Alex Stroshine's Reviews > Manalive

Manalive by G.K. Chesterton
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Apr 02, 12

bookshelves: fiction, g-k-chesterton
Read on March 30, 2012

I read this book in two days. It is only the second Chesterton novel I have read after the celebrated "The Man Who Was Thursday". As has been noted elsewhere, this novel is rife with Chesterton's personal philosophy of joy and astonishment at the universe and the character of Innocent Smith could very indeed be Chesterton himself.

Anything by Chesterton is worth reading and, while I never realized what an exceptional writer he was at painting a portrait with words, I feel that the novel was lacking due to the excessive amount of plot tied in to the court case and the corresponding letters attached to the trial. I would have preferred Chesterton expand the first part of the book where Smith's innocence and whimsy profoundly affects the denizens of Beacon House (a particularly enjoyable part was when Smith proposes that women could be more economical and stylish by using chalk to constantly draw new designs onto a dress only to dust the colours off once they were tired of them). Because much of the novel has to do with a court case and letters, many of the characters are left undeveloped and underutilized, especially those not participating in the trial such as the female characters.

The ending involving Dr. Warner is simply baffling.
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Quotes Alex Liked

G.K. Chesterton
“I am going to hold a pistol to the head of the Modern Man. But I shall not use it to kill him–only to bring him to life.”
G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

G.K. Chesterton
“Nothing, again, could be more prosaic and impenetrable than the domestic energies of Miss Diana Duke. But Innocent had somehow blundered on the discovery that her thrifty dressmaking went with a considerable feminine care for dress--the one feminine thing that had never failed her solitary self-respect. In consequence Smith pestered her with a theory (which he really seemed to take seriously) that ladies might combine economy with magnificence if they would draw light chalk patterns on a plain dress and then dust them off again. He set up "Smith's Lightning Dressmaking Company," with two screens, a cardboard placard, and box of bright soft crayons; and Miss Diana actually threw him an abandoned black overall or working dress on which to exercise the talents of a modiste. He promptly produced for her a garment aflame with red and gold sunflowers; she held it up an instant to her shoulders, and looked like an empress. And Arthur Inglewood, some hours afterwards cleaning his bicycle (with his usual air of being inextricably hidden in it), glanced up; and his hot face grew hotter, for Diana stood laughing for one flash in the doorway, and her dark robe was rich with the green and purple of great decorative peacocks, like a secret garden in the "Arabian Nights." A pang too swift to be named pain or pleasure went through his heart like an old-world rapier. He remembered how pretty he thought her years ago, when he was ready to fall in love with anybody; but it was like remembering a worship of some Babylonian princess in some previous existence. At his next glimpse of her (and he caught himself awaiting it) the purple and green chalk was dusted off, and she went by quickly in her working clothes.”
G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

G.K. Chesterton
“No,' said Gould, with an unusual and convincing gravity; 'I do not believe that being perfectly good in all respects would make a man merry.'

'Well,' said Michael quietly, 'will you tell me one thing? Which of us has ever tried it?”
G.K. Chesterton, Manalive

G.K. Chesterton
“If Innocent is happy, it is because he is innocent. If he can defy the conventions, it is just because he can keep the commandments. It is just because he does not want to kill but to excite to life that a pistol is still as exciting to him as it is to a schoolboy. It is just because he does not want to steal, because he does not covet his neighbour's goods, that he has captured the trick (oh, how we all long for it!), the trick of coveting his own goods. It is just because he does not want to commit adultery that he achieves the romance of sex; it is just because he loves one wife that he has a hundred honeymoons.”
G.K. Chesterton, Manalive


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