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Reader's Den: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton - Week 1

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Welcome to the New York Public Library's Reader's Den, a monthly online book discussion. For July, we will be reading G.K. Chesterton's 1908 novel The Man Who Was Thursday, A Nightmare as part of Mystery Summer.

Get a free copy of the book from any of the following sources.

Download FREE ebook: 
Amazon (Kindle)
Manybooks (Kindle, Nook, PDF, other formats)

Request a library copy:
NYPL Catalog (Print)
NYPL ebook (EPUB, PDF)

Read FREE ebook online:
Project Gutenberg

Download FREE audiobook:
Internet Archive

G.K. Chesterton is perhaps best known as the author of the popular Father Brown mysteries. However, the influence of his writing can be seen in the fantastical fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, the classic PC game Deus Ex, and even in the political writings of Slavoj Žižek.

For our first discussion, let's take a look at Chapters 1-4, in which the reader is introduced to the two main characters and discovers that each man carries a rather dangerous secret. Next week, we will cover Chapters 5-8

Questions:

  1. Lucian Gregory argues that the true artist "abolishes all conventions" while the orderly Gabriel Syme insists that the most poetical thing in the world is the London subway. Do poetry and art tend towards chaos or order?
  2. The novel's humor is evident from the very first chapters. Was there a particular funny scene or line of dialogue that stood out to you?
  3. Allusions to British culture abound in the book: Ally Sloper, Joseph Chamberlain, Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Did you come across other interesting references or names, which might not be familiar to an American audience?

Comments

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thank you!!

thank you for linking to the free ebook and audiobook online! That will be extremely helpful for me since I can read (or listen to) the book at my convenience.

You're welcome

Glad you found it helpful! I'm definitely excited whenever I can find free ebooks to read online or on my Kindle. The site linked above (www.manybooks.net) has lots of other great titles in the Public Domain or available under a Creative Commons license as well.

Chapters 1-4 Response

1. I think it all depends on the intent of the poet or artist. Do they wish to work out their own personal chaos by venting and releasing their emotions and experiences by putting them on display or do they want to try to find order in creating pieces of art within strict boundaries or parameters? I think it matters what the poet or artist wants to get out of their creations. 2. I particularly enjoyed the lobster bar scene: "Excuse me if I enjoy myself rather obviously!" (Syme to Gregory)"I don't often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is new to me for a nightmare to lead me to a lobster. It is commonly the other way." The chalk milk incident with the last man known as Thursday was also very amusing. "...he died through his faith in a hygienic mixture of chalk and water as a substitute for milk." 3. One name that I did run across that I was unfamiliar with was Tim Healy--a British actor. Very much enjoying the book so far. I recommend the Modern Library ed. for those that can get their hands on this one as it includes a very interesting intro. by Jonathan Lethem.

Re: Chapters 1-4 Response

Thank you for commenting! I also found the chalk milk scene you mentioned really funny. I believe the Tim Healy mentioned in the book is actually Timothy Michael Healy, an Irish politician who served in British Parliament from 1880-1918: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Michael_Healy Glad you are enjoying the book so far!

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