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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quixotic, Amusing and Profound
This neglected tale is my second favorite of Chesterton's several novels (the first being The Man Who Was Thursday). In The Ball and the Cross, Chesterton pits two very likeable adversaries against one another in an old-fashioned duel of honor for their ardent beliefs: one fights for the truth of Christianity, the other for the truth of a very earth-bound Humanism...
Published on Nov. 6 2003 by R. Pince

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3.0 out of 5 stars a sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes confused allegory
A fairly intriguing didactic novel on atheism versus christianity, with an end that seems to presciently anticipate the advent of totalitarianism. But the whole thing is kind of a tangle, and the story doesn't really go anywhere.
Published on Jan. 3 2000 by Benjamin Crowell


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quixotic, Amusing and Profound, Nov. 6 2003
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
This neglected tale is my second favorite of Chesterton's several novels (the first being The Man Who Was Thursday). In The Ball and the Cross, Chesterton pits two very likeable adversaries against one another in an old-fashioned duel of honor for their ardent beliefs: one fights for the truth of Christianity, the other for the truth of a very earth-bound Humanism. Chesterton gives equal time to the two viewpoints in the early stages of the duel, and sets up events so the two seem to argue in a world apart, desirous (unlike all those around them) of an actual resolution to what are seemingly theoretical and ethereal concerns.
I won't give away the ending, but through the intervention of other characters each duelist does find a satisfactory outcome, if not the one he expected or hoped for. In the end the two must team together to fight a third nemesis, one that has been hinted at from the outset when all others refuse to take their quarrel seriously.
Chesterton's writing here is, as always, full of sparkling wit, lively characterizations, and breathless pacing. Let me add that this novel is one of the great fables of the twentieth century. Among other things, it helps illuminate how much genuine conviction we have lost with our ever-increasing emphasis on "tolerance" - a fine value in itself, but most often an excuse for never discussing anything of importance if it will mean disagreeing with someone else.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncommon Belief, July 24 2003
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
When Hesketh Pearson sat down to write a book about the most witty people in history (including the likes of Swift, Wilde, Shaw, and Beerbohm), he made the decision that Chesterton should go last in the book. He was undoubtedly one of the most delightful critics of the modern era, and "The Ball and the Cross" is amongst his best.
The story about two adversaries has a particular point to make. Two people who believe in very different things have one major thing in common over the majority of people: namely, they believe in something. Here, two men are so fervent in their beliefs that they wish to duel to the death, but end up as best friends due to their isolation amongst relativists.
The story was actually based off Chesterton's relationship with George Bernard Shaw. This is simply a delightful read and even more relevant today than ever before.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Faster, Higher, Cooler, Oct. 24 2002
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
So many people wrote great reviews of GKC's best-known books here that I'll concentrate on this one. It happens to be my favorite novel by him, but I was quite surprised that this nearly unknown book would be so good. My suggestion is don't read Martin Gardner's foreword first--read it as a backword, after the book, and then see if you agree.
Chesterton later wrote a little poem about how he didn't like this book, and how it didn't make any sense, but I found it to be the clearest thing I've ever read, and it has forever instilled lucid pictures in my brain. It starts with a scene that seems to be some sort of dizzying science-fiction story from Victorian England--sort of like something Jules Verne would write if he suddenly became a better writer.
That's not the only unforgettable visual image in this book, which is pieced together like so many cliff-hanger serials. Someone else will likely write about all the debates over points of view implicit in the title and fiercely held by the characters, but what attracts me is the excitement of a widly heroic life (which both characters live). GK shows, of course, that it's found in the romance of orthodoxy, but by the time the book winds up, he has me panting like a thirsty horse to find those cooling streams.
Another novel that does this is Manalive!, which a friend of mine said is her second favorite book, next to C.S.Lewis' Perelandra. Manalive! is very light, but it just flies, and opens with the most intriguing first page I've ever read. Both these stories, although written in different ways, seem modern or even post-modern. They seem like they were translated into modern English from another language, even though they both date from the early 20th Century.
Recently, I had the chance to see the world premiere of a play of The Man Who Was Thursday, which put these three novels into perspective for me. Chesterton wrote at a time when anarchist dynamiters --the terrorists of their day--were causing havoc about London. Many social conditions were chaotic and in the world of ideas, things were up for grabs.
Chesterton did not have an easy conversion, nor did he come by his views without a hard-won struggle. In this sense, he didn't arrive at the "right" answer by working a puzzle or stumbling on the secret to life, but like his story about a man who walked around the world, came back with a new perspective, able to see things in a new way for the first time. Although I did come to embrace his romantic orthodoxy, I don't think his big gift is in convincing us of the wisdom of the Creed, but rather in opening our eyes to the wonder around us.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best book he's ever read, May 17 2002
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
That's what my 17 year old tutoring student told me this week. He's been quoting the book around school and is absolutely enchanted with it. Note, this kid is no slouch intellectually, he's on the state championship debate team and has read such things as Dante's Inferno, and Huxley's Brave New World, so the best thing he's ever read is high praise.
