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Spotlight on: The Story of B by Daniel Quinn

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Buy The Story of B by Daniel Quinn Daniel Quinn, The Story of B

I was first introduced to the writing of Daniel Quinn through my work with The Green Man Review. Back when I was regularly writing a short-story review column called "The Book of Tales," one of my favorite magazines to cover was one called The Spook (which has since left its original horror-based leanings to the wayside and morphed into Metropole). In the October/November issue of The Spook--which I reviewed in Issue the Fourth of "The Book of Tales"--they featured an excerpt from Quinn's latest (at that writing) novel, The Holy. I reviewed the excerpt as follows:

Quinn has worked on this novel for the last fifteen years, publishing other books like his Ishmael trilogy in the meantime. He says he finally felt like he could do it properly.

The excerpt is very Lynchian, so it's not surprising that it concerns a man named David. The carrier of a strange scent, he is abandoned with his car in the mountains by some hitchhikers. On his search for the way back to civilization, he comes across a stereotypical saloon, where they will not tell him what "kind" he is, although they all seem to know what kind they are. This leads to the uncovering of a corpse and a chase back to his car, ending with him falling asleep in the back seat.

I'm not sure if I enjoyed it, but I certainly wanted it to continue. Whether I pursue the book or not, I have been made curious, which, I suppose, is the purpose of an excerpt in the first place.

As I hope you can see, I liked the writing. So, when I found The Story of B for $1.00 at my local Dollar Tree, I picked it up with little reservation. (I should mention, however, that I did not get into Quinn by reading Ishmael or any of its sequels and am not a member of any of the Ishmael/Quinn societies that are cropping up all over the country. I am simply a reader of books who found one that he liked and wants to tell people about it.)

It turned out to be quite the page-turner, but not in the way you might think. We're not talking about The DaVinci Code, here, merely a book that I retained interest in from the beginning to the end--enough so that I didn't even mind being shuffled back and forth in the book to read the speeches made by "B" (as the title character is known), having to use two bookmarks in the process, something I haven't done since I read Infinite Jest.

Jared Osborne, a priest who is slowly progressing through his idea of the "50 steps of losing one's faith," has been sent to investigate a man named Charles Atterley (aka "B"), a public speaker with a large following, to see if he suits the criteria they have predetermined to be the Antichrist. Yes, I know, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you're not a Christian. Along the way, Jared listens to the speeches made by Atterley and becomes his chosen apprentice. These concepts are earth-shattering at the same time they are potentially earth-healing.

The Story of B is actually less a novel than a fictional Socratic dialogue between "B" (so named because of his practice of, like the "A" of Adultery in The Scarlet Letter, of Blasphemy) in his various manifestations and Jared, the lapsing priest. The arguments are presented convincingly and they just may be true, but I'm not sure that this book is going to change anyone's "vision" the way it would like. To me, it was simply a passable entertainment that filled time efficiently.

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