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The Kingdom

Emmanuel Carrère • 2014

Hmmmmm.

This book reminded me a lot of Postwar. That feels like an odd comparison to make; the only thing I think you can accuse both books of sharing is a specifically European lens through which to view the world. The Kingdom is strongly autofictional (and I do not like its autofiction, or perhaps I do not like the way it straddles the world between nonfiction and autobiography) whereas Postwar attempts to have a strictly noneditorial lens through which it disseminates information.

The comparison I think comes from a place where both of these books felt like seminars. Postwar was a slog at times, and yet I learned so much from it. This book, too, was — if not a slog, definitely meandering and discursive (by design!). But I learned a lot. I have not thought much about Christianity or even about faith lately, and I think Carrere's journey through the books were insightful and a great lens. He transformed me from someone who lumps in the apostles and the evangelists as all roughly interchangeable dudes into someone who knows who Paul is and who Luke is and so on. And I think the book hit moments of transcendence — the ending passages are lovely, and I think the book would have been better if he kept his story to the margins a bit more.

So, not the most well-constructed book ever. But I learned a good deal.

7/10/2021
✭✭✭
Audiobook

Highlights

Listen to me, girls: Do you know the story of the prime rib roast? A woman invites some people over for dinner. She puts a superb five-pound roast on the kitchen counter. The guests arrive, she talks with them fora while in the living room, they drink a few martinis. Then she slips out to the kitchen to prepare the roast... and sees it's disappeared. Who does she see licking the chops in a corner? The cat." "I know what happened," says the elder daughter. "All right, what?" "The cat ate the roast." "You believe that? You're not dumb, but wait. The guests come rushing in and discuss what's happened. The five-pound roast has disappeared into thin air, the cat looks happy and well-fed. Everyone concludes the same thing as you." "Then one of the guests suggests, 'What if we weighed it, just to be sure?" "They're all a bit drunk, and think it's a great idea. They take the cat into the bathroom and put it on the scale. It weighs exactly five pounds. The guest who suggested weighing the cat says, 'There you go, the numbers add up. Now we can be sure of what happened." "But then another guest scratches his head and says, 'Okay, now we know where the five-pound roast is. But then where's the cat?"
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