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The Ball and The Cross Paperback – January 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 57 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Like much of G. K. Chesterton's fiction, The Ball and the Cross is both witty and profound, cloaking serious religious and philosophical inquiry in sparkling humor and whimsy. Serialized in the British publication The Commonwealth in 1905-06, Chesterton's second novel first appeared in book form in America in 1909, delighting and challenging readers with its heady mixture of fantasy, farce, and theology.
The plot of The Ball and the Cross chronicles a hot dispute between two Scotsmen, one a devout but naive Roman Catholic, the other a zealous but naive atheist. Their fanatically held opinions—leading to a duel that is proposed but never fought—inspire a host of comic adventures whose allegorical levels vigorously explore the debate between theism and atheism.
Martin Gardner's superb introduction to The Ball and the Cross reveals the real-life debate between Chesterton and a famous atheist that provided inspiration for the story, and it explores some of the novel's possible allegorical meanings. Appraising the book's many intriguing philosophical qualities, Mr. Gardner alerts readers as well to the pleasures of its "colorful style . . . amusing puns and clever paradoxes . . . and the humor and melodrama of its crazy plot."
Unabridged Dover (1995) republication of the work originally published in 1909-1910. New Introduction by Martin Gardner.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England, in 1874. He went on to study art at the Slade School, and literature at University College in London. Chesterton wrote a great deal of poetry, as well as works of social and literary criticism. Among his most notable books are "The Man Who Was Thursday", a metaphysical thriller, and "The Everlasting Man", a history of humankind's spiritual progress. After Chesterton converted to Catholicism in 1922, he wrote mainly on religious topics such as "Orthodoxy" and "Heretics". Chesterton is most known for creating the famous priest-detective character Father Brown, who first appeared in "The Innocence of Father Brown". Chesterton died in 1936 at the age of 62. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Digireads.com (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1420933973
  • ISBN-13: 978-1420933970
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,994,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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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Format: 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.

I am editing this review because Amazon won't let me review the book again. The Martin Gardner introduction is in the Dover edition The Ball and the Cross. There is a new, 2015 illustrated edition from Chesterton Press which is slightly abridged (very slightly from what I can tell), and has black and white full page illustrations by Ben Hatke in each chapter, along with little Chesterton-like sketches at the ends of the chapters. It's a 9 X 6 inch paperback with larger print and more white space. The blurb on the back cover calls The Ball and the Cross a 1909 "Steampunk novel", which is the same sense I had when I read it (and recently reread it). The Ball and the Cross. It's frankly dazzling. If you plan to read the physical book, these are the two editions I would recommend.

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.
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Format: 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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Format: 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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By Brad Shorr on November 16, 2004
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Someone (Belloc?) said only Catholics and atheists are willing to play their beliefs all the way out. All other spiritual postions are compromise. This amusing novella illustrates the point. The main characters, an ardent Catholic and a committed atheist, wish to engage in a duel to the death in defense of their beliefs. They are continually interrupted by a stream of characters representing all sorts of moral types. Although the subject is interesting, the narrative doesn't flow well: first you have pages of philosophical dialog, and then intervals of action and plot development of varying length. The result is great difficulty in keeping everything straight. Although the book contains the usual GK wit and wisdom, it is not as tightly composed as his better works.

A word about this (Dover) edition: hard to read. The spacing between rows of type is very narrow and the margins are very wide.
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