It’s just a quick please trip to Philadelphia, a snarky book with mystery and scandal and a woman who’ll keep you guessing and a man searching for stability in a world that keeps changing the rules.
But Worthy is deceptive, an enormous joke, a satire on certainty. It’s about the importance of moving through life with grave respect, conscious of doing harm as well as good however worthy the cause or intention, and maybe even as much harm as good. It insists that no one really knows anything whatsoever whatever they think. That beauty and intelligence and courage and patience and faith are never earned or deserved. .
This manifold nature of the book delights me; it accurately reflects how everyone routinely overlooks the infinite possibilities folded up in every instant.
And all this explanation because without direction how can anyone know what ideas are important? As quintessential mansplainer Con Manos, narrator of Worthy of This Great City, says:
“…even back then I realized most of philosophy is basically crap. Look at Kant and Hume; it’s just simplified shit wrapped up in dense layers of jargon. Validity is determined by timing and credentials, that’s all there is to it. Value’s all in the packaging, otherwise no one will notice except to mock.”
Does truth actually exist? As Con well knows, philosophy is torn, there are credible arguments on both sides. Does that mean that everyone is allowed to pick their own preferred version of events?
Also please note, any literary types out there: Worthy is structured around a minor experiment on the limits of narration, a kind of disenchanted Bakhtin carnival. But can an author ever totally detach from their characters? In Worthy, people tend to melt into each other. Con Manos takes it upon himself to observe and reveal Ruth Askew, to tell her story. But who is really speaking, and to whom?
A final point: We live in the past as much as in the present, we walk through offices and houses we left years ago. The aspects of the city, the elements of Ruth’s might not be precisely contemporary.
And if at first you’re offended and contemptuous, well, keep reading, because I’m not going anywhere you think.
Now, about the story:
Ruth Askew, a minor city celebrity, is spouting some highly incompetent philosophy about the end of virtue, a fortunate woman mysteriously pushed to extremes. Con Manos, a journalist, is searching for certainty, meanwhile attempting to uncover a political scandal or two. Add in some undistinguished members of City Council, a popular radio station, a disorganized charity, a prestigious Philadelphia newspaper, and any number of lawyers and other professional criminals. In Worthy Of This Great the compelling stories of two stubborn individuals intertwine in a brisk, scathing satire that invites you to questions everything you think you think about today’s most discussed issues: populism and liberal elitism, the possibility of truth, the reach of profound stupidity, and the limits of personal responsibility in these post-truth, morally uncertain times.
From the Prologue:
“Everybody thinks God is on their side.” Ruth put her coffee cup down on its heavy white restaurant saucer very deliberately, watching herself. Then she sent me this look full of drama those huge blue eyes wary but defiant.
I’m a journalist, I should explain, and I knew this woman just well enough to be immediately dismissive. But she was very intense, now I noticed, waiting for me like it mattered. That was interesting. Here I’d always considered Ruth one of those breezy, satiric women proficient at deflecting curiosity.
Only I didn’t need it and I didn’t really care. Frankly there were things I never wanted to hear from her. We’d met by accident at one of those ubiquitous Center City cafes that’s all calculated simplicity: quinoa salads, homemade soups, cranberry muffins, that kind of crap. It was lunch hour and the place was loud with competing conversations in those well-educated downtown voices, the entire scene as fundamentally deceptive as casual business attire. You could practically feel the pervasive atmosphere of unacknowledged cynicism on your skin, the deodorized vinegar emanating from all those dissatisfied young professionals amazed to have already acquired such long but mysteriously undistinguished pasts.
So Ruth Askew, running into me in those exceptionally ordinary surroundings, flat imprisoned me in unwanted intimacy in order to entrust me with a revelation of startling profundity and enormous human significance, effectively summoning me into history, granting me an unprecedented experience that would surely transform my life – or anyway something along those lines. Because she’d been all too impatiently awaiting a sign from Heaven and was toying with the idea that God had delivered me to her for use as disciple and authoritative witness. They’re always looking for witnesses.
Read the full Prologue on the EXCERPTS page.
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