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FATHER BROWN ON VIDEO

 

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Here is a real fun find. Sir Alec Guinness starring as Father Brown in a video based on the very first Father Brown story.

The Detective

Guinness is in rare form as G. K. Chesterton's clerical sleuth after stolen art treasures; another British gem, superbly cast. British title: FATHER BROWN. Copyrightę Leonard Maltin, 1998-2001, used by arrangement with Signet, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.

FATHER BROWN

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The Penguin Complete Father Brown

From London to Cornwall, then to Italy and France, a short, shabby priest runs to earth bandits, traitors, killers. Why is he so successful?

The reason is that after years spent in the priesthood, Father Brown knows human nature and is not afraid of its dark side. Thus he understands criminal motivation and how to deal with it.

The stories included are "The Paradise of Thieves," "The Duel of Dr. Hirsch," "The Man in the Passage," "The Mistakes of the Machine," "The Head of the Caesar," "The Purple Wig," "The Perishing of the Pendragons," "The God of the Gongs," "The Salad of the Colonel Cray," "The Strange Crime of John Boulnois" and "The Fairy Tale of Father Brown."


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The Best of Father Brown

Punctilious as Poirot, shred as Miss Marple and sharp as Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown has a special distinction in the pantheon of literary sleuths: in the confessional this unassuming, innocent little priest has gained a deep intuition for the paradoxes of human nature. When murder, mayhem and mystery stalk smart society, only Father Brown can discover the startling truth.


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Favorite Father Brown Stories

After reading The Hammer of God, one of the Father Brown stories, I found myself both perplexed and enlightened. Chesterton is one of the few short story authors I have encountered that can consolidate a global message into a short parable. In the Father Brown stories, he uses his superb wit and literary elegance to send readers through innumerable epiphanies, usually with the aid of some very potent metaphors.

One quotation that I will always remember from this story is "humility is the mother of giants; one sees great things from the valley, only small things from the peak." For me, G.K. Chesterton has always been able to manipulate landscape and concrete images into a meaningful, and lucid, metaphor. The Hammer of God, in particular, is inundated with these powerful metaphors that tackle the essence of man's struggle with his outside world, and with himself. I found many of the other stories to be very stimulating, although the Hammer of God was clearly my favorite.

If you seek literay merit and powerful lessons, but have neither the time nor the inclination to read a novel or anything else over one hundred pages, G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories are perfect for you. - Amazon Reviewer


FUN CLEVER FICTION

 

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The Man Who Was Thursday

In an article published the day before his death, G.K. Chesterton called The Man Who Was Thursday "a very melodramatic sort of moonshine." Set in a phantasmagoric London where policemen are poets and anarchists camouflage themselves as, well, anarchists, his 1907 novel offers up one highly colored enigma after another. If that weren't enough, the author also throws in an elephant chase and a hot-air-balloon pursuit in which the pursuers suffer from "the persistent refusal of the balloon to follow the roads, and the still more persistent refusal of the cabmen to follow the balloon."

But Chesterton is also concerned with more serious questions of honor and truth (and less serious ones, perhaps, of duels and dualism). Our hero is Gabriel Syme, a policeman who cannot reveal that his fellow poet Lucian Gregory is an anarchist. In Chesterton's agile, antic hands, Syme is the virtual embodiment of paradox:

He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realization; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike.... Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left--sanity.

Elected undercover into the Central European Council of anarchists, Syme must avoid discovery and save the world from any bombings in the offing. As Thursday (each anarchist takes the name of a weekday--the only quotidian thing about this fantasia) does his best to undo his new colleagues, the masks multiply. The question then becomes: Do they reveal or conceal? And who, not to mention what, can be believed? As The Man Who Was Thursday proceeds, it becomes a hilarious numbers game with a more serious undertone--what happens if most members of the council actually turn out to be on the side of right? Chesterton's tour de force is a thriller that is best read slowly, so as to savor his highly anarchic take on anarchy. --Kerry Fried


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Napoleon of Notting Hill

The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Chesterton's first novel (1904), is set in London at the end of the twentieth century. It is still a city of gaslamps and horse-drawn carriages, but democratic government has withered away. When a government clerk, something of an aesthete and even more of a joker, is simply chosen from a list to be king, he sets the stage for arguments about the nature of human loyalties, glorifying the little man, and attacks on big business and the monolithic state.


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Club of Queer Trades

THE CLUB OF QUEER TRADES is G.K. Chesterton's first mystery. It is the story of a club with a membership requirement that is eccentric and typically English: no one can join unless he has created a brand-new profession. So what are the new ways to earn a living?

One man offers himself as a butt for repartee, another provides suitable romance for lonely souls.


