G.K. Chesterton is still influencing our worldview. Even in 2011.
The man who inspired C.S. Lewis, who helped a literary world rediscover Charles Dickens, and who unapologetically proclaimed, “What a man can believe depends on his philosophy, not upon the clock or the century” lives on in a new biography Defiant Joy: The Remarkable Life & Impact of G.K. Chesterton. Beautifully written by Kevin Belmonte, and published by Thomas Nelson (disclaimer: I got a free reader’s copy as part of their book blog reviewer program), Defiant Joy helped me to begin to grasp the genius of Chesterton.
It went a little slow. Most of the book quotes Chesterton’s brilliant prose in long swathes that made me want to go find the original publication or book. Thus, I wouldn’t call this a straight biography, but more of a compendium of Chesterton’s best work, arranged chronologically, with a bit of his backstory included.
I wanted more backstory. When I pick up a biography, I expect the author to tell me in his own words, not simply quoting the person being profiled, what was going through their mind. The endless long quotations made the reading tedious at times and it is very difficult to put the book down and then pick it back up the next day and remember where in time and year the current quotation comes from. I lost track of what was happening in Chesterton’s life because there were so many quotations. Thus, to me it was a wasted opportunity.
True, I did pick up copies of Chesterton’s work to read in entirety, but also went to find another biography that focused more on Chesterton’s life told to me versus Chesterton prattling endlessly out of context and without anything to anchor me solidly.
It seems I’m being a harsh critic. I truly appreciate being let into Chesterton’s world and I adored Belmonte’s writing style. I also am in awe of Chesterton’s genius. But this missed the mark. I wanted to read a new biography, something I’d never read before, and I was expecting something similar to the biographies of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot or the two-volume Adoniram Judson I was required to read endlessly when I was a young adult. Boring as those were to me then as required reading, in hindset, set against the backdrop of this read, they seemed to move at lightning speed and were much more engaging.