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G.K.Chesterton, Thinking Backward, Looking Forward

Templeton Foundation Press, Philadelphia & London
RRP: $53.95

Perhaps best known for his Father Brown Mysteries and other novels, G.K. Chesterton’s non-fiction work is less well known.

G.K.Chesterton, Thinking Backward, Looking Forward, while written through the lens of Stephen Clark’s own philosophy, is worth a read to learn of the wisdom and humour of someone who, 100 years ago, envisaged much of what we experience today.

Clark quotes short excerpts from Chesterton’s works to critique and compare with those of his contemporaries.

He looks at the novels, full of quirky humour and biting satire and his prose themes, exploring both his philosophy and theology, as well as his satirical verse. G.K.Chesterton, a freelance writer in London was one of the controversial but seminal thinkers of the early twentieth century, when motor cars and electricity were changing life, and men were dreaming of travel in time and space.

Clark introduces us to Chesterton’s prose including a book on Aquinas, and articles on equality between men and women, Darwinism, science fiction and religion, ranging from the outrageous to the profound.

Chesterton questioned established mores, challenging the tradition of the day. Clark gives detailed footnotes and a comprehensive index.

Chesterton’s pithy sayings have been quoted often. For example he says: ‘Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried’.

Clark says of Chesterton, "He was an excellent philosopher of a non-academic sort who read widely in several languages, and had a deep retentive memory."

I have always enjoyed his satirical humour and this book Thinking Backward, Looking Forward brought out the essence of the man, G.K.Chesterton.

Reviewed by Joan Cook