Manalive Movie

Featuring the movie premiere of Chesterton's novel, Manalive
31st Annual Chesterton Conference:
The Beano in Reno
The 31st Annual G.K. Chesterton Conference will be Aug. 2-4, 2012, at the Silver Legacy Hotel (and Casino) in Reno, Nevada.
Discounted room rates are available for conference attendees who stay at the Silver Legacy Hotel!  Call 1-800-687-8733 and mention group code ACS812 to reserve your rooms today at the discounted rate.

For more information:

Chesterton in Reno

Celebrating the 100th anniversary
of Chesterton's book,
Tremendous Trifles.

Friday night saw the world premiere of a new Father Brown mystery with Kevin O'Brien as Father Brown, and a discussion with the cast and crew.
The DVD is available from EWTN by calling 1.800.854.6316 (no. HDTOW8).

A Trifling Affair:
Notes on the 28th Chesterton Conference
-By Gord Wilson.

The 28th annual conference, held August 6-8 2009 at Seattle University, was the first to take place out of the midwest, and celebrated, after a fashion, the centennial of the 1909 publication of GKC's light essay collection, Tremendous Trifles, recently reprinted by Dover. While I attended the entire 25th conference (see below), I only caught the last day (Saturday) of this one. Hopefully someone who attended the other days will provide a review and reflection.
The following talks are available on audio CD for $6 each, or the set of eleven CDs for $55, from the American Chesterton Society  site: "The Danger of Trifling with Chesterton (Dale Ahlquist); "Learning to Fly" (Geir Hasnes); "Revolvers and Swordsticks: The Roots of Chesterton's Spiritual Theology" (Nathan Allen); "GKC and Education: Why We No Longer Use Chalk" (Carl Hasler); "Chesterton and War" (Michael Perry); Chesterton and Drama (Kevin O'Brien); "Chesterton and Frank Capra" (Rod Bennett); "Chesterton and Alfred Hitchcock" (David Deavel); "Becoming Innocent" (Mark Shea); and "Seven Days and Seven Heavens: Chesterton and C.S. Lewis" (Michael Ward).

Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, and Chip Lind. We found out Michael was in a James Bond film with Pearce Brosnan.

Gord and two sisters who just flew in from Mary Immaculate Queen convent near Spokane, WA.
Okay, they drove.

The feast of reason and flow of soul.
Toasts and toast at the closing banquet.

Every nun and everyone had fun, but none more than Chip. Our site's new motto: "Chip's with everything".

Saturday morning began with a talk on Chesterton and filmmaker Frank Capra by Rod Bennett, author of The Four Witnesses. As the former editor of a magazine called Wonder, he had once published a piece by Chesterton Society president, Dale Ahlquist, on Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life". In this, and other Capra films, he saw GKC's ideas incarnated. After giving some bio and how he came to read GKC, Rod noted that comedy is one of the most serious art forms, because it brings the mystery of life to light in ways more serious art forms cannot do.

Rod called Chesterton an apostle of affirmation in a world gone gray. Similarly, he noted that while his films are often dismissed as "Capra corn", faith and joy are hard-won in Capra's films, which show that the same set of facts can have both a joyful and a dark side. He mentioned Eric Gill, and two distributist books related to the agrarian revival, I'll Take My Stand, and Who Owns America? which date from that era, and with which I am not familiar. He closed recommending something with which I am familiar, the Bell Science animated films, written by Frank Capra and animated by Shamus Culhane. Or at least the first four were, which include "Hemo the Magnificent" and "Our Mr. Sun", and are available from Amazon with two films per DVD

Continuing the film note, David Deavel, a writer for Gilbert! magazine and an editor for Logos magazine, spoke on Chesterton and Alfred Hitchcock. Most of the audience had far more interest in Hitchcock than I did, judging from the questions. But the presentation was nevertheless one of the best I've heard. Commenting on Hitchcock's film of John Buchan's novel, The 39 Steps, he noted that people like to feel fear when they are safe. Hitchcock read Chesterton's first essay collection, The Defendant, in which GKC "defended" penny dreadfuls and popular culture. Crime stories are essentially fairy tales, noted GKC. "The temptations to crime are in life and not in literature." David found a great deal in common between the two writers, noting in some of Hitchcock's films a pattern of guilt, confession, penance, and redemption. He also cited this telling quote from GKC's priest detective, Father Brown, in The Hammer of God: "I am a man, and therefore have all devils in my heart".

"A man should feel he is still in the childhood of the world," remarked GKC in his novel, The Club of Queer Trades, and David noted that in Hitchcock's films, as in Chesterton's novels, the essence of the story is in the chase. He suggested that GKC's novel Manalive may have influenced Hitchcock's little-seen The Trouble with Harry. Remarking on the upcoming film of Manalive, he claimed the Belgians had already made a film from the novel, titled Return to the Redhead, which hopefully will circulate with English subtitles. 

