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What I Saw in America

G. K. Chesterton

Book Overview: 

“Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea; and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean. The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny.”

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Chesterton Takes Sides in Trolley Strike.' This was inaccurate. When I spoke I not only did not know that there was any trolley strike,[Pg 59] but I did not know what a trolley strike was. I should have had an indistinct idea that a large number of citizens earned their living by carrying things about in wheel-barrows, and that they had desisted from the beneficent activities. Any one who did not happen to be a journalist, or know a little about journalism, American and English, would have supposed that the same man who wrote the article had suddenly gone mad and written the title. But I know that we have here to deal with two different types of journalists; and the man who writes the headlines I will not dare to describe; for I have not seen him except in dreams.

Another innocent complication is that the interviewer does sometimes translate things into his native language. It would not seem odd that a French interviewer should translate them into French; and it i. . . Read More

Community Reviews

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity” These words of wisdom can be attributed to Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) Almost a century ago the United States and indeed the rest of the world were recovering from a World War and soon to enter what is now labeled The Great Depression. The...more

First off, 'What I saw in America' is not a travel commentary relating humorous anecdotes about his journeys in the style of, say, Twain. Chesterton tells only a handful of stories of his time in the States but then, in his inimitable manner, uses those as springboards to write about 'big ideas,'...more

I do enjoy Chesterton. That said, this book was somewhat more dated than some of his others. Some of his specific allusions were lost on me. But he had very good insights into how to understand others, particularly those of other cultures. "Nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny becau...more

What I Saw in America is less about what G.K. Chesterton saw in America than what the idea of America meant to him as an Englishman. Not a word is said about whether GKC took the train or any Mississippi River steamboats, what he ate, whether he visited anyone at home, whether he saw any of the c...more

This is the third time I've read this book, and each time I read it I catch something new. Published in 1922, "What I Saw in America" is a collection of thoughts about America by the brilliant British writer, G.K. Chesterton. It was his only visit to America, during a lecture tour.

This passage f...more

What I Saw In America was a delight, certainly the best and most interesting book I've read this year so far. Highly recommended--if you read any Chesterton, you must read this book.

It's full of penetrating insight into both American psychology and British psychology. It's dated, having been publ...more

This is the 2nd book I've read by him and I flew through both books with ease especially this one . There are some authors who's writing regardless of the topic that whatever they write flows easily .You either like a style and it reads quickly and satisfyingly or it doesn't . I ate this book up...more

Chesterton would have made an astonishingly good online troll, and in many ways that is essentially what he does here. But his target is not just the U.S.; it is Britain, it is women, it is Jews, it is his readers, it is the attendees of his lectures. And like most trolls, behind half of his trol...more

Did I mention I love Chesterton? In many ways this book is quite out of date (Chesterton toured American during prohibition), but, as always with Chesterton, many of his insights are timeless. What makes this book so interesting, however, is not what he has to say about the differences between th...more

Overall, an interesting book. Like most of Chesterton's writings, it focuses more on big ideas than on the particulars of Chesterton's lecture tour in the United States, about which the book was written. While somewhat dated, Chesterton makes some very accurate predictions about the future--restr...more

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