Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare" by G. K. Chesterton

Curses! I read this book weeks ago and I'm just now blogging about it. That's never good. I remember that I enjoyed reading it, but that doesn't help much. I remember thinking it was a (nearly) perfect story for me, which is always nice. (It was only nearly perfect because somewhere about the middle it devolved into a surreal chase scene, which kind of lost my interest, but it picked up again after that.) I remember I was fascinated by the utter strangeness of it.

But beyond that my memory gets a bit sketchy. My vague recollection is that this is the story of two poets: Lucian Gregory, an anarchist hiding in plain sight; and Gabriel Syme, recruited by Scotland Yard to pose as an anarchist and infiltrate the secretive (and oxymoronic) Central Anarchist Council under the code name Thursday.

The story alone is quite entertaining, but Chesterton adds some interesting statements about the nature of the apparent chaos of the universe. Contrary to what anarchists and existentialists would have us believe, Chesterton makes the point that mere chance doesn't have any real bearing on our lives--that all life is dictated by divinely inspired order.

And that's as far as my memory goes (without delving into spoilers, anyway). Not much of a review, I know, but it's the best a literary amnesiac can do. At least I can leave you with a couple of quotes that struck me by their peculiar expressiveness:

"The young man with the long, auburn hair and the impudent face--that young man was not really a poet; but surely he was a poem."

"This particular evening, if it is remembered for nothing else, will be remembered in that place for its strange sunset. It looked like the end of the world."


Cozy in Texas said...

I stopped by your blog today.

Enbrethiliel said...


This is one of my favourite books ever! It was even my favourite novel for a while--but then I reread my teenage favourite Jane Eyre and that one won out again. =)

I agree that the chase is very surreal and hard to take seriously. It's the ending, when all the members of the Council have been unmasked and then dressed in those ceremonial robes (I believe this is the novel in which Chesterton writes about costumes that don't conceal but reveal) that I love the most.

Kathy said...

Ann--thanks for stopping by, and for letting me know! Hope you enjoyed your visit. :)

Enbrethiliel--so great to hear this book is one of your favorites. Have you read anything else by Chesterton?

Enbrethiliel said...


Yes! =D I've read a lot of his Father Brown short stories, the novels The Napoleon of Notting Hill, Manalive!, The Flying Inn, and The Club of Queer Trades, a bunch of his essays, and practically all of his poetry. That's why it's always fun for me when I see a review of one of his books on a blog. =)

His plots do tend to spiral into weirdness as they do in Thursday. =P It's not easy to find the right blend of the realistic and the mythical--and when you vastly prefer the mythical but are writing in a genre that has been given over to the realistic, you're bound to sound a bit crazy for chapters at a time. Which he does!

Kathy said...

I'm still kind of undecided as to whether I should read more of Chesterton. But I could do with being fascinated by utter strangeness again!