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Alright, +Matthew Clayfield. THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY. Lay it on me. Whatever one thinks of it, there is plenty to think, and I always like hearing it.
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Chris Bowyer's profile photoMatthew Clayfield's profile photo
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The man can certainly turn a phrase, and turn it economically; after reading Heller, who sometimes overdoes his descriptions, it was refreshing to read prose that conjured crystal clear imagery in the mind with the least number of words possible. I also liked that the characters were always drinking. They would have felt right at home in Hemingway. It's a rollicking ride, of course, and often very amusing. I like that Chesterton checks his characters' ethical earnestness (which I found grating, unsurprisingly) by also making them, in Sunday's words, jackasses.

The things that I found problematic were the things I was always going to find problematic. While I don't think much of anarchism or nihilism as philosophies, I don't think much of their crude conflation, either. Anarchism is not a death-loving philosophy in the way that nihilism can be in the hands of certain fanatics. (The talk of civilisational war was eerily relevant.) In purely narrative terms, the book's variety and absurdity of incident, as well as its rip-roaring pace, were nevertheless compromised by its mounting predictability: even the denouement was obvious, even if its full import and meaning were not.

It may surprise you to know that I didn't actually have a problem with the religious stuff at all, except, perhaps, Syme's early contention that "we are all Catholics now" or whatever the hell he said. ("Speak for yourself, Syme," I thought.) I knew what I was getting into when I picked up the book, and it wouldn't be very fair of me to complain that a Christian apologist apologised too much for Christianity. In fact, I thought he handled himself well: the ambiguity of the six detectives' relationship with Sunday was very nicely rendered, and honest, and the fact that the mystery never really feels like it's been solved serves as a nice allegorical grace note.

It's certainly the kind of book we could discuss for a long time. Although one thing in particular confused me. You said you couldn't figure out how to put the last two chapters on film. I personally didn't see what the problem was. You've never been to a fancy dress party?

(Actually, I thought Dr Bull's quoting of scripture was too much. It was fairly obvious who Gregory was supposed to represent. I was surprised that Syme was walking with him when he came to.)
 
Sorry I haven't replied to this. Been busy and I had to reacquire a copy I'd lent out to check on something. Response coming in the near future.
 
Yeah, pretty lame of me to take so long to respond to this. Sorry.

Re: the relationships to Sunday. I think Chesterton makes a deeply, deeply important point that he, Lewis, and their Christian ancestors all understood, but which has almost completely disappeared in the last half-century among Christians: the idea that God is (and should be) somewhat terrifying. That He is not only fuzzy and warm and lovey love lovingness, but that any honest assessment of our merit resting in the shade of such a being ought to be, on some level, repulsive to us, and look more like an enemy than a savior at first.

Re: anarchism and nihilism. I only sort of agree. Strictly speaking, you are correct: an anarchist is not death-loving. But it is, to my mind, about the death of humanity. It's about returning man to some perceived feral state that I don't think he has ever actually belonged to, and which is therefore impossible to revert to. To any person who values human rationality, they might as well be the same thing. Both are the death of what it means to be human, even if the former isn't as literal as the latter.

Re: drinking. Yes, Chesterton was a convivial fellow. A Christian who really believed reality was here for us to enjoy, and not to shun or scorn. And I think that comes through in his writing.

Re: film adaptation. It's not a problem in a strictly literal sense, but I think, as a narrative, it just sort of stops. I have no problem with the book or the points it's making (which is does with grace and humor and powerful symbols). But it masquerades as an actual story up until the very end, at which point it pretty much ceases to resemble one. I feel like that would render it inacessible for many. I suppose I prefer my theological narratives to STAY narratives, and to keep their symbolism symbolic. Usually.

By the by, I just finished THE BALL AND THE CROSS, and it might appeal to you more. It's about a Christian and an Atheist who want to duel to the death. So consider this a white glove slap challenge to read it, too. En garde.
 
Also: CRIME AND PUNISHMENT! How much were you jesting when you said you felt like Raskolnikov? Also, did you hate the epilogue? I was thinking you might. Also, should this be its own "thread"?
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