The Universe According to G. K. Chesterton
A Dictionary of the Mad, Mundane and Metaphysical
G. K. Chesterton
Dale Ahlquist, editor
Dover Publications, Inc., 2011
From the introduction: “…he (G. K. Chesterton) is not only Dr. (Samuel) Johnson’s rightful heir as a lexicographer extraordinaire, but a walking and talking gift to the English Language. It is a privilege to help his words live on after him.” Pg xv
This book is basically a dictionary compiled from the writings of Chesterton.
Chesternitions: A Chesterton Dictionary
Absent-mindedness=present minded on something else.
Boredom=irreverence for the present; the next condition to death.
Children=human beings who are allowed to do what everyone else really desires to do, as for instance, to fly kites, or when seriously wronged to emit prolong screams for several minutes.
Desire=the wildest part of the soul.
Euphemism=a refusal of people to say what they mean.
Flattery=something that is at once a compliment and a lie.
Golf=an expensive way of playing marbles.
Hill=a bulky feature in the landscape.
Inconvenience=an adventure wrongly considered.
Junk=treasures, of which the most precious are difficult to connect with any purpose whatever.
Knife=a short sword.
Lunatic=the man who lives in a small world but thinks it is a large one; the man who lives in a tenth of the truth, and thinks it is the whole.
Mushrooms=the weird-hued and one-legged goblins of the forest.
Nationality=another name for international misunderstanding.
Octopus=half-a-dozen snakes with one head.
Prism=glass which shatters the daylight into colors and stains the white radiance of eternity.
Quarrel=a mutual appeal to conscience.
Rain=a public bath; multitudinous cups of cold water handed round to all living things.
Sanity=tragedy in the heart and comedy in the head; free will.
Traffic=everybody making the same mistake at the same moment.
Umbrella=an unmanageable walking stick and an inadequate tent.
Vanity=a desire for praise.
Whale =a cow that went swimming and never came back.
X=the unknown quantity, which may have a meaning, as it does in Xmas.
Yawn=a silent yell.
My aunt got this book as a Christmas gift – she asked for it, in fact, and when she told me about it, I thought I would be reading essays written by a man who lived in the first half of the 20th century. So imagine our surprise when it turned out to be just definitions gleaned from Mr. Chesterton’s prolific writings. But I read it anyway and it was mostly okay. Normally I don’t mind reading quotations – I’ve read several books of nothing but; however, I like at least to be inspired by the quotes and there was no inspiration here. But the book isn’t all bad or boring. There are some humorous definitions (I’ve tried to include some above) and it does make me want to read some of Mr. Chesterton’s actual works.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Paws for mostly dry and occasionally funny reading.