Paul Kingsnorth and the Truer Path of Worship

Beast gives us a contemporary parable that illustrates loss and breakdown in a single individual. This narrator, one Edward Buckmaster, is from the same part of eastern England as his previous protagonist. Having abandoned his family to squat in a run-down farmhouse on the moors of Western England, the narrator seeks re-enchantment, in Weber’s sense: “I need to be in the places where the light comes through, where people are thin on the ground, where the old spirits still mutter in the hedges and the stone rows” (10). Buckmaster rejects the empty, dead, asphalt-paved world from which he comes, but at the same time, he has left a wife and a newborn daughter behind. It is the human cost of this attempt to gain an Archimedean vantage point on the world which leads Kingsnorth’s narrator to conclude,

Nothing is really clear, but this no longer seems to matter. I once thought that my challenge was to understand everything, to build a structure in my mind that would support all that I experienced in the world. But there is no structure that will not fall in the end and crush you under it. (162)

During a storm, part of the roof on Buckmaster’s old farmhouse collapses, partially crushing him. In the ensuing delirium of his recovery, the reader’s mystification about what is real and what is not real mirrors the narrator’s same confusion. This increasing uncertainty is even illustrated in the language of the narrator’s monologue: as the book proceeds, grammar and punctuation gradually disappear, only re-appearing at the end as he apparently re-emerges from his delirium, with the lines quoted above.


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