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G. K. Chesterton is remembered as a brilliant creator of nonsense and satirical verse, author of the Father Brown stories and the innovative novel, The Man who was Thursday, and yet today he is not counted among the major English novelists and poets. However, this major new biography argues that Chesterton should be seen as the successor of the great Victorian prose writer G. K. Chesterton is remembered as a brilliant creator of nonsense and satirical verse, author of the Father Brown stories and the innovative novel, The Man who was Thursday, and yet today he is not counted among the major English novelists and poets. However, this major new biography argues that Chesterton should be seen as the successor of the great Victorian prose writers, Carlyle, Arnold, Ruskin, and above all Newman. Chesterton's achievement as one of the great English literary critics has not hitherto been fully recognized, perhaps because his best literary criticism is of prose rather than poetry. Ian Ker remedies this neglect, paying particular attention to Chesterton's writings on the Victorians, especially Dickens. As a social and political thinker, Chesterton is contrasted here with contemporary intellectuals like Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells in his championing of democracy and the masses. Pre-eminently a controversialist, as revealed in his prolific journalistic output, he became a formidable apologist for Christianity and Catholicism, as well as a powerful satirist of anti-Catholicism. This full-length life of G. K. Chesterton is the first comprehensive biography of both the man and the writer. It draws on many unpublished letters and papers to evoke Chesterton's joyful humour, his humility and affinity to the common man, and his love of the ordinary things of life.


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G. K. Chesterton is remembered as a brilliant creator of nonsense and satirical verse, author of the Father Brown stories and the innovative novel, The Man who was Thursday, and yet today he is not counted among the major English novelists and poets. However, this major new biography argues that Chesterton should be seen as the successor of the great Victorian prose writer G. K. Chesterton is remembered as a brilliant creator of nonsense and satirical verse, author of the Father Brown stories and the innovative novel, The Man who was Thursday, and yet today he is not counted among the major English novelists and poets. However, this major new biography argues that Chesterton should be seen as the successor of the great Victorian prose writers, Carlyle, Arnold, Ruskin, and above all Newman. Chesterton's achievement as one of the great English literary critics has not hitherto been fully recognized, perhaps because his best literary criticism is of prose rather than poetry. Ian Ker remedies this neglect, paying particular attention to Chesterton's writings on the Victorians, especially Dickens. As a social and political thinker, Chesterton is contrasted here with contemporary intellectuals like Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells in his championing of democracy and the masses. Pre-eminently a controversialist, as revealed in his prolific journalistic output, he became a formidable apologist for Christianity and Catholicism, as well as a powerful satirist of anti-Catholicism. This full-length life of G. K. Chesterton is the first comprehensive biography of both the man and the writer. It draws on many unpublished letters and papers to evoke Chesterton's joyful humour, his humility and affinity to the common man, and his love of the ordinary things of life.

30 review for G.K. Chesterton: A Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alex Stroshine

    Ian Ker's "G.K. Chesterton: A Biography", is an exhaustive exploration of the life and legacy of one of the greatest Christian thinkers and writers of the last 20th century. Many Christians today know C.S. Lewis as a brilliant apologist and storyteller but Chesterton (whose book "The Everlasting Man" helped lead Lewis back to faith) was just as good. With this scholarly biography of Chesterton now available, hopefully there will be a resurgence of interest in Chesterton. Ker offers a detailed rec Ian Ker's "G.K. Chesterton: A Biography", is an exhaustive exploration of the life and legacy of one of the greatest Christian thinkers and writers of the last 20th century. Many Christians today know C.S. Lewis as a brilliant apologist and storyteller but Chesterton (whose book "The Everlasting Man" helped lead Lewis back to faith) was just as good. With this scholarly biography of Chesterton now available, hopefully there will be a resurgence of interest in Chesterton. Ker offers a detailed recording of Chesterton's life, recounting his childhood, his education and his conversion to Christianity as a young man and his entrance into the Catholic Church in particular later in his life. Ker also writes about his trips abroad to the Holy Land and to the United States. Several key events in Chesterton's life, like the Marconi scandal, the First World War and the death of his younger brother are also recorded, along with Chesterton's rise in English society and his relationships with his contemporaries such as George Bernard Shaw and Hilaire Belloc. A few of the chapters focus exclusively around Chesterton's work, such as "Orthodoxy" and "The Everlasting Man"; here, Ker quotes extensively from Chesterton's work, demonstrating how Chesterton viewed the world and offering analysis of Chesterton's thought. Spread sporadically throughout the book is commentary and engagement with Chesterton's minor works such as "What's Wrong With The World" (which is one of my favourite GKC books). Ker relies heavily on Chesterton's own words to tell his own life story. This is not inherently bad in my opinion because Chesterton was a clever and witty writer, but unfortunately Ker does not share Chesterton's knack with words. I do not think any other biography goes into as much intricate detail about Chesterton's life as Ker's book. Yet this also is a fault - it is so vast, so copious, that it can become tedious at times. Ker outlines all the places Chesterton visited but this offers the reader little of interest compared to the rich thinking exposited in his writings. Ker goes into excruciatingly fine detail about Chesterton's life (e.g. "On November 13 Chesterton and Frances caught the 9 am train that took them to ______. There they met their friends ______."). Casual fans of Chesterton should perhaps try a leaner biography such as Joseph Pearce's or Kevin Belmonte's biography of Chesterton. Also, due to the length of the biography, I was often frustrated with how little breakage there was in the book. Ker subdivides the chapters into sections but sometimes these sections can stretch to dozens of pages which makes it frustrating if you only want to read a few pages in your spare time.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Superb. I love GKC. I only wish he could have seen the beautiful paradox of God's sovereign will over the wills of free men. That is to say, Calvinism. Nevertheless, it's clear GKC's reaction was a visceral one, and a reaction born in, I think, a misunderstanding. Ha.... he would not like me right now! :) No, he'd probably laugh me off or make an astute pun or something of the kind. Oh GK! How I love you!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Huge, brilliant, tedious, exasperating - both the book and its subject. Ian Ker deserves a lot of credit for this thorough tome - but at the same time, there's a baffling lack of common sense about the treatment. Small example: one of Chesterton's most influential tutors was called Ker. Is there a connection with the biographer? It doesn't say. A bigger example: in middle age Chesterton had a life-threatening illness which confined him to bed for months. But there's no attempt to tell us what it Huge, brilliant, tedious, exasperating - both the book and its subject. Ian Ker deserves a lot of credit for this thorough tome - but at the same time, there's a baffling lack of common sense about the treatment. Small example: one of Chesterton's most influential tutors was called Ker. Is there a connection with the biographer? It doesn't say. A bigger example: in middle age Chesterton had a life-threatening illness which confined him to bed for months. But there's no attempt to tell us what it was, even if the diagnosis isn't going to be better than an educated guess. Chesterton himself is most remembered - certainly, most affectionately remembered - for his Father Brown stories (which are actually rubbish, as far as detection goes, though they have a certain charm) and for his early comic novels The Man who was Thursday and Passport to Pimlico. Yet Ker gives weight to the more serious books of criticism, blow by blow accounts of their argument. Chesterton had no argument, though: he had a remarkable talent for a clever, illuminating paradox, but it was never grounded in fact or research. So all too often he descends into windy, unproven and unprovable assertion. Disappointing: I'd looked forward to reading this, but gave up on it. Not worth the effort of finishing, and GKC, for all his talents and larger-than-life persona, diminished in the telling.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David Dunlap

