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Alarms and Discursions

G. K. Chesterton

Book Overview: 

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was an influential English writer of the early 20th century. His prolific and diverse output included journalism, philosophy, poetry, biography, Christian apologetics, fantasy, and detective fiction. Chesterton has been called the “prince of paradox.” He wrote in an off-hand, whimsical prose studded with startling formulations. Chesterton wrote about 4000 essays on various subjects, and “Ararms and Discursions is one of his collections.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .; she is not in the least a contemptible nor entirely a comic figure. She has a powerful stoop and an ugly, attractive face, a little like that of Huxley—without the whiskers, of course. The courage with which she supports the most brutal bad luck has something quite creepy about it. Her irony is incessant and inventive; her practical charity very large; and she is wholly unaware of the philosophical use to which I put her.

But when I hear the modern generalization about her sex on all sides I simply substitute her name, and see how the thing sounds then. When on the one side the mere sentimentalist says, "Let woman be content to be dainty and exquisite, a protected piece of social art and domestic ornament," then I merely repeat it to myself in the "other form," "Let Mrs. Buttons be content to be dainty and exquisite, a protected piece of social art, etc." It is extraordinary what a difference the substitution seems to make. And on the other hand, when s. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Fantastic. Some of my favorite Chesterton lines are found in here.

I read this in a series of fits and spurts, and so don't have the best recollection of the early parts of this collection. Still, I do have the recollection of enjoying it quite a bit. As usual, I disagree with Chesterton half the time, and am nodding emphatically the other half. Still, even when...more

Fascinating!

Very hit or miss, more "miss" though. Lots of ramblings, which the occasional "ah ha!" thrown in.

Loved the description of the sea as cauliflower; really hard to describe that one further.

A favorite quote:

"It is a mark of false religion that it is always trying to express concrete facts as abstract; it calls sex affinity; it calls wine alcohol; it calls brute starvation the economic problem. The test of true religion is that its energy drives exactly the other way; it is always tr...more

At times Chesterton's prose was a bit too archaic for me, but this was a book worth reading anyway. If you're interested in the essay as a form (like I am), this should be part of your canon. And I just loved Chesterton's snarky comments about professors and academia in general!

As with any collection of essays, the quality, insight, and applicability to modern life varies from snippet to snippet. The thing with Chesterton is that you must wade through the duller parts, as well as the now too out of date to be relatable portions, lest you possibly miss a brilliant gem of...more

Review title: Discursing aplenty

When Chesterton starts off this collection of newspaper essays with the claim and reason why he wanted to start the title to this book with the even-then archaic "alarums" you have a pretty good idea that what will follow is vintage Chesterton. And if you know and...more

The writing is every bit as brilliant as you'd expect from Chesterton; however, it sometimes feels as though he's scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of subject material. On the other hand, I appreciate the fact that Chesterton was such a prolific essayist who only repeated himself on the...more

Listened to it in snippets on drives as an audiobook, which I think its well suited for, being that it is primarily a collection of observations and considerations of what Chesterton sees in his life around him. This approach doesn't reduce his writing quality, and you'll get some interesting tho...more

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