I was feeling rather cranky about Charles Dickens and his influence after finishing Drood, but finally getting around to G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday has kind of restored my faith in the age (and actually in retellings of Paradise Lost, too, seriously shaken after His Dark Materials). Thursday is one of those books that falls in a funny interstitial space: classic, but not necessarily classic enough to be required reading; slight, but still somewhat time-consuming.But it’s very, very good, one of the funnier social satires I’ve read in a long time and perhaps, ever. It gets a what I think often doesn’t quite work in Christopher Buckley’s work, which is that Buckley’s scenarios aren’t necessarily crazy enough, they’re creatures of the world he’s parodying even as he posits himself as an outsider. Chesterton has as his subjects political anarchy and rebellion against God, and manages, even within that extraordinarily broad continuum, to be sort of delightfully zany. The novella has all the benefits of the age’s ridiculousness, and very few of its disadvantages. If I’m being vague here, it’s mostly because the book really benefits from the first sharp initial surprise, and then the surprises that become predictable but pleasurable. I highly recommend it if you’re going to be on a plane for a couple of hours this holiday season. And of course, Cryptonomicon. Book club up next!
Classics for a Reason