carter beats the devil. [books.]

I’ve been utterly spoiled by great books lately.

The trick was, late last year and early this year I took the time I always waste on the interweb and put it to better use by surfing around, finding as many “Best Books of the Decade” lists as I could get my greedy little hands on.

My desire was to find great fiction. I scoured the lists; anything that looked remotely interesting got added to my own meta-list. Books that kept showing up on list after list got added whether they looked interesting to me or not. It’s called expanding your horizons people, try it some time.

The next step was waiting until we made a lovely little trip down to Portland, where I could visit Powell’s.

Have you heard of Powell’s?

If not, here is the gist.

It is the world’s largest new and used book store. It is called Powell’s City of Books, and that isn’t even hyperbole. I’m pretty sure they have a mayor, and not a Foursquare Mayor, like a real elected official.

You know that part in the Bible when it says Eden was hidden and blocked by a flaming sword so no one could get there? Bullshit. God just moved Eden to Oregon and renamed it Powell’s City of Books. However, that is for another post.

So, anyway, I’ve been reaping the benefits of the project described above all year. First was Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, which I wrote about here. Then there was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, The Road, and The Book Thief, which were all awesome. I will write about them soon.

Most recently I finished Carter Beats the Devil.

“‘You know what the hardest thing is?’ Phoebe said, as the first pair of fireworks went up. ‘The hardest thing is to know everything you know so far and still have faith.'”

It was pretty wonderful. It’s about a magician, Carter the Great, from San Francisco during the American Prohibition era. Carter beat the Devil is the name of one of his magic tricks (they’re called illusions Michael!).

Anyway, in the story, President Harding attends one of Carter’s shows, then mysteriously dies the next day. That is when our adventure begins.

The story jumps back to Carter’s beginnings as a magician, and offer really satisfying characters and three great acts, each of which stands alone pretty well.

All of the characters in the book were real people. Carter the Great, President Harding, inventor and television pioneer Philo Farnsworth, BMW engineering genius Max Friz, etc. etc. etc. Glen David Gold then takes said real life characters, uses real life events as touchstones, then makes up everything that happens in the middle, always muddying the lines between fiction and reality.

“Faith was a choice. So, it followed, was wonder.”

For me, the book helped me remember that without wonder, curiosity, and community, we die. The story was also a really great playground for thoughts about chaos and order, meaning and meaninglessness, loneliness, love and grief, and most of all the fact that when you figure out where the world is carefully put together, it is the cracks and spaces where mystery and magic live, where God lives.

“even he had to admit that God’s plan was infinitely odd — the most mysterious element of them all, joy, could enter this life profanely.”

Great read! I add my endorsement to those that led me to read it to begin with.

2 Responses to “ carter beats the devil. [books.] ”

  1. towardeverywind

    i look forward to reading this! for all my dumb jokes about the book being made into the movie “get carter”, I am now firmly intrigued after reading your post. take a scott small endorsement seriously, people!

  2. […] a result of my attempt to find the best books of the last decade, which I describe in more detail here. It’s been on my ‘to read’ shelf for a while, but then my friend Kj saw the new […]