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The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton
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The Ball and the Cross (1909)

by G. K. Chesterton

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I was disappointed in this work on many levels. On a positive note, the general story line is an interesting concept. However, Chesterton's writing style is dated and sometimes tedious, and many of his attempts at witty dialogue and/or compelling debate over religion versus atheism fall short. His preposterous ending did not help either. ( )
  la2bkk | Jun 20, 2014 |
As I have said in the past I really like G. K. Chesterton's writing. I still like his writing and in this book I appreciate his even handedness in the handling of two characters world views, so diametrically opposed that the driving motivation for a good part of the story is their search for a quiet place where they can duel to the death without interruption.

If I have anything against the book it's that I was hoping for a different type of conclusion. That may be because I didn't understand the type of story it was when I started, I don't know. In any case, I was left not so much wanting more as I was left wanting something different. ( )
  eddiemerkel | Jan 15, 2012 |
The Ball and the Cross follows Evan MacIan, a devout Catholic, and James Turnbull, an ardent atheist, on an engaging romp throughout England as they attempt to find a quiet spot to fight to the death over the supremacy of their respective ideologies. Satire, humor and solid writing follow as various adventures and assorted characters interrupt their immolatory efforts. Despite, or even because of, their differences, they come to like and respect the other, even as they vow to run him through with a sword.

Published in 1909, this book remains timely 100+ years later. (Only now, Christopher Hitchens and Alistair MacGrath debate on YouTube about religious belief in a modern world.) My edition includes an excellent introduction by Martin Gardner, who describes the genesis of the book from many conversations between Catholic Chesterton and Robert Peel Glanville Blatchford, a "then widely read journalist who was an archenemy of Christianity." (Amazingly, upon the death of his wife, in 1923, Blatchford developed a belief in the afterlife and became a spiritualist!) I appreciate that Chesterton, in writing The Ball and The Cross, didn't take sides. MacIan and Turnball are well matched in their vigorous and various positions. Chesterton allows the reader to make up his or her own mind.

Quite enjoyed this book. There is humor, particularly as the two main characters' battle royale is constantly being denied by circumstance. ( )
  michigantrumpet | Aug 30, 2011 |
Chesterton's novel sets the stage for an epic duel between a devout Catholic and a 'devout' atheist, which takes them rambling all over Great Britain to a final clash concerning divinity in the modern age. It is a funny, passionate, skillful novel; an in-depth exploration of the unique relation which can result when two impassioned people seriously engage one another, and it is one of my personal favourites. ( )
  milkyfangs | Nov 23, 2009 |
Chesterton gives us the archetypal Christian and the archetypal atheist, embroiled in a series of exciting and often hilarious adventures throughout England as they try to find somewhere to duel in peace.

Chesterton's characters are so passionate and full of joy in life that while they are not particularly realistic, I always get the sense that they are what people should be if they would only be true to themselves and to what is really important. For the most part I think Chesterton fairly presents both sides of the theism/atheism argument; the book's ending, while a bit over-the-top in full Chestertonian style (don't worry, I won't give it away), satisfyingly suggests that the question is one that must be solved through personal experience rather than debate - although as the book shows, both sides have a lot to learn through such debate as well.

I was struck by the subtler point made throughout the novel that the sincerity of one's belief is much more important than holding the "correct" belief. This is an idea that also crops up in C. S. Lewis's work (unsurprising, since Lewis was heavily influenced by Chesterton) and which would serve us well in today's world where arguments over whose religion is the "correct" one are the source of so much division, anger, and violence. ( )
  Zathras86 | Jun 13, 2009 |
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The flying ship of Professor Lucifer sang through the skies like a silver arrow; the bleak white steel of it, gleaming in the bleak blue emptiness of the evening.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486288056, Paperback)

Chesterton's second novel chronicles a hot dispute between two Scotsmen, a Roman Catholic, and an atheist, whose fanatically held opinions inspire a host of comic adventures. The story's allegorical levels vigorously explore the debate between theism and atheism. Introduction by Martin Gardner.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:34 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Witty and profound classic debate between theism and atheism.

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