Time warp: G.K. Chesterton on Dan Brown

Seeing as the former died almost 30 years before the latter was even born, the author of Orthodoxy and The Everlasting Man couldn’t possibly have anything to say about his literary antithesis, the author of The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons. Or could he?

Actually, he certainly does. In this¬†time warp of an interview,¬†Carl E. Olson of Ignatius Insight poses direct questions to Chesterton about Brown. Though dead in the flesh, Chesterton is ever-alive in his writing, through which he responds so realistically that–if it weren’t for the note at the top of the page–many a reader would be fooled into thinking Brown was his contemporary. Below, I post some responses I found especially interesting. Enjoy!

Ignatius Insight: I was somewhat surprised to learn that you haven’t been entirely negative about Dan Brown’s novels, including The Da Vinci Code.
Chesterton: My taste is for the sensational novel, the detective story, the story about death, robbery and secret societies; a taste which I share in common with the bulk at least of the male population of this world…[1]

Ignatius Insight: Are you saying, then, that you believe something good can be found in Brown’s novels?
Chesterton: Every now and then, after wading through a hubbub of hundreds of words, we find a word that seems to have gone right by accident. We must not complain; nothing in this mortal life is perfect; not even bad poetry. [2] In one sense, at any rate, it is more valuable to read bad literature than good literature. Good literature may tell us the mind of one man; but bad literature may tell us the mind of many men. A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author. [3]

Ignatius Insight: Does it surprise you that Brown, despite denying the divinity of Jesus, insists that he is a Christian?
Chesterton: Of course it is possible to play an endless game with the word “Christian” and perpetually extend its epoch by perpetually diminishing its meaning. By the time that everybody has agreed that being a Christian only means thinking that Christ was a good man, it will indeed be true that few persons outside lunatic asylums can be denied the name of Christian. [9]

[1] “Fiction As Food”, The Spice of Life and Other Essays.
[2] “On Bad Poetry”, All I Survey.
[3] “On Smart Novelists and the Smart Set”, Heretics.
[9] “The Erastian on the Establishment”, The Common Man.


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