August with the ACS

On the map:  We head southbound for a return visit to the Pegasus Restaurant in Coxsackie, 10885 Rte 9W, 12051.

On the calendar:  (Our usual 1st Thursday) August 7th.

On tap:  Possibly veal cutlets (check the restaurant link because we don’t really know), but certainly free-flowing discussion of the middle section of The Napoleon of Notting Hill, chapters Enter a Lunatic (Book II, Chapter 3), through The Battle of the Lamps (Book IV, Chapter 1).

city men out on all fours in a field covered with veal cutlets

city men out on all fours in a field covered with veal cutlets

Is Chesterton everywhere lately… or is it just my GK radar?

A thought-provoking read on Chesterton by Tod Worner appears at the Patheos portal this week.  Worner discusses the perils – indeed, the diabolism – that Chesterton recognized in defiant error, especially concerning morality (read the whole thing there):

Sin is wicked, but when recognized as sin, man can repent, seek and receive redemption. But if the worldview fails to recognize sin for what it is, or worse, celebrates the sin as some form of grotesque virtue, repentance is not sought and redemption is lost. Even more concerning, this worldview does not limit itself to a solitary sin which hurts the perpetrator alone. Instead, it eagerly embraces and encourages a multitude of other sins which visit their wicked results upon others.

[emphasis mine]

The notion of error as serious threat has been weaving its way through much of my own thought lately. I believe it is a central theme to Orthodoxy (in particular to Chapter 3, The Suicide of Thought), and to the supposed assertion Chesterton made from his deathbed:

“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.”

Along the path of my own conversion, it has been at times excruciatingly clear that an error in philosophy is really at the heart of so many breakdowns, whether on an individual or an institutional / cultural level.  One particular epiphany came thanks to a book about Gnosticism and the New Age, the philosophy I’d been unconsciously swimming in since my youth.

noGnosticismIndeed, it was the very term, gnosticism, which crystallized and put boundaries around an error which had previously run rampant in my mind and life – in part because I had no definition for it.  It was unbound and unconsidered. But given a name – a word – I suddenly realized most palpably what I was already in the process of escaping from, and why Abraham, the man, had blown open the doors of my imagination in such a staggering manner.


Which brings me to the issue of language.  Is there a more fundamental, basic error than naming a thing with the wrong term? (Especially its opposite?)  To assert that Sin = Virtue (the diabolical un-doing about which Chesterton speaks, above) is to revoke meaning, to refute the cosmos.

Take, as another example, this mathematical analogy: 2 + 2 = 7.  Or a visual one: Red = Blue.  Now, anyone capable of reading this essay recognizes the absurdity of these false statements, but have we considered the cosmological vacuum that results when absurdity trumps reality?

For the person who persists in the error that Red = Blue, we could say a fundamental problem dictates his vision of color.  Perhaps he is colorblind.  Perhaps his error is bound and limited to the realm of perceived color.  If so, mercifully, he can function in reality even as he lacks the ability to distinguish red from blue.  But what if his error extends to the assertion, not simply that he can’t tell the difference between Red and Blue?  The man who stakes reality on the claim that THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE re-writes his (and others’) reality.  He is no longer operating merely with a deficit of truth, or a blind spot, but is assaulting reality.

Chesterton is correct:  This error now becomes diabolical in nature.

To use the proper word(s) for the proper thing(s) is to speak of and in reality, to speak in Truth.  So language, then, is one of the starting points (perhaps THE starting point) of our human ordering of and cooperation with reality.

I will endeavor, in my next entry, to dig deeper into the nature of language, naming, Truth, and Being.

Until then, resist the Gnostocracy* and read more Chesterton!

ChesterCows*Thomas Bertonneau’s word





A Three-Month Sojourn Up Notting Hill

We devote our July, August and September meetings to Chesterton’s 1904 novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, A Fantasy of the Future, which speculation says may have inspired Michael Collins and his movement for Irish independence.

Join us on Thursday, July 3rd, 7 o’clock tumblr_mayl66JiKc1ql2w65o1_1280in the evening at a local Chestertonian homestead* for our first installment of Napoleon, all of Book I and Chapters 1 & 2 of Book II.


