Well, that sounds rather grim. Actually, I’m caught up once again in the plot of a very well-written, mind-blowing book.
You need to know that somebody was writing stuff like this back in 1908:
That’s from The Man Who Was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton, the book I spoke of last week.
Chesterton – ordinarily a very logical if expressionistic writer – called it a nightmare and took offense at some reviewers who found this or that meaning in it.
I think the nightmare he referred to may have been the confusion that accompanied his struggles with faith in his younger years – a journey he documented very well in Orthodoxy.
He didn’t use the term “moral equivalency” or coin it (as far as I know), but that does sum up part of what The Man Who Was Thursday is about.
Fair is fair
I promised to do The Man Who Was Thursday last week (after reviewing a book that lightheartedly romps into some very Christian territory) because GKC goes after a flavor of my own faith: Northern Buddism (I’m actually a Southern, or Theravadan, Buddhist).
Fair is fair.
Back at the turn of the 20th century, it seems, some of the influential elite in Britain took a superficial liking to parts of Buddhism, and Chesterton just found this to be awful.
In Thursday, his physical description of the ultimate good/ultimate bad character fits that of the Great Buddha of Kamakura.
This person ultimately ends up leading his disciples/arresting officers (they’re the same people) on a hansom chase through London, throwing “koans” at them before he escapes in a hot air balloon (GKC doesn’t call them koans – he calls them crumpled pieces of paper with nonsense written on them).
Did I mention this story is mind-blowing? That’s actually one of the saner parts and is actually rather “Zen” in its own right.
Gaiman and Pratchett were right: Chesterton did know what was going on.
Chesterton’s understanding of Northern Buddhism is woven into the very structure of this tale. As usual, he’s merciless: on Buddhism, his society, himself, and his confusion.
It’s also a wonderfully entertaining action adventure, believe it or not, though not as lighthearted as last week’s Good Omens was.
Wikipedia takes a stab at describing its plot (and falls short).
Though I’ve read it many times before, I decided to run through it again before writing a post. This time through, it’s easy to substitute “anarchist” with “terrorist” (the 21st century equivalent), and if you do that, well…!
I’m still in the merry-go-round, and will try to say something intelligent about it next Thursday.
Categories: Thursday Lit