The Gospel of Anarchy by Justin Taylor
Published by Harper Perennial, an imprint of Harper Collins
Disillusioned with his empty and unfulfilling existence, David accidentally finds a new life while walking aimlessly late one night. When he finds an old friend, Thomas, digging through a dumpster to find uneaten sandwiches to take back to his anarchists’ collective, David returns with him, determined to find anything more meaningful than work at a call center and internet porn. At Fishgut, Thomas’s home, David finds himself becoming involved with two women, Katy and Liz, and the religious fervor which has grown up around a former housemate who has disappeared, and of which Katy is the champion.
In “The Gospel of Anarchy,” Justin Taylor has written a beautiful book about human weakness and our desire to connect and grow, our need for something bigger than ourselves. I am as surprised as anyone to call a book beautiful that has, in the beginning of the first chapter, an extensive scene regarding a character’s porn-viewing habits, but David’s pain and self-loathing is manifest in that scene, and his desire to change his life and his circumstances is incredibly moving. None of the characters are particularly likable, but they are written with such empathy and they are so indicative of the human spirit that they are impossible to ignore. Perhaps these characters have different vices than most of us, but they are no more flawed than we are and, like all of us, deeply long for physical and spiritual connection.
One thing that works very well in “The Gospel of Anarchy” is Taylor’s hodgepodge of styles. Within chapters the point of view changes from character to character, from first person for David to third person for the rest of the housemates. At one point, the tense even changes between past and present. Considering this entire book is about anarchists, however, this added to the veracity of the story being told and, surprisingly, managed not to be distracting.
Highly recommended, but definitely not for everyone. I love it as an exploration of the role of religion and human connection in our lives, but sensitive readers may be turned off by some of the language and sexuality.
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