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Old 22nd Jul 2003, 12:03   #1
amner
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Default Book 2: THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY - discussion

We're open for discussion people!

And what's the next book, Clem?
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Old 1st Aug 2003, 16:21   #2
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Aplolgies for the first reply being so negative, but I really couldn't get into this at all - this is one of the rare books I have given up on

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Old 1st Aug 2003, 17:01   #3
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Hazel, can you let us in on exactly what it was that you didn't like?

I personally found it a fascinating little read, certainly best sped through rather than excessively mulled over. I think the end tails off a little, but many passages were laugh-out-loud funny.

Anyone else?
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Old 1st Aug 2003, 17:22   #4
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I made the grave mistake of stopping after the first four chapters and reading something different (admittedly, the entire world of literature is different in comparison to TMWWT). Trying to get back into it then was very tough.

So I guess I sympathise with both points of view. :D

At just 190 pages I should've cleared the decks and sat down and read it in one sitting (as I very nearly did with Nineteen Seventy Four). I think I'd have enjoyed it a lot more then.

There are some remarkable features about the book, which I'll remember for a long time, but the plot isn't one as I had guessed fairly early on that a) all the Council members bar Sunday were policemen and b) Sunday was the man in the dark room who recruited them. Getting to that revelation therefore proved more than a little tortuous.

The wit though, was terrific. I enjoyed the flashback to when Syme is first recruited particularly:

Quote:
"The work of the philosophical policeman," replied the man in blue, "is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed...We were only just in time to prevent the assassination at Hartlepool, and that was entirely due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smart young fellow) thoroughly understood a triolet."
Plus, how much of the sixties spy movie genre is pre-empted by this book? Amazing: pub tables that disappear into a floor/liftshaft; a vast underground lair; a flight into danger; duels; innovative chase sequences. It's all in there.

I just wish that I could've regained that immediacy after my break from it.
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Old 1st Aug 2003, 18:45   #5
columbianus Rex
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I, for one, rather enjoyed the book. There were numerous passages that I thoroughly loved, for example:
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No, take your books of mere poetry and prose, let me read a time-table, with tears of pride.
And:
Quote:
We must have several word-signs...words that we are likely to want, fine shades of meaning. My favourite word is 'coeval.' What's yours?
In fact, the whole exchange following that quotation made me chuckle in glee. I'll concede that the surprises in the book--the identity of the man in the darkness, the connection of the seven council members to the police--weren't exactly surprising; however, Chesterton's prose flowed well, and the pace of the plot never bored me.

But I do have a question to pose to the group: what is the significance of the red-headed girl, Miss Gregory? As Chesterton himself reveals, "the glory of her strange hair ran like a red thread through those dark and ill-drawn tapestries of the night." What does she (or her hair, I suppose) represent?
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Old 1st Aug 2003, 20:01   #6
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I have to say that against my expectations I thought this a fantastic book and I hooted out loud in several places (some of which have already been quoted here). I read the whole thing over a few hours on-line and was then given a copy by a friend. When I started out, I really had no idea where I was going to end up by the end. It was of course fairly unsurprising en route that the other 'days' were policemen too and that Sunday was the man in the darkened room but I still got the tension of those first unmaskings and I especially loved the Professor’s remorseless trekking of Syme across the city and the Doctor’s imitation of a real-life man. It felt a bit like a turn of the century hunt for Keyser Soze.
I got a little concerned when things took on a different pace and character in Ch 11 and a completely absurdist twist in Chapter 13 and was glad that Gregory came back in the end after the Masonic-/drug-state like bal masque. As for the red-headed Miss Gregory, I have no idea but she didn't unduly occupy my thoughts, I must say.

