Friday, September 9, 2011

The Gospel of Anarchy, 44/100

Another one off my gigantic currently reading list. Finished Justin Taylor's The Gospel of Anarchy, which up until a few days ago was on sale as a 99 cent ebook from HarperCollins. Apologies! Thought I would finish it before the sale ended so I could tell you about it.

Taylor's novel is about a group of anarchists (punks, hippies, etc.) who become anarChristians -- defiers of authority who somehow end up following the biggest authority of all. The idea itself is really interesting. Even the title brings together two contradictory elements, and many reviewers have admitted they bought the book on title alone.

I had a really difficult time judging just how serious this novel was. The descriptions, thoughts, and actions of the anarchists seemed so much like caricature that I spent the majority of the book thinking it was a parody. Looking back I suppose it was in earnest. And if not a parody, then all the long-winded discussions over philosophy, the bad poetry, the railings over people who actually buy food, the existential conversations with no one...are no longer funny, but just incredibly boring. Like sticking your head into a room of high first-year philosophy majors and being forced to listen to their ramblings. All I'm really hearing is "blah blah the man blah blah bourgeoisie blah blah oh man you should hear them live they're so much better live."

And then the plot. Or the lack thereof. Not that there has to be a plot, but when the door is wide open for a really great one, it's so disappointing when it never emerges. With a group of anarchists forming their own religion, I thought sure it would turn into a story bent on exposing the fallacy behind creating faith. The human faults would shine through and the anarchists themselves would become the rulers, the -archists if you will. Kind of like a religious Animal Farm. But no..

Instead the novel takes itself way too seriously, and the plot becomes seriously muddled when Taylor throws in some supernatural events -- visions, pre-cognition,...spontaneous combustion -- affirming the religion and making the reader go "huh whaa now?"

That isn't to say the novel was a waste of time. Taylor's writing is masterful and his style unique. He flows in and out of tense and POV mid-paragraph, and he makes it work. It's a style I've never really encountered and I like it a lot. I have a feeling I'll be checking out his short story collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, soon.

And I really liked one of the final revelations he provides: one of the characters decides to vote in the presidential election, going against her anarchist roots, and the fact that "voting is more than a waste of time, it's irresponsible." Turns out it's the 2000 election. And she votes for Nader. And she's in Gainsville, Florida. D'OH. I'm certain this fact is meant to expose the real theme behind the book. But I'll have to think over it.

What I DO know is ever since reading the first chapter I've been inexplicably craving a dumpster-dived vegan falafel pita sandwich. Despite how unappetizing the description of it was. I'm no stranger to dumpster finds -- they make up half of my apartment furnishings -- but I draw the line at food. Craving denied.

Finally, here's a passage I liked:

Thomas's plate is blue. He passes through the kitchen, grabs three beers from the case in the fridge--all with his left hand, the bottlenecks between his fingers--and takes his spoils back to his room, hip-bumping the cracked door wide, then nudging it closed behind himself with a foot. He puts everything down except for one beer, twists the cap off, and lets the little puckered button fall. He turns his stereo on, punches PLAY on the tape deck, and sort of half sits half drops to his own floor while the speakers hiss. He leans his back against his bed, reaches up behind his head and feels around for the plate. Maybe-Cindy didn't give him a fork. Ah fuck it. Poison Idea is singing "Death Wish Kids" at stun-gun volume and Thomas is eating liberated cake with his bare hands.

Image by Kevin Thomas from The Rumpus.

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