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William C. Altreuter
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm not sure what I was reading-- The Atlantic, maybe?-- but some months back I came upon an appreciation of G.K. Chesterton, and I realized that I'd read little, if anything at all, of a writer that sounded interesting. I'm easily provoked when I encounter that kind of gap, and the author of the essay knew exactly how to get to me-- Chesterton, he wrote, was probably best known for "The Man Who Was Thursday", but there were other works that should also be read. I'd never heard of the book, and immediately wrote the title down in my little notebook so I could follow up.

Now I have done so, and damned if it isn't one of the most peculiar things I've read in a while. It starts off like a thriller in the Joseph Conrad mode, something like "The Secret Agent", and then, within about twenty pages, starts getting crazier and crazier. A table sinks into the floor, revealing a passage and a secret arsenal, and that's the last plausible thing that happens. It rocks right along, and it's exciting in post-Edwardian way, but it was odd to read on the plane-- it just kept getting weirder and weirder.

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