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The Man Who Was Thursday - G.K. Chesterton

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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-03-10 02:28 PM
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The Man Who Was Thursday - G.K. Chesterton
This is an old book - written in 1908. So, how do I come to be reading it now? Well, I was reading a book, The Monstrosity of Christ, a debate between Slavoj Zizek, a Slovenian philosopher and atheist, and John Milbank, a theologist. A debate about reason, hegelian dialectics, and theology. The book is slow-going with dense philosophical prose. Zizek's argument is first, and it runs to about 100 pages. Somewhere around page 40, Zizek starts to talk about Chesterton and this book. He has multiple excerpts and extensive comments on each excerpt. This book gets to the heart of the debate between Zizek and Milbank.

Zizek's first excerpt from the book:

When I first saw Sunday ... I only saw his back; and when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. His neck and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had a stoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had at once the revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast dressed up in man's clothes. ... And then the queer thing happened. I had seen his back from the street, as he sat in the balcony. Then I entered the hotel, and coming round the other side of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me as it did everyone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful, because it was so good. ... When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the back is only a jest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be explained.

I was suddenly possessed with the idea that the blind, blank back of his head really was his face - an awful, eyeless face staring at me! And I fancied that the figure running in front of me was really a figure running backwards, and dancing as he ran.


After reading these excerpts and Zizek's comments on them, I knew I had to read this book. I knew I couldn't complete the current book before going out and buying it.

Barnes and Noble has this book new for as cheap as $4.00.

Here's a review from revish

The Man Who Was Thursday is one of those books, like The Borribles or The Name of the Rose, that you're vaguely aware of, you think might be cool, but you end up never getting around to reading because there just doesn't seem to be A Way In. It's not like you'll have your feet up in front of Emmerdale and something makes you go 'Ah, that reminds me - I've always wanted to read The Man Who Was Thursday. I'll order it off Amazon now.'

Which is a shame, because it's a very special book.Like PG Wodehouse or Elmore Leonard, GK Chesterton just has a wonderful, fun way with a sentence. He's the kind of guy who could write six paragraphs about European farm subsidies and make you come away wanting to dance the tango in your living room. But the action here is far from dull. TMWWT* is about a clever young man who infiltrates a secret society of deadly anarchists - each named after a day of the week. Can our hero keep his head, his identity and his life in the face of Europe's most grotesque and sinister murderers?

All of which is amazing. But it's not really what TMWWT is about. The ruse leads the hero through a maze-like plot which is pretty much entirely composed of twists. You'll be on the edge of your seat as he tracks down each member of the gang and tackles their unique brand of evil head-on. But somewhere around the middle of this short novel, you spot a pattern. A very large pattern that makes the plot as stylised as the dialogue. A plot which is insane, infuriating and brilliant, and which will have you smiling like a Cheshire Cat as you turn each page. If I gave it away here I'd be the world's biggest bastard, but it's fair to say that it's unique in the world of literature. To put it bluntly, Chesterton has written a book about the pursuit of God.

There's something enticingly movie-like about the novel, what with all the chases around London, special effects (including a memorable elephant), sword fights, dreamscape countryside and constant mortal peril. But like all that's good about Chesterton, it also has a devil-may-care, winsome, romantic streak a mile wide. If it was going to be a film, it should have been directed by Hitchcock, starring a Princess Bride-era Cary Elwes, and Orson Welles. And it would be a classic.


At the end of the review, it says, "Go buy this book." I second that.


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