Intellectual hooligans: Fun with The Thought Gang

The Thought Gang is a zany  picaresque novel by the British writer Tibor Fischer.  The story follows the freewheeling adventures of a neurotic sophist as he turns to robbing banks, and his plucky sidekick, an older gentleman with a gift for gab.  It’s basically a long shaggy-dog story, with tons of jokes that run together, but with a subversive, provocative core.  The narrator is a self-proclaimed philosopher, who’s taken the time to learn more than any man should know about philosophy, then uses his collected wisdom to better himself by robbing banks.  Every action he takes, although they seem entirely devoid of thought, he manages to support by some philosophical reasoning.  Very cleverly, Fischer destroys the high-reputation of philosophers by poking fun at how pliable their theories are.  

Tibor Fischer as an author can be lumped in with Martin Amis, Julian Barnes (in his younger years), and Will Self as well-read, edgy satirists whose works are filled with words you barely recognize.  Fischer takes it a step further by including more words with the letter z than I’ve ever heard, and some that are likely made up.

This would be a good book to read alongside Iris Murdoch’s A Severed Head.  Fischer takes apart the conventions of philosophy in a way that’s similar to Murdoch’s dismembering of pop psychology.  Murdoch, as a philosopher, would likely resent Mr. Fischer’s book though.

One final warning though, there are some raunchy bits in here, so it’s not a book for the kids.  If you can handle Amis’s risque scenes, you can handle this.  The only flaw with this worth pointing out is that there’s portions where I couldn’t follow the plot at all, and there were flashbacks that I couldn’t divine the importance of in the greater story.

If you like The Thought Gang, you might also enjoy

The Pregnant Widow, by Martin Amis

Remainder, by Tom McCarthy

buy my book on Amazon! Pretty cheap too!


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