The Man Who was Thursday, by G. K. Chesterton, is one of the greatest books many people will never read.
After posting my thoughts on Job, I revisited Thursday. I often do this: I have it on my computer, on my kindle, and a physical copy (although that never gets used anymore). I’ve read it more times than I can count, whether from the first page to the last, or just random bits and pieces here and there. And I wanted to talk about it, because I think you should read it: Yes, you. I don’t care who you are, I don’t even care if you’ve read it before. You should read it.
He wrote it in 1908. Years later, writing The Everlasting Man in 1925, Chesterton would say, “It is impossible, I hope, for any Catholic to write any book on any subject… without showing that he is a Catholic.” Although he wrote Thursday long before this statement–indeed, long before even his official conversion to Catholicism–it is clear that this sentiment was already alive and well in Chesterton in 1908. In Chesterton’s own words, the book was “a protest against the pessimism of the ‘nineties. And though I didn’t know much about God, I was ready to stick up for Him against the jury of Cockney poets who had brought Him in guilty.”
It was the second of Chesterton’s books that I had the pleasure of reading: Manalive was the first, coming into my freshman year at Biola, and for more than a year I failed to appreciate its brilliance. Then I read it again, and immediately I knew that I had to find more of Chesterton.
We found Thursday on Amazon.com, my mother and I. “That one!” I said, and *click*, *click*, *click* and “It’ll be here in two days,” my mom said (Amazon Prime is truly a marvelous thing). And then it was there, and I read it all in one afternoon.
I still remember the first time I read it, now about four years ago. I was sitting on the couch upstairs at my parent’s house (although back then it was also my house). It started out as a poetical dual between two poets, quickly becoming a tale of the Last Crusade, the last heroes of the world and their fight against anarchy.
And suddenly it wasn’t that, anymore.
I distinctly remember the exact moment it ceased to be a suspenseful detective story about the end of the world and became… something else. I remember the thrill — even now, chills are running down my spine as I remember it. I had been leaning–no, lounging–back against the couch, but at some point I found I had arched forward, hunched over the book, eyes racing over words and pages towards I-knew-not-what.
And then the moment… that amazing, incredible moment when everything comes together and even if you don’t understand, you know that there is something absolutely marvelous there, something beautiful and amazing and terrible… the book slipped from my fingers, falling to the floor, and I likewise fell backwards into the cushions, head tilting back to stare at the ceiling, breathing “holy crap” to the empty room.
And then, after a minute, I picked it back up and read the ending again. Then I turned a few pages back and finished it a third time. This is burned into my memory. I remember it clear as day: I relive it, to a lesser degree, when I re-read the book now.
You see, I can’t just tell you what’s so marvellous about it. That would be to rob you of that moment, when the book punches you right in the heart, soul, and mind. But I did want tell you to read it. I’m not going to say you need to read The Man Who was Thursday. But I think you should. I think you will greatly enjoy it. I think you will profit from it immensely. And as you read it, think of Job.