Books That Haunt: The Man Who Was Thursday

Each Tuesday, until I decide otherwise, TruePravda will feature a different book in the Books That Haunt series.

If there was ever a more intriguing book title than G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, I have yet to find it. With the exception of Friday in Robinson Crusoe and Joe Friday in Dragnet, I don’t even recall any other characters named for the days of the week, much less titles. In Chesterton’s case, the days of the week are code names for members of the Central Anarchist Council, a kind of terrorist group of the day. Gabriel Syme is recruited to infiltrate the Anarchist Council by taking the place of Thursday, which has been recently vacated. The Council is lead by Sunday, an enormous, mysterious figure who is so large that the reader, much less Syme has a difficult time seeing all of his enormity at one time.

This is the type of book in which if I said more about the plot, I’d be giving too much away. I will say, however, that Chesterton’s prose in this book can be described as sharp, witty, pithy, and and full of irony and sarcasm. The story itself both exciting and profound.

The reason I find this book “haunting” (Chesterton himself labeled it “A Nightmare”) is that its theological and philosophical implications will stay with the reader for a long time to come. Chesteron explores the issues of divine sovereignty and the problem of evil in a fun way that leaves the reader breathless and bemused—all the while evoking laughter. I approached The Man Who Was Thursday as if it were a mere foxhole, yet I found myself at the end standing over a vast cliff. The depth of the book sneaks up on the reader in a surprising way.

I realize that this is a pretty vague review, but this is the kind of novel one just needs to read without knowing too much about it. Perhaps now your appetite is whet for a haunting…

Books That Haunt: Introduction

There are actually some people who think that fiction is a waste of time. Only books that have “real” meaning should be explored, they say, and the wistful realm of the ficticious is merely a chasing after idols. I am not one of those people. I believe that works of fiction—good works, mind you, can indeed convey truth. There are some works that can do it so well that the truth of the work can stay with the reader long after the reading is done.

I’ve read several works of fiction that continue to “haunt” me to this day. I do not mean haunt in the sense of a Stephen King or Anne Rice novel, rather I mean that there are times when I can not stop thinking about the messages and implications of these books—even books I’ve finished years ago.

So, in a veiled attempt to exorcize some of these books that haunt me, I’ll be doing a series in the coming weeks on this blog in which I will share with you some of my hanutings. I intend to give brief reviews of these books, and I’ll be careful to be spoiler-free.

Most of the books that do “haunt” me are novels that have some spiritual or theological dimension to them. They are hardly ever polemical in nature, but they communicate truths by making evident the outworkings of ideas. Though we should never take a work of ficiton as dogma, I believe that fiction is an excellent vehicle for forcing us to grapple with the ultimate questions of life as we see them played out in the lives of the characters.

Stay tuned, because the hauntings will soon begin…