August meeting: Book II, Chapter 3, Enter A Lunatic, through Book IV, Chapter I The Battle of the Lamps.

September meeting: Book IV, Chapter 2 The Correspondent of the Court Journal to the End

The sketch above is taken from Chesterton’s own notebook-bound manuscript of The Napoleon of Notting Hill
*Please see our latest email for the address, or contact us at

June Gathering!


Happy Birthday, G.K. Chesterton!

(we are still in the octave, after all)

Join us this Thursday, June 5, for our June gathering.  We will be at Smith’s at 7 o’clock to discuss the second half of Manalive.

Also, remember to place your orders for our next two reading selections (in order): The Napoleon of Notting Hill and The Club of Queer Trades.

Our Summer Reading Plan

♦ eschew aschemiolatry™ ~ cultivate literacy ~ habituate leisure ♦

~ sustain the imagination ~ frolic in fiction ~

Read with us, even if you can’t join us for meetings!

SummerReadingMay & June: Manalive

July (& maybe August): The Napoleon of Notting Hill

Late Summer / Fall 2014:  The Club of Queer Trades

*T.Bertonneau’s coined word

June Gathering, Leisure & Dalliance

10907924Dearest Chestertonians of the Capital Region,

A hearty thanks to all who made the trek south on May 1st, Our Lady’s month, to test out a new, alternate location in Coxackie in honor of stalwart Bob G.  The management of Pegasus Restaurant were gracious hosts.  We also thank Bob for arranging the affair, and commend Larry for winning the farthest-distance-traveled award (fueled by blowpops).

After a dark, snowy, everlasting winter – fittingly passed by reading The Everlasting Man – spring is finally upon us.  With this hopeful season, we usher in a spell of light-heartedness by way of Chesterton’s fiction, a sometimes overlooked portion of our muse’s inexhaustible repertoire.  Nota bene:

“Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.” ~ GKC

For our June meeting, we will read and discuss the second half of the rollicking novel, Manalive, and shall return to our familiar and cozy home of Smith’s of Cohoes on Thursday, June 5th.

Looking ahead, we also wish to make a plug for this summer’s 33rd Annual Chesterton Conference, whose theme is ‘The Democracy of the Dead’conference-1024x278Click the image above for registration (June 30th deadline or when they hit maximum capacity, whichever comes first!), conference schedule and list of speakers, accommodations.  Remember that members of the American Chesterton Society receive a discount on conference registration, in addition to savings on any ACS store purchases.

Stay tuned for reading selection updates and other miscellanea.  Cheers!

May Convivium: Manalive (Part I)

We venture south to usher in Spring, in homage to our trusty friend-from-the-beginning, Bob, who has for two years driven the longest distance to join our soirees.  C’mon down to the Pegasus Restaurant in Coxackie on Thursday May 1st, 7 o’clock in the evening for our next rollicking get-together.

Our reading selection is Manalive, (Part I), a novel about a man who breaks into his own house, has an affair with his own wife, and whose misadventures paint the picture of, as the American Chesterton Society attests, “how to live Chesterton.”  (For April, we’ll discuss Part I, The Enigma of Innocent Smith, then Part II -The Explanations of Innocent Smith- in June.)

Here are Chesterton’s own comments on the novel’s inspiration, from his autobiography:

“… I invented a rudimentary and makeshift mystical theory of my own. It was substantially this; that even mere existence, reduced to its most primary limits, was extraordinary enough to be exciting. Anything was magnificent as compared with nothing… At the backs of our brains, so to speak, there was a forgotten blaze or burst of astonishment at our own existence. The object of the artistic and spiritual life was to dig for this submerged sunrise of wonder; so that a man sitting in a chair might suddenly understand that he was actually alive, and be happy…

Thus, among the juvenile verses I began to write about this time was one called ‘The Babe Unborn’, which imagined the uncreated creature crying out for existence and promising every virtue if he might only have the experience of life. Another conceived the scoffer as begging God to give him eyes and lips and a tongue that he might mock the giver of them; a more angry version of the same fancy. And I think it was about this time that I thought of the notion afterwards introduced into a tale called ‘Manalive’; of a benevolent being who went about with a pistol, which he would suddenly point at a pessimist, when that philosopher said that life was not worth living.”