Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Book Review: The Ball and the Cross

G.K. Chesterton's The Ball and the Cross is medium-rare Chesterton: there's enough of a plot and description that you could convince yourself it's a novel, but it's really a philosophical discursion, although in all actuality, it's somewhere in-between. It's not quite as well-formed a story as The Man Who Was Thursday, and I'd still recommend that one above all others, but it's a decent example of his not-quite-novels. I'd put it on the level of The Napoleon of Notting Hill, although I like Napoleon a bit more because its story is more outlandish. (That may just mean, "more happens.") But many of the quotes are quite quotable and good, which is probably the point of GKC.

The basic outline of this "novelish" tale is a conflict between two things: for most of the book, it's a constantly interrupted duel between an atheist writer and a humorless Irish Catholic, although the conflict is illustrated through other less earthbound characters. The conflict is really between the "world" (the ball) and the church (the cross). I'm divided on whether it would be better to read the juicy bits or whether the narrative really adds enough to the story to be worthwhile. But that still would involve reading about half the book, so why not the whole thing?

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