Dashing off to the land of the Percy's tomorrow so I hope to catch Clem's choice before I go (and pick it up in a second-hand shop on hols the next fortnight).
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Old 1st Aug 2003, 21:39   #7
Clem Feeney
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Well, I enjoyed this book. I found the varying pace quite difficult at times - the farce of the council being revealed as policemen being interupted by quite a thriling chase, into which Chesterton managed to inject his quirky humour. I don't have the required lifestyle to read even this book in a single sitting, so the breaks in reading along with the changes in pace made it quite difficult to settle with. However despite all this I found the book highly enjoyable.

While the religous element in "Brighton Rock" added something to the tone of the book, I thought the religous element in this book was more central to the work - more so than having a well worked out plot. My Penguin edition featured a comment from Chesterton at the end to explain that the final chapter was meant to be a nightmare (as is the whole book) about the character of God - he found the book was being promoted by some as presenting, in the character of Sunday, a true picture of God.

This book seems to me to be an obvious inspiration for C S Lewis, whose religous allegorys "The Great Divorce", and "Till We Have Faces" I've really enjoyed, and the humour here is reflected in Lewis's "Screwtape Letters". As to what inspired Chesterton, he seems to have a political/moral axe to grind but his literary influences are a little less obvious - he doesn't exactly follow in the George McDonald / William Morris line of fantasy writing.

Any ideas anyone?
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Old 3rd Aug 2003, 10:41   #8
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I enjoyed parts of the book, but like everyone else, the plot was telegraphed very early on. I also felt that after the move to France, the book seemed to have been written with much less care. Although sometimes very witty, Chesterton's use of the "It's not so much A that is B, but B that is A!" paradox becomes a little wearing.

I'm suprised no-one has mentioned much about the political sub-text of the book, as it occupies a fair amount of Chesterton's dialogue. The theme of Anarchy v Order is a not unusual one at this time. Conrad covered it in "Under Western Eyes" and the "The Secret Agent", for example (two excellent books, by the way), and Dostoyesky had elements of it in much of his work.

What is difficult to discern (particularly as this is the only work of his I've read), is exactly how serious about this theme Chesterton is. The farcical and dream-like nature of the book leaves me wondering whether he really is concerned about "Anarchy" or not. The notes that go with the book do suggest, however, that he was an opponent of socilaism.

Another problem is that what he actually potrays in the Council members initially, and Gregory throughout the novel, has less to do with anarchy, and more to do with nihilism. Nihilists are easy targets, but how about the anarchist (socialist?) worker struggling away in St. Petersburgh on a pittance and organising with his/her comrades for a little social justice?

Simply claiming that the "common man" has no interest in "anarchy" was much less true then than it is now. After all, this was published just two years after the abortive revolution of 1905 in Russia, led by (amongst others) Leon Trotsky.

The ending of the book I found obscure and perhaps a little disappointing, but I did like the way (however cliched it might be) he returned to the urbane normaility of just walking down a street at night.

Overall, an interesting read that I would probably never have attempted in the usual run of things.
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Old 4th Aug 2003, 11:19   #9
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Sorry have been off line over the weekend - poorly pc

I never really got far enough into it to dislike anything in particular - it just wasnt grabbing me enough to make me want to get past the first few pages
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Old 4th Aug 2003, 17:51   #10
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Quote:
Another problem is that what he actually potrays in the Council members initially, and Gregory throughout the novel, has less to do with anarchy, and more to do with nihilism.
I hear ya, Notty. Chesterton's "anarchists" are indeed nihilists; consider, for example, Gregory's explanation to Syme:
Quote:
We wish to deny all those arbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour and treachery, upon which mere rebels base themselves...
Nihilism (or at least one interpretation of it) stresses the need to destroy existing economic and social institutions to make way for better ones, whereas anarchism seeks to abolish all forms of government in favor of free agreements between individuals.
In contrast to Gregory and the Central Anarchist Council, the anarchists in Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent are true to their philosophy. As one character states:
Quote:
Capitalism has made socialism, and the laws made by capitalism for the protection of property are responsible for anarchism...
And as he later thinks:
Quote:
...He saw Capitalism doomed in its cradle, born with the poison of the principle of competition in its system...
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