G.K. Chesterton, the “Prince of Paradox,” is at his witty best in this collection of twenty essays and articles from the turn of the twentieth century. Focusing on “heretics” — those who pride themselves on their superiority to conservative views — Chesterton appraises prominent figures who fall into that category from the literary and art worlds. Luminaries such as Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and James McNeill Whistler come under the author’s scrutiny, where they meet with equal measures of his characteristic wisdom and good humor.
In addition to incisive assessments of well-known individuals (“Mr. Rudyard Kipling and Making the World Small” and “Mr. H. G. Wells and the Giants”), these essays contain observations on the wider world. “On Sandals and Simplicity,” “Science and the Savages,” “On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family,” “On Smart Novelists and the Smart Set,” and “Slum Novelists and the Slums” reflect the main themes of Chesterton’s life’s work. Heretics roused the ire of some critics for censuring contemporary philosophies without providing alternatives; the author responded a few years later with a companion volume, Orthodoxy. Sardonic, jolly, and generous, both books are vintage Chesterton.
An inexpensive edition of Chesterton’s incisive treatment of the leading thinkers of his day, heretics all! Shaw, Wells, Kipling, Omar Kayoum, and a bunch of other stiffs.
Eric Johnson –
So, in this book, Chesterton is attacking all the wrong kinds of thinking in the world. The only drawback is that he assumes we know who a lot of these people are that he references… and I unfortunately did not. I should have probably made better use of Wikipedia while going, but no matter. There’s still plenty of crystal clear incisive thought from GKC aside from the cultural references he’s making. And the most important part: while I like Orthodoxy better in general, the last chapter of Heretics is the single best chapter of any book I have ever read. Ever. Or, I would wager, ever will read. Read the whole book, so you can understand the last chapter. Read the last chapter so you can understand the world.