 

A FEW CLASSICS

 

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The Everlasting Man

What, if anything, is it that makes the human uniquely human? This, in part, is the question that G.K. Chesterton starts with in this classic exploration of human history. Responding to the evolutionary materialism of his contemporary (and antagonist) H.G. Wells, Chesterton in this work affirms human uniqueness and the unique message of the Christian faith. Writing in a time when social Darwinism was rampant, Chesterton instead argued that the idea that society has been steadily progressing from a state of primitivism and barbarity towards civilization is simply and flatly inaccurate. "Barbarism and civilization were not successive stages in the progress of the world," he affirms, with arguments drawn from the histories of both Egypt and Babylon.

As always with Chesterton, there is in this analysis something (as he said of Blake) "very plain and emphatic." He sees in Christianity a rare blending of philosophy and mythology, or reason and story, which satisfies both the mind and the heart. On both levels it rings true. As he puts it, "in answer to the historical query of why it was accepted, and is accepted, I answer for millions of others in my reply; because it fits the lock; because it is like life." Here, as so often in Chesterton, we sense a lived, awakened faith. All that he writes derives from a keen intellect guided by the heart's own knowledge. --Doug Thorpe


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Orthodoxy : The Romance of Faith

If G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy: The Romance of Faith is, as he called it, a "slovenly autobiography," then we need more slobs in the world. This quirky, slender book describes how Chesterton came to view orthodox Catholic Christianity as the way to satisfy his personal emotional needs, in a way that would also allow him to live happily in society. Chesterton argues that people in western society need a life of "practical romance, the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure. We need so to view the world as to combine an idea of wonder and an idea of welcome." Drawing on such figures as Fra Angelico, George Bernard Shaw, and St. Paul to make his points, Chesterton argues that submission to ecclesiastical authority is the way to achieve a good and balanced life. The whole book is written in a style that is as majestic and down-to-earth as C.S. Lewis at his best. The final chapter, called "Authority and the Adventurer," is especially persuasive. It's hard to imagine a reader who will not close the book believing, at least for the moment, that the Church will make you free. --Michael Joseph Gross


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St. Francis of Assisi

There are certainly many studies of Saint Francis of Assisi that an interested reader might find and many of them immensely praiseworthy. But in reading G.K. Chesterton on Francis, you get two glories for one: first is an enlightening study of this most beloved of Christian saints and second is Chesterton himself, one of the great Christian writers of the 20th century, who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1922 because, it has been said, "only the Roman Church could produce a St. Francis of Assisi." Published shortly after his conversion, Chesterton wrote this book in part to reclaim Francis for the church. There are always those who want to claim Francis for their cause, Chesterton recognized, who also fail to understand the spiritual and intellectual ground upon which he stands. Chesterton would return Francis to Christ. As he summarizes, "however wild and romantic his gyrations might appear to many, [Francis] always hung on to reason by one invisible and indestructible hair.... The great saint was sane.... He was not a mere eccentric because he was always turning towards the center and heart of the maze; he took the queerest and most zigzag shortcuts through the wood, but he was always going home."

As one editor of Chesterton's puts it, "of St. Francis he might have said what he said about Blake: 'We always feel that he is saying something very plain and emphatic even when we have not the wildest notion of what it is.'" --Doug Thorpe


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Saint Thomas Aquinas/the Dumb Ox

It is known that when the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton began his book on Saint Thomas Aquinas (who is, quite possibly, the most influential of all Christian theologians), "his research for the project consisted of a very casual perusal of a few books on his subject." To say that Chesterton was no authority is an understatement. To say further that he has written a masterpiece of elucidation may also be an understatement. Etienne Gilson, the chief scholar of Aquinas in the 20th century, said flatly "I consider it as being without possible comparison the best book ever written on St. Thomas. Nothing short of genius can account for such an achievement.... Chesterton was one of the deepest thinkers who ever existed; he was deep because he was right; and he could not help being right; but he could not either help being modest and charitable, so he left it to those who could understand him to know that he was right, and deep."

So how has he accomplished this feat? By simplifying, as his editor says, without oversimplifying. He turns his own lack of intimate knowledge to his advantage by concentrating on the core elements of Aquinas' thinking: his affirmation of the goodness of creation; his defense of common sense; and "the primacy of the doctrine of being." In this way he grasps--and helps us grasp--the importance of Aquinas for us today. As Raymond Dennehy has written, it's as if Chesterton is saying to us "the truths [Aquinas] was getting at--the basic principles of reality and reason--are in themselves really quite simple. Your basic intuitions were right all along." --Doug Thorpe


 


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