G. K. Chesterton: The Tame Oracle? | John Herreid | IPNovels.com
G.K. Chesterton loved to argue. He argued with his family, he argued with his friends, he argued his enemies into becoming his friends. His infectious delight in argument won over some other prominent literary figures who were determined to dislike the man. They found that he had no qualms being friends with them—so long as they didn’t mind arguing with him.
Chesterton’s essays in the Illustrated London News read as rambling, pugnacious invitations to argument. Nothing was off limits in his column, everything was fodder for jumping from subject to subject, jabbing and poking at the ideas he found incorrect. He exaggerated, tossed off outrageous hyperbole, and overstated his case; in short, he was a provocateur.
I love Chesterton. I’ve been fortunate enough to design a couple of book covers for the Ignatius Press editions of his work, and I’ve been collecting original editions of his books when I can. But good old G.K.C. the wild provocateur is in danger these days. Chesterton the tame oracle is taking his place.
Love of Chesterton has led many people to simply read him while disengaging the critical part of their mind. They accept everything he says at face value—so you’ll have people uncritically agree with, for example, Chesterton’s insistence that women be denied suffrage. If G.K. said it, he must be right! He’s our tame oracle.
This does a disservice to Chesterton.