Friday, September 27, 2013

Rochester Chesterton Conference: The Morning

As is typical of Rochester Chesterton Conferences, there's so much to a talk about after this year's gathering - talks, books, conversations, jokes, being around fellow Chestertonians, and more. The 2013 edition - the 10th - focused on "Points of Light: Literary Voices Against the Darkness". For me, the highlights were the morning talks about JRR Tolkien, Ronald Knox, and Hugh Benson.

The day began with Lou Horvath providing an introduction to the day, then his lovely wife providing a humorous introduction to the first speaker - Joseph Pearce, author of too many books to count, who discussed Tolkien, with a focus on The Hobbit. I read that book years ago, before I read The Lord of the Rings, and, to be honest, after reading the trilogy I relegated it to the children's literature shelf. Foolish me.

Joseph Pearce and Dale Ahlquist

Pearce pointed out the complexities of the story that got me thinking. The journey of Bilbo, as he notes, is one of "sin to virtue" that parallels the journey we must all undergo. He also addressed the subject of "luck" in the book, noting that what seems to be luck for the hero is linked t the vice of the opponent. The opponent's vices - Gollum's especially, but also Smaug's - lead them to make poor choices that allow the hero to win. Think of the riddle game where each time Gollum is on the verge of winning his vices lead hints that help Bilbo to solve each puzzler.

There was more, but basically Pearce inspired me to dig out my copy of The Hobbit and to add it to the pile of books I need to read/read again.

By the way, the consensus among the speakers was that the recent film, The Hobbit, did not do justice to the book, and does not measure up to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I agree.

Pearce was followed by Deacon Nathan Allen who discussed Knox and Benson. The Deacon was an entertaining speaker, but what made his talk stand out for me was that while I had heard the names of both of his subjects, I knew nothing about them. It was fascinating learning the stories of these two converts and the suggestions about which of their works to read. I liked his comments that "you will know Chesterton better when you know the people he read." I own none of their books; I'll be on the lookout now.

There's more delightful from the day, but these morning talks stood our for me.

Pax et bonum

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