemingly endless wonder.

Tagged: essays

Permalink: http://books.amk.ca/2004/05/On_Lying_In_Bed.html

%T On Lying in Bed
%S And Other Essays
%A Chesterton, G.K.
%E Manguel, Albert
%I Bayeux Arts
%G ISBN 1-896209-50-5
%P 519pp
%K essays
%@ 2004-05-06
%D 2000

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