Dale Ahlquist would rather be reading Chesterton than reading anyone else, and he wants to bring us, his readers, to the same place. I will readily affirm that this book greatly magnified my appetite for reading Chesterton–and it was already high–if for no other reason than the sheer volume of topics that Chesterton wrote about. He was one of the most prolific writers of the last 100 years, and literally every view he expressed–on any topic–was cohesive, internally consistent, and related to all his other views. He was able to discern the true heart of an issue and to describe it with a clarity of insight that was often surprising in its simplicity.
I’ve read Chesterton’s Father Brown mysteries and quite enjoyed them. I’ve started Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man more than once, and I’m even more determined now to get through them. The difficulty is not that Chesterton is unreadable. The opposite is true. Rather, the intellectual rout es he takes to get to his final conclusions seem meandering while reading them–but once you get to the end, everything clicks into place and you realize how simple yet profound his point is. It takes consistent mental concentration to fully engage Chesterton. But it’s worth it, and Alqhist is a good evangelist for doing so.
If Ahlqhist’s goal is to get the reader to thirst for Chesterton, he succeeds, but he occasionally does so in a negative way. Much of the book is simply a string of Chesterton quotes pulled from a myriad of sources, with Ahlqhist guiding the conversation and providing a summary of Chesterton’s view on the particular subject at hand. If Alqhist would rather be reading Chesterton, as he states, he sometimes makes the reader want to skip his own book about Chesterton and simply move to the real stuff.
If this were a biography, it would border on hagiography, as Alquhist clearly adores Chesterton and is up-front about dismissing literally all of his critics. But this book isn’t about Chesterton the man, or his life, per se. It’s about his mind, and the comprehensive worldview found in it. There is truly no thinker like Chesterton.