    G. K. Chesterton was one of the most colorful figures of the 20th century. How is it possible, then, that anyone could write a boring book about him? Well, it *is* possible, apparently...because here is that book. -- This one did not even pass my 50-page test; I stopped at page 37.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris Kan

    A detailed, compassionate look at a deeply influential English writer and intellectual. Painstakingly detailed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eliza Sims

    Ian Ker is a brilliant writer, and this biography brings Chesterton’s writing into the context of his life in an engaging manner.

  7. 4 out of 5

    DROPPING OUT

    At almost 700 pages, this tome is almost as large as Chesterton (six footer and three hundred pounder). Ker, who has written extensively on presence of Catholics and Catholicism from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, also wrote a monumental biography of John Henry Newman. Each alone is a monumental achievement, and taken together, they are breath-taking. (I perused the Newman in a book store and I intend to read it as well one day.) If one looks at the critical reception of this biography, o At almost 700 pages, this tome is almost as large as Chesterton (six footer and three hundred pounder). Ker, who has written extensively on presence of Catholics and Catholicism from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries, also wrote a monumental biography of John Henry Newman. Each alone is a monumental achievement, and taken together, they are breath-taking. (I perused the Newman in a book store and I intend to read it as well one day.) If one looks at the critical reception of this biography, one can see a clear and plain divide between those who dislike Chesterton and those who adore him. (There appears to be a fence-sitter when it comes to Chesterton.) Chesterton's output is staggering in sheer size, ranging from novels, plays, poetry, essays, literary criticism, political commentary, etc. Ker could not survey the whole lot, but presents excellent summaries of Chesterton's major works. It is clear that Ker not only adores Chesterton, he shares his wit s well. Until Ker, Chestertonian biography was largely first-hand accounts and subsequent rehashings. For many reasons, archival resources are not as extensive as one might have expected. Unless and until more primary documents appear, Ker's will be the standard for many years to come. I admit, I found parts of the book hard going because, in all honesty, I have not read Chesterton extensively (but what I have read has made me an unabashed admirer), and I have not read all that Chesterton read that he commented on. The only thing more fun than reading this biography is reading Chesterton himself.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bradford

    Massive, not for the faint of heart. This brilliant book offers a comprehensive perspective on the life and work of GKC.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Taylor

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Adams

  12. 5 out of 5

    William

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jstrz

  14. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  15. 5 out of 5

    William

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elliot

  17. 4 out of 5

    James F. Barlow

  18. 4 out of 5

    Miguel Ferreira

  19. 4 out of 5

    Duncan Reyburn

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dwayne

  21. 5 out of 5

    virginia

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Horst

  23. 4 out of 5

    Bernard Fyles

  24. 5 out of 5

    Cindy

  25. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This is truly excellent. 700 pages of GKC biography. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole ride.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  27. 5 out of 5

    Caleb Click

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stockfish

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mark Mcintyre

  30. 5 out of 5

    Becky

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