He quoted Borges, saying that "Chesterton restrained himself from being Poe or Kafka, but something in him strained toward the nightmare," pointing out that The Man Who Was Thursday is subtitled "A Nightmare". Both the filmmaker and novelist explored the collision of the ordinary and extraordinary, in attempting to "find the floor in the universe". It was here, however, that the two men diverged. In a film like The Birds, inconvenience turns to horror. "An inconvenience," Chesterton maintained, "is only an adventure wrongly understood, while an adventure is an inconvenience rightly understood."

Chip and Miki Tracy enjoying the banquet. David Deavel experiences Vertigo
Chip and Sister Mary Vianney
If only "Chip" were a "monk".

The next talk was by Mark Shea: "Becoming Innocent". Clever readers noted the play on words, as Mark plays Innocent Smith in the upcoming film of Chesterton's novel, Manalive, a sneak preview of which was shown Friday night. He talked about the double role of the mask in drama: simultaneously to conceal and reveal, and the relation of liturgy and drama. Films, he noted, get to reality by looking at the surface. He discussed creativity and callings in the arts, distinguishing between two kinds of gifts: charisms, which are meant to be given away, and sanctifying gifts, which are meant for us to become holy. Sin, he noted, is normal but not natural, and he quoted Tolkien on our innate "nature" to create: "We make still by the law by which we're made."

Mark led one of the small groups which followed, discussing "Manalive: The Book and the Movie". Michael Perry, publisher of Inklings Books, led a discussion on "Chesterton and War", continuing the topic from his similarly-titled talk on Friday. Dale Ahlquist considered  "Chesterton and the Economic Crisis".  Margaret Dornay's topic was "Tools and Techniques for Teaching Chesterton to Children", an area she has pioneered.

There was also a screening of the BBC film, The Narnia Code, which led nicely into the closing talk of the day by Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, "Seven Days and Seven Heavens: Chesterton and C.S. Lewis". His talk centered on the "Heptarchy", the medieval view of seven planets and seven kingdoms, based on a mention of it by Chesterton. His book's thesis is that the seven Chronicles of Narnia correspond to these seven planets, which were, counting outward from the earth, Luna, Mercury, Venus, Sol (the Sun), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. This view was not challenged until Copernicus proposed the heliocentric universe in 1543, and was aided by the invention of the telescope in 1608.

Michael considered the similarities between the pageant scenes in The Man Who Was Thursday and That Hideous Strength, relating them to the days of the week, which are named for the seven planets. To the medievals,  these planetary intelligences or kingdoms also  exerted a changing influence by the hour. This influence was in Italian called "influenza", from which the word "flu" comes.

Seattle University was founded as a Jesuit institution, and Mass was held at the adjacent Chapel of St. Ignatius, a modernistic construct that is always being written up in architecture and art magazines. It's tasteful, minimal design also proved to be a great space for Mass. Afterwards, everyone staying in campus housing and who had bought a ticket made their way to Campion Hall for the closing banquet, which included clerihews (see below) and toasts to local Chesterton societies around the world, vino courtesy of Miki Tracy, vinter. Next year's conference is also planned to head for new horizons, this time Washington D.C. (the other Washington), and likely Maryland.

GKC in St. Paul
Thoughts on the 25th Annual Chesterton Conference

by Gord Wilson
(The twelve talks from the conference are available from the ACS (see link) on CD for $8 each or $75 for all twelve. I briefly describe them below).

Gord and Dale Ahlquist
Adam Schwartz
Carl Olson

"The Best of All Impossible Worlds" was the theme of the 25th Annual Chesterton Conference sponsored by the American Chesterton Society, and held June 15-17, 2006 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. Having far more in common with St. Thomas (not Aquinas, the doubting one) than St. Paul, I doubted it would work out to go, but against all odds it somehow did and Eric (EW) and I made the trek from the Northwest. With many others we found room and board at the U of St. Thomas, and after the conference Kathleen kindly put us up on her floor until our return flight.

The conference logo depicted Charles Dickens and GKC, on the anniversary of the latter having written a bio of the former. That occasioned the talk by Jill Kriegel on "A Chestertonian Reading of Dickens' Dombey and Son." The other talks tended to be titled "Chesterton and ____," so that you didn't even need to know who GKC was to be interested ( even knowing who he was some of the titles intrigued me).

Dale Ahlquist, president of the ACS, kicked off the proceedings Thursday night with "Abandon All Hopelessness, Ye Who Enter Here". He was followed by John Peterson, the founding publisher of Gilbert Magazine (titled for G.K.C.'s middle name) the official publication of the ACS, on "Chesterton and Marshall McLuhan". McLuhan was the '60s media critic who made the witty observations "the medium is the message" and "the medium is the massage". I even managed to find a used McLuhan book on one of the many book tables.

