The Left Hand of God trilogy has kept me thinking. I fell hard from book one and Hoffman has kept me going all the way through The Beating of His Wings. I have had to take a couple of days to digest the series properly. Hoffman’s essay at the end of The Beating of His Wings added to my thinking cauldron.
There is something devastating about having reality thrown in my face. What really started me thinking was Hoffman’s description of his Catholic school being less than two miles from Oxford. That got me thinking about my trip to New York ages ago. I’m the kind of person that easily gets distracted from staying on the short and narrow. My mom and I wandered off the beaten path a couple of blocks and started encountering the homeless. Just two blocks away from a regular business street people had to live on the street. That started me thinking about other cities where there are so many homeless that they are everywhere. Cities where the level of crime is so high and the police are part of the criminal world. Onward my thinking went to the discoveries made at the Dozier School for Boys or the abuse found to be rampant in Catholic schools and orphanages.
Back to The Beating of His Wings. What Mr. Hoffman does is hold up a mirror to society. Sure he wraps it in post-apocalyptic paper, but he is basically saying: see the world as it really is. I have friends who claim that my view of the world is too dark. After all, they themselves have not seen or experienced the underbelly of society. What my friends do not realize is that the underbelly of society is in fact the part of the ice-berg that is below water and that they live in the tiny part that remains above the water line. Perhaps one needs to experience the darker side of humanity in order to appreciate just how much space it takes. Or maybe we have to take a closer look at ourselves and our own potential for darkness. I have never really had need or my darker side once I was old enough that I realized it was there. Now, though! I might not have the abilities of the trio of Cale, Henry or Kleist, nor the power or influence of the Materazzi or Vipond, but the wells are there.
While reading all three books I have felt kinship with our trio struggling for survival. They are so incredibly damaged but no more damaged than a great many children of today. And why is the world like this? Well, in the world of Hoffman we see the old story of fanaticism and greed or corruption and power-hunger. On the side-lines are all of the victims of these four drugs, victims whose only concern is survival by any means. And who among us would be able to stay true to our morals and standards once our lives or the lives of our loved ones were on the line?
I sometimes wish the world was different, but perhaps it is as Idris Pukke says to Thomas Cale:
In the paradise that you’ve decided to believe in as your ultimate goal everything comes to you without much trouble and the turkeys fly around ready-roasted – but what would become of people even much less troublesome than you in such a happy place? Even the most pleasant-natured person would die of boredom or hang themselves or get into a fight and kill or be killed by someone who is even more driven to madness by the lack of struggle. Struggle has made us what we are and has suited us to the nature of things so that no other existence is possible. You might as well take a fish out of the sea and encourage it to fly.
- Paperback: 512 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (16 Jan 2014)
- Language: Unknown
- ISBN-10: 0141042400
- ISBN-13: 978-0141042404
4 thoughts on “Hoffman, Paul: The Beating of His Wings (The Left Hand of God III) (2014)”
I love authors who hold a mirror to society in a way that takes us out of our taken for granted ways of seeing. Especially when it’s wrapped in post-apocalyptic paper.
Me too. It hurts but in a good way.
I love these books; it is hard to find something that uses the stuff of history and life so poignantly. I think “devastating” is the right word. I am someone who is often loath to recommend books to people – especially “fantasy” books, about which people can have some very odd opinions – but this is a trilogy I think everyone should read.
PS Thanks for the link-back!