Sunday, July 20, 2014

Earthly Powers

I needed a seriously good read. Something well written, with a great plot, and layers of meaning. This was more than a few months ago,when it seemed that book after book just offered a sampling of cardboard. Kaarina suggested Earthly Powers, by Anthony Burgess, saying it was one of the best books she'd ever read.

Rich! In language, plot, metaphor and meaning. It did not disappoint. Arguably Burgess' masterpiece, it examines the lives of two men with very different earthly powers. One becomes a Pope, the other an international best-selling author.

The story takes place over decades, and weaves fact and fiction very artfully, introducing characters to historical events in such a way it seems a real authobiography.
Earthly Powers is a panoramic saga of the 20th century by Anthony Burgess first published in 1980. It begins with the "outrageously provocative first sentence: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me."On one level it is a parody of a "blockbuster" novel, with the 81-year-old hero, Kenneth Toomey (allegedly loosely based on British author W. Somerset Maugham), telling the story of his life in 82 chapters. Wikipedia

As steeped in meaning and philosophy as this book was, it still managed to be entertaining.
Ultimately a very satisfying read.

I am fascinated by the juxtaposition of the sacred and profane, and this literary piece does it well. Toomey has been disowned by the Church, and disowned the Church, but still searches for goodness and meaning even at his most debauched. The one-day Pope has vices of his own. Ironic that the 'sinner' Toomey is the one that must unearth proof for the canonization of a Saint and chronicle a miracle.

1 comment:

Dick Grannan said...

Sounds like a must read....Now I know what a catamite is!
Well done.