Written by Rachelle Linner, Catholic News Service Friday, 17 May 2013 10:30
"Genius Born of Anguish: The Life and Legacy of Henri Nouwen" by Michael W. Higgins and Kevin Burns. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2012). 176 pp., $17.95.
Dale Ahlquist is an excellent guide to the writing of the G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936). He is the president of the American Chesterton Society, the host of an Eternal Word Television Network show ("The Apostle of Common Sense") and has written several other books about Chesterton.
Every page of his book, "The Complete Thinker," illustrates Ahlquist's deep knowledge of Chesterton's prodigious writing. The excerpts are organized thematically, from broad (early chapters include "Truth and its Discontents" and "The Problem of Evil") to specific topics ("Law and Lawyers," "Buying and Selling," "War and Peace").
"The Complete Thinker" is not so much an introduction to Chesterton's work as it is a hagiographic presentation of him as the consummate Catholic apologist. But the book is flawed by its lack of historical context.
There is no denying that Chesterton was an accomplished apologist, but he was an apologist before the Second Vatican Council, a member of a triumphalistic pre-war English Catholic Church. Vatican II opened the church to a rich scriptural, patristic and liturgical spirituality, sources that Chesterton would not have known of. Ahlquist mistakenly acts as if the church is still the church that was so attractive to Chesterton, and which he in turn made so attractive to others.