Friday after Jill Kriegel's talk Father Stanley Jaki held forth on "Charles Dickens and Charles Darwin: The Two Who Never Met". He also had a book table. I bought Chesterton: A Seer of Science. A long time ago I read Jaki's book, Brain, Mind and Computers, which won the Templeton Prize. Geir Hasnes came from Norway to present his talk, "Trials and Triumphs of a Chesterton Bibliographer." It focused on his efforts to compile a definitive and exhaustive bibliography of all things Chesterton. His powerpoint presentation was itself exhausting, although enlivened by Geir's sparkling and ironic sense of humor. He has searched minutaie wordwide in this monumental task which, when completed, will be a time warp in Chesterton scholarship.

Kurt Griffen compared and contrasted De Tocqueville's "Democracy in America" with GKC's "What I Saw in America," although his bio billed him as "an opera singer in a rock band." Later at the banquet he fortunately regaled us with the latter talent. "Chesterton Unplugged" was the title of Christopher Check's talk, although he was far too animated to be considered a "speaker" and it was far too explosive to be termed a "talk". Absolutely Chestertonian in that regard. What else to expect from the Executive Vice President of the Rockford Institute? We also had the opportunity to subscribe to their publication, Chronicles, at an absurdly low rate (so I did).

After dinner (for those of us who threw for room and board), Joseph Pearce, the inexhaustible biographer of anyone you can name, held forth on "Chesterton and C.S. Lewis". Some of the material touched briefly on his book, C.S. Lewis and the Catholic Church, which was all fine with me as I found that a delightful read. And really, how could he not draw from his own books, which nearly took up an entire table in the foyer? The highlight of Friday night was a performance of GKC's play, The Surprise. Dale Ahlquist's daughter did an amazing job as the princess. Apart from that I don't know any of the actors, but I'm quite sure that info will be on the ACS website (see link).

Gord, Dale, Dorothy Schlinger, Erich (EW)
The Tremblays of Texas and Gord

Saturday David Beresford, billed as a "scientist and farmer and columnist for Gilbert magazine," gave what I think was one of the best talks, "The Limitless Possibilities of Limits". Limits and boundaries were a favorite topic of Chesterton's, but he took his talk in places I found fascinating. I took as many notes as I could; a few follow. "For things to be things they must have limits. Limits allow things the freedom to be themselves. A species can be defined by its niche or environment. But none of this variety (and the great number of species) could exist without limits. Responding to its environment is what enables a thing to stay in its species.  Creation is an experiment in the limitless possibilities of things with limits.

He identified two modern mistakes: 1. that man is a thing, neither male nor female, and 2. that man is an animal. Man is not a breeeder like a chimpanzee, he said, calling modern culture "serial polygamy". The reason for long life, he noted, is life-long learning. Regarding marriage, he said that pair-bonds get tighter the longer they continue. This also has an ancient reason: hunting could not go on if humans mated outside the pair-bond. He also spoke in favor of maintaining genetic diversity. Destroying it leaves nothing for the unforseen future. Altogether amazng and a lot of food for thought.

I greatly enjoyed Adam Schwartz' talk on "Chesterton and Malcolm Muggeridge" and his small group discussion on the Inklings. Being in the Malcolm Muggeridge Society, that was one of the draws for me of the conference. I have far too many notes to quote. He's the author of a giant scholarly tome called The Third Spring which is about Chesterton, Graham Greene, Christopher Dawson and David Jones and the Catholic Literary revival in Britain, the Second Spring being associated with Newman). Amazon's price for this book is $65, to no fault of Adam's. I suggest in my Amazon review to view it as four biographies at about $15 each (it's certainly that much reading). I also suggest skipping the scholarly intro. and diving right into the Chesterton part (chapter one). At any rate, after his talk I went to the UST library and dove into his massive tome.

"Chesterton and the DaVinci Code" was the arresting title of the talk by Carl Olson, author of The DaVinci Hoax and Will Catholics Be Left Behind? Carl writes a lively column in The National Catholic Register which, like his talk, evidences his quick mind and sharp wit. The last talk by Steve Miller was also one of the most popular, relating to another current cultural phenom, "GKC vs. CSI" by Steve Miller, "a Minneapolis labor attorney and detective fiction expert".  There was also a small group seminar time when one could choose from five discussions (I went to Schwartz and the Inklings).

The banquet was a lot like GKC's view of the Inn, replete with music, jokes, a catered feast, wine and bon homie. There was also a contest for clerihews, that odd limerick-like form invented by GK and E. Bentley and taking the form AABB. Each evening we night people stayed up nearly all night drinking beer and smoking cigars, hopefully observing GK's dictum, that "we should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them." One night I jumped into a great talk with Joseph Pearce and Carl Olson on punk rock and gospel rock, one of my favorite topics. There was also iced tea and homemade wine provided in the daylight hours, along with crackers and cheese. I very much enjoyed the New York contingent who not only seemed to supply an infinite amount of beer but put on a midnight barbeque with dogs on the grill. As GK probably wouldn't say, jolly good show! (The Chesterton Conference is an annual occurrence, as noted above. The 27th one, in 2008, was the Orthodoxy Centennial, celebrating the 100th anniversary of G.K.C.'s most widely read book, Orthodoxy. Talks from these other conferences are also available through the Society. -Gord Wilson.

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