Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Flying Inn. G.K. Chesterton #bookreview

The Book

The Flying Inn
G. K. Chesterton

I saw this book on a friend's GoodReads list and decided that since I like Chesterton I'd give it a try. As a bonus, since Chesterton's works are in the public domain, I was able to get the book free of charge (and you can too!). So there really is no excuse for not cozying up with a little G. K. Chesterton.

To add to my bonus, I scored an audiobook from LibriVox. If you are not familiar with LibriVox, you can go to their website. In short, people volunteer to record books in the public domain and distribute them. You can actually subscribe to a book in your favorite podcast app and listen to it that way!

NOTE: While this is not a review of LibriVox, and beggars really can't be choosers, but note that when you subscribe to a LibriVox audiobook you are at the mercy of the readers who volunteered. Some readers are top notch. Some should be encouraged to volunteer to do other things. Some need better equipment if they plan to continue doing this type of work. Enough on this. Overall it's a great service you should totally look into!

The Review

G. K. Chesterton was bold, brash and british. He writes with the dry wit one commonly associates with his type. As a result, it takes some time to acclimate to his prose if you are completely unfamiliar with his writing. But once you get used to it, there are many gems embedded in his writings.

The premise of The Flying Inn is that the English government is slowly being infiltrated by a group of Muslim extremists while in the process of enforcing the Temperance Movement. Inns (pubs/taverns) can only sell alcohol if they retain their sign as an inn, something that law enforcement has been restricting.

Enter Humphrey Pump, hero of the story. Pump is an innkeeper who owns and operates The Old Ship. After a scuffle with Lord Ivywood, Pump and Captain Patrick Dalroy grab their sign, rum and cheese and canvas the countryside serving liquor under their traveling sign.

The pair effectively executes their subversion by finding other such loopholes throughout the story as the law becomes more and more restrictive.

The Conclusion

Chesterton cleverly uses this backdrop to present a critique on Christianity more so than Islam. While the heroes are struggling with the Muslim impetus for temperance, Chesterton offers a blazing critique on Christian ascetics who would prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol and meat (forced vegetarianism is also covered in this book).

This is an interesting book in that it anticipates a world where extremists may successfully take over a major metropolitan area and use their sectarian views as the basis for their governance. Chesterton was not contending with Isis when writing The Flying Inn. Though fanciful, it is an interesting mental exercise and reinforces the positive aspects of the separation of Church and State.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Screwtape Letters #bookreview

The Book

The Screwtape Letters
C.S. Lewis

As is my tradition, I try to read a C.S. Lewis Signature Classic every year. This year, the lot fell on The Screwtape Letters.

The Review

The Screwtape Letters serves as a window to the correspondence between a young devil and his affectionate uncle named Screwtape. Being a novice tempter, he seeks advice to properly ruin his assigned human being. Screwtape offers his advice in letter form. You only read what Screwtape has written throughout the entire book.

This is another example of Lewis' masterful work. This is still my least favorite of his works due to the limitations of the format. Although, it can be argued that the format he chose was apropos to the subject matter. It would have been far more difficult to get all the content into a traditional prose-style work of fiction.

Note that since this is a collection of letters, the chapters are really small. This makes it a great on-the-go read when you are not sure if you have 30 minutes or just 5 to get a chapter in.

Content wise, Screwtape generally advises to use current culture as a means to distract the human through life. It does not matter which side of any issue the mortal takes, so long as he confuses it for Christianity. Extremism, whether it be extreme pacifism or extreme warmongering, is really the goal.

Below are a few of my favorite bits of Screwtape's awful advice:

  • It is funny how mortals always picture us putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out. (p 16)
  • The safest road to hell is the gradual one--the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts. (p 61)
  • The characteristic of Pains and Pleasures is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. (p 64)
  • Parochial organization should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in a kind of unity that the Enemy desires. (p 81)
  • The earliest converts were converted by a single historical fact (the Resurrection) and a single theological doctrine (the Redemption) operating on a sense of sin they already had... The 'Gospels' come later and they were written not to make Christians but to edify Christians already made. (p 126)
  • [Substitute] negative unselfishness for the Enemy's positive Charity. You can, from the outset, teach a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in foregoing them. (p 141)
  • Since we cannot deceive the whole human race all the time, it is important thus to cut every generation off from all the others; for where learning makes a free commerce between the ages there is always the danger that the characteristic errors of one may be corrected by the characteristic truths of another. (p 151)

The Conclusion

The Enemy is very tricky. As mentioned in the book, they have no resources of their own and must pervert God's goodness. This book helps the reader to think sinisterly and really consider their own struggles in light of the cosmic battles being fought around them.

I recommend this book heartily to anyone willing to give it a read. It is actually a very easy book to pick up and complete.
Christopher M. Jimenez. Powered by Blogger.

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