I can’t quite put my finger on what I was expecting before I started to read “What’s Wrong with the World?” – But I came out smiling. The main ingredients in G.K. Chesterton’s writing are warmth, humor, and intelligence – Three things I appreciate a lot.
“It certainly would eliminate some evils; for instance, the unnatural sense of obeying cold and harsh strangers, mere bureaucrats and policemen.” – G.K Chesterton
G.K Chesterton was writing “What’s Wrong with the World” in a time not that far off to ours, but long enough to feel ancient in its approach – The constructive and sensible approach to philosophy, class and politics is very ‘common sense’ that has been lost in the hundred years between the book was printed and today.
Scarily enough some of Chesterton’s notions on his time’s politics, “Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a loaf is better than a whole loaf“, makes our times politics look worse off in many aspects. As politicians perfect their half-truths and white lies over time, I’m guessing its just part of the game at this point.
With witty humor as one of his tools (“One can meet an assertion with argument; but healthy bigotry is the only way in which one can meet a tendency“), Chesterton is a great company. I don’t know how many laughs “What’s wrong with the world” produced out of me, but more than my fair share – That’s for sure.
“A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice, to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning; but it is quite right to study the theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.” – G.K Chesterton
As the book is a collection of curated Chesterton’s essays, there is no red thread but instead what feels like an endless series of setups and punchlines – Without diving too deep into any single subject, but still keeping within the theme of what Chesterton think ought to be (and, of course, what is).
It was hard to not write down a curious or funny quote from the book every other sentence, something that made the joyful reading artificially longer. I think this is a byproduct of the necessity of short 1-3 page essays to have an impact and needed to be as sharp as the number of words permitted. Maybe this is typical Chesterton style of writing even in longer form?
“The hospital, by necessity, may send a man home with one leg less: but it will not (in a creative rapture) send him home with one leg extra. Medical science is content with the normal human body, and only seeks to restore it.” – G.K Chesterton
“What’s wrong with the world” left me with a hunger to read more Chesterton and even before I finished the book I had added plenty of his books to my evergrowing to-read-list. I’m grateful for any suggestions for a reading order in the comments below!
Interested in getting a copy of the book?
Amazon has cheap paperback versions
Gutenberg has a free digital version