You may want to read the post below before continuing to read this. ---
I was thinking on the long walk back from my disastrous and somewhat dissatisfying run about the post below, and I came to the conclusion that I was not quite there.
TNoNH isn't just about people and beliefs and ideas and jokes, it is also very much about what Malcolm Gladwell would call 'tipping points'. This is a book as much about transition as it is about realisation and crystallisation.
Auberon Quin, the King, has such a moment of crystallisation when he encounters the ex-President of the recently conquered, once independent Nicaragua. This meeting realises something with Quin, and the first major tipping point is reached, ultimately culminating in the transition that is the Charter of Cities, his grand joke.
His encounter with a very young Adam Wayne in turn crystallises a belief in that boy about Notting Hill, eventually leading to next tipping point, when Wayne embarks on the path he believes the only one he can follow. Transitions and tipping points follow, played out through the earnestness of Wayne and the knowing buffoonery of Quin, rippling out to occupy both the physical and metaphysical landscape of London. At then end there is recognition of this fact, leading to one of the most intensely realised scenes of the novel, when the final and unknown realisation and transition takes place, beyond the final words of the story and on into the imagination of the reader.
All good stories are about transition and change, whether it is minor, subtle or vast beyond comprehension. It is this tension, between the status quo and the new state of being that drives the story forward, defining heroines and villains both.
TNoNH has no villains as such, each character is driven from their natural state of being, Buck and Barker content with the 'now', with Wayne striving forwards to realise the ideals he holds dear. Quin hovers between the two, first implementing his joke against the normality of the 'now', maintaining his plan in the face of exasperated opposition and reluctant forbearance, before embracing destiny as it is presented to him.
And yet the central debate and examination (see below) still stands, ultimately this story is about change and people and belief and the nature of the joke.