suffered from depression for much of his life, and claimed afterwards that he wrote this book as an unusual affirmation that goodness and right were at the heart of every aspect of the world. He had hoped the book would serve as an encouragement to himself and to other members of his family who also had the tendency to become melancholy.
As I'm given to (what Spurgeon called) "fainting fits" and bouts with melancholy, I can attest to a strange buoyancy I derive from Chesterton's work.
Anyway, I recently purchased a used, nicely aged, hardcover copy of the book and have become immersed. But while doing a little research on the novel, I was surprised to discover an intersection of authors.
Last year, I read Neil Gaiman's terrific short story, A Study in Emerald (which you can read in PDF here). The story went on to win the Hugo and, being it was my first encounter with Gaiman, sent me in search of his other stuff. And there's lots of it. I purchased some of the The Sandman comic series and then American Gods. The novel explores the clash between gods of the old and the “new gods of credit card and freeway, of Internet and telephone, of radio and hospital and television, gods of plastic and of beeper and of neon,” and how Americans have transferred their devotion from spiritual to material and technological gods.
Gaiman has written for film and theater, collaborated on children's books and graphic novels, and has become something of a cult superstar. But what surprised me most about him, was the "religious" influences in his early life.
I learned of it first while scanning Wikipedia's bio of Chesterton. As expected, the prolific English author has influenced many through the years. Chesterton's writings have been praised by such authors as Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Gabriel García Márquez, Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, W. H. Auden, Orson Welles and Franz Kafka. C. S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and Ingmar Bergman also drew inspiration from him. There is even a computer game, Deus Ex, which features excerpts from The Man Who Was Thursday and the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden uses an excerpt from one of his hymns as the first verse in their song Revelations. Chesterton? Iron Maiden? Go figger.
Enter Gaiman. According to the cyber-pedia:
The author Neil Gaiman has stated that The Napoleon of Notting Hill (an early Chesterton novel) was an important influence on his own book Neverwhere. Gaiman also based the character Gilbert, from the comic book The Sandman, on Chesterton. Gaiman's novel Good Omens, co-authored with Terry Pratchett is dedicated "to the memory of G.K. Chesterton: A man who knew what was going on."
As a child and a teenager, Gaiman grew up reading the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien along with Chesterton.
Although Gaiman is Jewish, he attended several Church of England schools. There he studied, among other things, religion. The training gave him a wide background in both Jewish and Christian theology/apocrypha, which he apparently incorporates into his works.
I find these author intersections fascinating and, learning of the Chesterton/Gaiman connection, has only piqued my interest. Perhaps the most obvious question is, How did these early Christian influences shape Gaiman's thinking? It does not appear Neil Gaiman has a unique interest in Christianity (other than the imagery it affords his writing). In fact, it's been reported Gaiman is the son of a prominent leader of the Church of Scientology. While I'm unaware of Gaiman's stated allegiance to Scientology, his proximity to so many differnet religions could explain a lot about his multi-faceted views. It is heartening, I guess, that he and G.K. have crossed paths. But if, as Gaiman suggests, Chesterton was "A man who knew what was going on," I wonder where that places Gaiman.