The Sir Toby Chronicles
Every day a book review! This time, two books – a shorter companion volume to Crossways - Journeyings into the Emergent (see post below) completing the Sir Toby’s narratives introduced therein, and a longer volume bringing together all seven Sir Toby’s narratives to date.
The Sir Toby Chronicles recount the adventures of a group of theologians who gather occasionally at the backpackers’ hostel of that name (Sir Toby’s) in Prague, to debate arcane matters of eschatology. A shifting number form a cabal, which engages itself on a mysterious task known as The Project – an attempt, apparently, to launch a postmodern theology for a church in a postmodern world. The plan is complicated by the constantly changing and evolving relationships between members of the cabal – which styles itself as a triumvirate, sometimes expanding to a pentavirate. Their schemings, machinations, internal feuds and conspiracies propel the story forward, as it bursts forth into a pan-European drama ranging from the Middle East to Finland’s Arctic Circle. We are taken on a whirlwind tour of Prague, Oxford (England), Paris, London, Cyprus, the author’s home town and countryside (Guildford and Surrey, England), the French Pyrenees, Lebanon, modern-day Israel and Venice, until the drama reaches an explosive conclusion in the Arctic wastes of Finnish Lapland.
On the way, we are introduced to a community which reflects some of the wide-ranging interests of Open Source Theology itself, and the characters bearing a vague resemblance to some of the contributors. The historical period is indeterminate; a medieval setting also has overtones of Kafka’s late Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the story collides with present day realities. Despite the plots and stratagems, something like an inclusive community is suggested through Sir Toby’s, where misfits of all kinds and their opposing viewpoints can find a welcoming shelter.
Do the seven narratives conclude The Chronicles? Given the Trappist’s astonishing ability to elude death through the murderous stratagems of the others in the cabal, it seems somewhat unlikely.
It remains to be said that The Chronicles are collaborative in intent, sometimes in practice, and tribute must be paid to John Doyle who contributed about one fifth of the total, and set the course in the early stages for the narratival development.
The Sir Toby Chronicles can be obtained from lulu.com at a recession-busting £2.93 (US$4.12) for the shorter, found here, and all seven stories for £4.31 (US$6.00) found here at cost price. Ideal reading material for those long sleepless nights, or delays at airports.