L’esprit d’escalier; Or, trying and failing to discuss your favorite books

I was so excited about this evening’s book group meeting. Last time, we decided to read Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, to make a change from all the depressing books we’ve been reading lately. Shortly after our discussion of the book began and some of the members expressed that they’d had a hard time getting into the book*, I told the group that it’s probably the book I’ve re-read the most. Then a member asked me why it was one of my favorite books.

My mind went blank.

Aileen Colle**

I can talk all day about books I’ve liked, hated, detested, enjoyed, etc. But it hit me in that moment: I apparently have no idea how to talk about books I love deeply. I managed to say something about how I loved the questions Good Omens posed. I first read it at a critical time, when I was about fifteen and finishing up confirmation classes. I love the humor of the book. Even after re-reading it for almost twenty years, it makes me laugh.

As I was driving home, esprit d’escalier hit me. I thought of all the things I should have said when I was asked why I love Good Omens so much. Good Omens is an integral part of how I think about religion, morality, intentions, and ethics. Yes, it’s a humorous book, but comedy does more than just make us laugh. Humor turns things upside down to reveal absurdity and dissonance. The best kind of comedy speaks truth to power. Good Omens does that by raising questions about Christianity and its eschatology.

That’s why Good Omens is one of my favorite books.

* I know!
** I think. It’s hard to read the artist’s name.

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