I think what makes this book so good is the paradoxical quality of the situation. The action carries you forward as the two main characters attempt to duel about truth and are continually thwarted by a constabulary and a citizenship who don't (for the most part, that is) want them to fight. The paradox is that these men are sane, but the world thinks them mad. It reminds one of Emily Dickinson's poem "Much Madness is divinest Sense"
and the society the characters are in does deem them dangerous.
What is amazing to me is that Chesterton wrote this book in 1905, but it could almost have been written yesterday, at least in terms of people's attitudes. The descriptions are unusual, some of the people quite odd, yet the whole story becomes believable in a very strange way. And it is both intriguing and amusing at the same time.
This is the second teenager I've recommended this to and both of them have loved it. Maybe the teenagers I know just have better taste than most of the librarians out there, since this is a nearly impossible book to find on any library shelves around here. Thanks Amazon for making it so easy to purchase. I've just ordered a copy for my teenaged niece for her birthday. Maybe the American Chesterton Society should start a branch for teens...
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4.0 out of 5 stars Unpredictable turns as 2 zealots battle for the universe!, Feb. 17 2001
By 
Joseph R. Graber "The Eclectic" (Schoolcraft, MI, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
A zealous Christian is offended by a zealous atheist's blasphemous declarations, and challenges him to a duel. The whole world gets involved as they try to stop the fighting, and the two zealots team up to find a way to fight to the death. They become partners in their mutual resolve to kill the other. The reader follows the wild twists and turns as they go to great extremes to destroy the other's religious convictions. This book is about the fight between the ball (atheism) and the cross (Christianity), and it is reflective of the world at large.
The structure of the book is a bit strange and totally unpredictable. You'll wonder at first what chapter 1 has to do with the rest of the book...but keep reading and you'll see. The ending is more unpredictable than any book I've ever read.
I would recommend this book (especially as a reflection on the religious antithesis).
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5.0 out of 5 stars The battle between Christianity and atheism, Dec 10 2000
By 
Guillaume (Connecticut, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
As a Catholic I had heard of this little story for years, but only got around to buying it last night. I read it in one sitting. This is a story of two Scots -- one a staunch Roman Catholic, the other a militant atheist. The Catholic is enraged by the blasphemous display in the latter's shop windows and an vicious row ensues. They are both hauled away by the police. But it does not stop there. They agree to fight a duel. But where? Each time they think they have found a perfect spot, they are interrupted. Eventually, after some further adventures, they realise that they -- the one who actively accepts the existence of God and the other who actively denies it -- have more in common with each other than with the mass of self-satisfied humanity who could not care less if He exists or not. This is a brilliant story, and a perfect allegory of our sad times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The battle between Christianity and atheism, Dec 10 2000
By 
Guillaume (Connecticut, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
As a Catholic I had heard of this little story for years, but only got around to buying it last night. I read it in one sitting. This is a story of two Scots -- one a staunch Roman Catholic, the other a militant atheist. The Catholic is enraged by the blasphemous display in the latter's shop windows and an vicious row ensues. They are both hauled away by the police. But it does not stop there. They agree to fight a duel. But where? Each time they think they have found a perfect spot, they are interrupted. Eventually, after some further adventures, they realise that they -- the one who actively accepts the existence of God and the other who actively denies it -- have more in common with each other than with the mass of self-satisfied humanity who could not care less if He exists or not. This is a brilliant story, and a perfect allegory of our sad times.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Charming Duel, July 6 2000
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This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY and THE NAPOLEON OF NOTTING HILL are Chesterton's most famous novels, but my personal favorite is THE BALL AND THE CROSS. The swashbuckling story combines zany adventure, a constant skewering of Chesterton's favorite targets (most of these targets endure to our day under different names, so the battle is well worth re-fighting), a number of the usual red-headed suspects, two throw-away romances, and a diabolical insane asylum that calls to mind C. S. Lewis' Objective Room (only Chesterton has more fun with it). Those who complain about the ending should remember that Chesterton is simply too big-hearted to damn a character he likes (he might consign the Superman to Hell, of course).
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5.0 out of 5 stars GKC is a big fat Genius, July 28 1998
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
Chesterton's hilarious story of how an adamant Catholic duels to the death with an ardent atheist is a worthy read. Chesterton systematically critiques popular delusions of educated thinking as the book unfolds. Chesterton's wit is second to none and if you liked Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis, you will love this book.
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3.0 out of 5 stars a sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes confused allegory, Jan. 3 2000
This review is from: The Ball and the Cross (Paperback)
A fairly intriguing didactic novel on atheism versus christianity, with an end that seems to presciently anticipate the advent of totalitarianism. But the whole thing is kind of a tangle, and the story doesn't really go anywhere.
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The Ball and the Cross
The Ball and the Cross by G. K. Chesterton (Paperback - Nov. 22 1995)
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