Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Bibliographica

I'm tired of rehashing politics, so we're going to talk about books today.

currently, I'm reading The Man Who Was Thursday, by G.K. Chesterton. I'm about four chapters in and so far, very much enjoying it. My only quibble is a minor one: his depiction of Anarchists as bomb throwing nihilists bent on the death of humanity. I realize that this was the Edwardian English view of Anarchism and in some respects, not all that far from the historical mark in some cases. It strikes me though, as I have a bit of an affinity for Anarchism, especially of the ontological variety (check out the link on the side for Hakim Bey, under non-fiction). But I realize of course that Chesterton's book really isn't about Anarchism. Like I said, it's a minor quibble, one that manages to underscore my intellectual snobbery, more than anything else.

The Man Who Was Thursday is a fever dream, or "a very melodramatic sort of moonshine," as Chesterton puts it. Primarily, the story is about dualism and paradox, the flinging of oneself from one extreme to the other in violent reaction. Reaction to what is precisely the question Chesterton is asking us. Take the main character, Gabriel Syme:


He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and self-realization; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any drink between the extremes of absinthe and cocoa, of both of which he had a healthy dislike.... Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy, Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing left--sanity.


However, Syme becomes too sane and one night is recruited by a philosophical police officer to join a special anti-anarchist brigade, who search the parlors and taverns of London, looking for the roots of anti-establishment thought. In this way, Syme stumbles onto a conspiracy of Anarchists and is accidentaly elected onto their International Council (because a conspiracy of Anarchists would of course, need to have an organizational body to succeed in its goal of world inhalation). Adventure ensues.

As I said, I'm still at the beginning but I'm very much looking forward to seeing where the moonshine leads me.

So, what are you reading right now?

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