Ahlquist claims that Chesterton "is always the opposite of arrogant in his defense of the truth." Maybe. But Ahlquist is not. He uses Chesterton's words to bludgeon people and ideas with which he disagrees. This angry and aggrieved litany includes toleration (which masks "the modern hatred of religion") and relativism, feminists who are "riled up with resentment, and utterly joyless," the "obscene defiance of militant homosexuals," colleges and universities "mocking tradition and praising innovation, tripping over themselves to be progressive" and "a National Health Care program passed in utter defiance of the public will."
This is a wearying, mean-spirited and contemptuous book. Chesterton deserves better.
Fr. Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was also a prodigious and still-popular writer, one who appeals to a much different audience than Chesterton. A companion volume to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio series, the book is co-written by Michael Higgins, Fr. Nouwen's official biographer, and radio producer Kevin Burns. The Dutch-born priest's "life and legacy" is explored through interviews with family members, friends and colleagues.
"Genius Born of Anguish" is not a whitewashed portrait, but a sympathetic and empathic reading of Fr. Nouwen's paradoxical life. He taught at Yale and Harvard and was a pastor at Daybreak, a L'Arche community outside of Toronto. He spent time in Cistercian monasteries, lived in barrios in Peru and Bolivia, and befriended the Flying Rodleighs, a circus trapeze team. He was depressive, deeply lonely, conflicted by his homosexuality, and afflicted with an incessant need for affection and affirmation.
We see ample evidence of Fr. Nouwen's "emotional volatility, his thin-skinned nature, his sensitivity to any gesture or comment that he perceived as undervaluing his work." But we also see his fidelity to his friends, his vocation and his lifelong effort to discover the freeing mercy of God.
He was both self-absorbed and remarkably compassionate, emotionally needy but exceptionally generous in accompanying people in their suffering and joys. He was faithful to his religious vows, maintained an integrated prayer life, and refused to engage in "the cultural and ecclesiastical politics of the post-Second Vatican Council era."
Carolyn Whitney-Brown, a Daybreak colleague, noted that Fr. Nouwen "says that some people try so hard to have no sins that they end up with no virtues either. You have to take the whole package we call life; you have to live with the whole thing." That is an apt summary of the man who is so lovingly and clearly portrayed in this book. "Through painful transparency, he wrestled with his sexual identity, acknowledged his furiously buried failures of heart, experienced the leveling honesty of intensive therapy, and tried with near heroic fortitude to pave a road to holiness through the loneliness and abandonment that were his steady companions."

Linner, a freelance writer and reviewer, has a master's degree in theology from Weston Jesuit School of Theology.