Category Archives: Books

…our elephant has leapt into the sky…

My plan was to write a blog post about each chapter of The Man Who Was Thursday, but when I sat down to read the first chapter, I couldn’t stop reading, and so here I am having finished the book over a month ago and I have not written a single blog post.

In my previous post, I mentioned that after my first reading, the style of the book left more of an impression on me than the story, and I can say now that’s still the case. The story flies from one scene to the next with reckless abandon, so it’s hard to analyze chapter by chapter. And now that it’s been a month since I’ve finished it, all I’m left with are vague impressions and scenes. I’m not sure I can articulate why I enjoyed this book. All I’ll say is this: it’s short, it’s funny, it’s worth reading.

And it’s in the public domain, which means it’s available on Project Gutenberg, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etcetera for free.

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…a nightmare…

Several years ago I read The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton. I recall enjoying the style of Chesterton’s witty, whimsical prose and appreciating the absurdity of the situations and characters. My impression of the novel at that time was so favorable that when asked, I usually listed it alongside The Lord of the Rings and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell as one of my favorite books. I haven’t read it since then, but it comes up in conversation occasionally, and it turns out reactions to the book are mixed. I told my brother-in-law that I finished the book thinking “that was pretty awesome.” He said when he finished reading it he wanted to kick it across the room. Clearly a book that warrants revisiting.

Here’s what I remember about the book:  When it begins, the main character’s goal is to infiltrate a club of anarchists. As the story progresses it becomes clear that Things Are Not As They Seem, and Chesterton settles into a series of (intentionally?) repetitive revelations. By the final chapter, the events in the story (and the prose itself) descend into a flurry of anarchic absurdity. At the end, the story that Chesterton has told is vastly different than the one hinted at in the beginning.

The biggest impression the book left on me was Chesterton’s willingness to throw all pretense of realistic storytelling out the window and embrace sheer absurdity. I read the book around the same time I read Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, (in which Superman sings an enemy into oblivion and a giant rabbit, pig, and poodle stand alongside the angels at the final battle) so my tolerance for and appreciation of utter zaniness was probably at an all-time high at that point. In retrospect, I don’t know what actual purpose that absurdity served, or even what the real point of the story was.

So I’m going to re-read the book and post my thoughts here, chapter by chapter. I wonder if I’ll still think it’s awesome, or if instead I’ll want to kick it across the room.

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