The Natural Order of Things (Keating)

This book is a masterpiece of structure. Each of the interconnected chapters takes place on or right around Halloween. And it is natural that the characters cross paths because they all have some connection to a Jesuit school in their neighborhood that I’m sure long-time Clevelanders recognize.

The stories are quite brutal. I kept coming back to Thomas Hobbes’ phrase about how life is “nasty, brutish and short.” Indeed, this seems to be the perspective throughout. In one case, Edmund, a failed student-writer with a crush on the sexually voracious editor of the literary magazine says, “All of existence is a form of plagiarism; everyone is more or less a fraud, stealing thoughts and ideas and identities. Why even the Bard himself is said to have –” (125).

And Shakespeare is everywhere. After Claude, who is having an affair (pretty much everyone is), drives away from Gonzago, a dog he has hit, “he thinks he sees the thing struggling to lift its shattered head, writhing with unimaginable suffering, doomed to take its last agonizing breath beside a pasture reeking of dog shit” (245).

Father Loomis at one point says (italics in the original): “The Kingdom of the Father is spread out upon the earth. . . but people do not see it” (294). Certainly not in this book, they don’t.

There’s talent here. I’ll likely read the next book, but if Keating insists on staying completely in darkness (I struggle to find one decent character here – maybe the barista?), that’ll be my last.

Well, a quick glance at this ( reveals that the new book, The Captive Condition, is out. I will most certainly wait for paperback.


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