Last post I mentioned G.K. Chesterton as my favourite author. I figured I might as well expand on that in this post. If nothing else, Chesterton will remain for me both the writer who helped me to get into detective fiction, and one of the writers who helped me to become a Catholic. He manages the feat of being a great storyteller who takes such self-evident pleasure in telling a ripping good yarn, while also being something of an urbane wit while also managing to be a deeply spiritual writer who rarely comes across as pretentious.
I first read Chesterton in my freshman year at university; it was his kafkaesque spy novel, The Man Who Was Thursday. His story of cops and ro, er, anarchists hit me at just a time when I was starting to feel that things were philosophically spiraling out of control; where I saw a part of myself that wanted to be like Gabriel Syme, the representative of law, order and religion who romantically rebels against the insanity of the world, and where I also saw some of Lucian Gregory in me, the anarchist who romantically rages against the Powers That Be (of course it was the conservative Christian Syme who would eventually win the day in my life, but that is another story). It didn’t hurt that Thursday was one of the best thrillers ever penned, leaping from twist to twist at breakneck speed and pulling me along with Chesterton’s sparkling Edwardian prose.
Later on came the Father Brown stories, which convinced me that a whodunit could be as philosophically engaging as a really good piece of science fiction (although, like many SF writers, Chesterton could sometimes allow his polemics to get the better of his characters when he wasn’t careful). Along the way was his work in apologetics as well as his essays.
The man was so prolific that there’s still so much out there I’ve yet to sink my teeth into (his poetry, for example). Perhaps a good musical comparison to him would be Joseph Haydn.