Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

This novel by G. K. Chesterton was excellent. I decided to read it because somebody notable said that it is the "most thrilling book" he ever read. I don't think it was the most thrilling ever, but "delightfully adventurous" would not be inappropriate.

The book is about Syme, a new detective in Scotland Yard, who inadvertently becomes entangled in an international group of anarchists. His discoveries and attempts to foil the anarchists comprise the story. The point of the book, as it seems to me, is that we've got to undergo rough times to test our convictions before we can be sure of them or have any sort of moral authority. (Another reader of this book states that the message is that God lets bad things happen because they remind us of the importance of good things, which I can also see.) There are many twists throughout, but by about a third of the way through, I was able to predict most future twists. However, this didn't really detract from the story.

One thing that I realized while reading this is that, regardless of any ambitions I might have, I will never be a spectacular novelist because I can't create dialogue nearly as well as this guy. Dialogue seems like it must be about the hardest part of writing a book, and this one was full of diverting turns of phrase.

As I read the beginning of the book, I had all these ideas for a post analyzing the book's use of anarchy, and about how I dislike the lines about government and order being the source of all our prosperity, but they aren't really relevant after finishing the book. The "anarchy" merely symbolizes sin and evil, and it doesn't really make sense anymore to bash Chesterton's political views over this book, or even the misguided idea that the police force knows best and must be powerful enough to save us from ourselves.

One final note: the book closes on a fancy-dress ball, which is also something that appears in the Jeeves books on occasion. These sound like pretty fun times, so whither the fancy-dressing? We should have more of them (perhaps a theme for one's annual summer party...?)!


Abbie said...

Haha bubby!!! You are too funny.

Mom said...

Three thoughts:
1. You probably can't write dialogue because the average character certainly doesn't speak as charmingly as you do!
2. That would be something--having a Fancy Dress Fireworks Party!
3. I checked out three Jeeves cassettes last night when I worked at my old library.