"Men of few words are the best men." - William Shakespeare, King Henry V, Act III, Scene II

Monday, February 8, 2010

QMBC III: The Ginger Man

Reading: The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy

The third meeting of the QMBC took place on 8th February 2010 in the apt location of The Ginger Man Public House on Fenian Street.

In attendance were: William Clay, Carl Jameson, Atticus McCarthy, Tiger McGavin, Xavier Paddington and Whitby Syme (eventually).

In absentia: Mycroft Webb.

Carl Jameson kindly took the minutes. Any omissions or mistakes are due entirely to my interpretation of said notes. The meeting opened with Carl providing copies of the Wikipedia biography of Mr John Mytton. It seems that even though this gentleman did exist, he really was a proper character.

The Initial Thoughts

Jumping straight into the discussion, a number of members almost simultaneously mentioned very similar content. A couple of the more perversely detailed were able to recall a choice paragraph on Page 88! (Quoting this is not possible at this time due to the entry of the Clay/Syme brothers’ copy of The Ginger Man into the QMBCIBPP {see below}). All present agreed page 88 was very good. There then followed a brief discussion about Miss Frost taking it up the derriere.

A series of quick fire comments from each member present was then entered into:

Tiger: “Lots of filth, but it was hard to like Sebastien Dangerfield.”
Atticus: “First 100 pages were tough going.” (Ed: Good to see that Atticus has some limits to his literary endurance levels.)
Tiger further conceded: “It was hard to knock one out to.”
Rather more insightfully Tiger mentioned that the violence towards women “was not good”. This was agreed to by all members present. It was suggested that the character of Sebastien Dangerfield was reminiscent of {name redacted} when he goes drinking on his own.

William: “The short sentences were good, the writing style was excellent.”
Reminded him of gonzo style journalism. He waffled on for some time about Tom Wolfe copying this style for his hippy exposé, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

Atticus: Queried if a person would get far on his accent alone in those days? He also added that there is a good line on most every page. This was agreed to by all.

Xavier: “First 50 - 100 pages were tough going”.

Carl: Liked the way that it showed that our generation didn’t invent obscenity.

Interestingness

Both William and Atticus felt they could relate to the setting quite well. We again discussed the presence of a very good line on every page. William said that he liked it a lot and regarded it as very unputdownable. The minutes record that “blowing is classically significant” was a particularly good line but due to the passing of time I am unable to recall why!

There was some confusion about whether or not there was “priest riding” mentioned in thebook. It was unclear and no confirmations one way or the other were made. It was mentioned that it is interesting to try and place the era. It’s clearly post WW2 as suggested by the army pension but yet there are elements of a Victorian setting with the hansom cabs etc.

There was a brief discussion about why the book had been banned. In order of likelihood:
  • obscenity
  • poor depiction of the church
  • squalor of dublin
  • the Irish being presented as peasants.
William, hopefully in keeping with the discussion on obscenity rather than just generally querying it with the club, believed that oral sex was invented in the 1970s before he’d read the book.

There was a brief discussion of the similarities to Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Johnny Depp would make a good Sebastien Dangerfield. This was perhaps more to do with his role in Fear and Loathing or the lecherous lothario in The Pirates of the Caribbean rather than his role as an undercover teenager in 21 Jump Street.

At this point, there was a discussion about the lateness of Whitby to the club. It was felt that the rather disjointed format of the discussion of the book up to this point was Whitby's fault. There was a brief discussion of a suitable punishment. Rather ironically, it was during this discussion that Whitby finally arrived. The time was noted as 7:25pm. It was agreed the minutes should regard this as being a particularly “Poor Show”.

To return to the discussion, Tiger observed that this was not as interesting as Dracula or MMI:ASO as it didn’t take him into another world and was not massively interesting. (Ed: Limerick of the 80s and 90s seemingly too close to Dublin of the 50s for Tiger's taste.) Atticus, in contrast, found it interesting because it dealt with Dublin in the 40s/50s. William, rather deeply, liked the comparison between Sebastien’s fantasy of wealth and the Celtic Tiger we have just lived through. In particular the fact that if Dangerfield got wealth he’d buy a nice suit and go on a pub crawl all the way to the Atlantic and then cry into the sea. James felt that it was one of the best books he’d ever read, but that it was quite challenging and would need a re-read to fully take it in. This was agreed with by a number of members.

Some more general comments were made about the storyline:
  • It was very sad for Dangerfield when he didn’t get his inheritance.
  • The light bulb party sounded like a great party to have been at.
  • The book was very dark in places - quite good at reflecting the mood swings of Dangerfield.
There was a discussion about whether Dangerfield respected Miss Frost the most of all the female characters. The incident with the sausages being evidenced.

It was also regarded that it would not be possible to live like Dangerfield now due to the absence of credit in most shops/pubs, needing 2 months rent up front and the need for references. It is unclear which of the members had been considering a possible change of lifestyle and for whom this news was a disappointment.

In a discussion of the characters, the following things were observed:
  • The male friends were all similar and interchangeable.
  • Kenneth was somewhat different and did his own thing. It was questioned if this made him more likable?
  • Perhaps the characters are deliberately undeveloped because the story is being told through Dangerfield, who doesn’t care about people.
Rodney Dangerfield - coincidence? There may have been a number of impressions at this point but none made a huge impact on me.

There was discussion of a hypothetical Hollywood ending - perhaps the whole book was in fact a dream the night before his exams and that he goes on to pass his exams.

Further to that, it was questioned if Dangerfield was actually drunk throughout the whole book? The disjointed style may suggest this.

Geographical discrepancy?

At this point, the QMBC resident sea dog - Captain Xavier Paddington took to the floor. The trip on the boat leaving Dublin seemed to all to be a touching tale of emigration from Ireland at a time when this was the reality of life for many young Irish men, but GPS Paddington realised that the lighthouses were too far apart given the speed at which the ship was traveling. Page 282 in particular was highlighted as being impossible. It is unclear howmuch this nautical faux pas effected Nemo Paddington's final scoring of the book.

Food for Thought

It was observed, and agreed with, that there are a pleasing amount of fry-ups in the book. Along with details of where particular sausages could be sourced.

Scores

Mycroft:
Quincey Morrisness 11/16
This was met with some surprise. Not only because Mycroff is sticking to William’s original crazy scoring system but also because it didn’t seem to the group that there was much similarity between our revered Quincey Morris and Dangerfield. This may need justification at QMBC IV.
Action 9/15 ; Well writtenness 12/15 ; Interestingness 12/15 ; Unputdownableness 14/22
Total: 58/83

Tiger: 60/83 “Solid book”

Carl: 71/83 “Sebastien Dangerfield is a bad fucker but I like him”.

William: The limitations of the rather Dracula-centric scoring system were brought fully home to roost in relation to this book as the following shows:
Quincey Morris Quotient 1.5/16 (Awarded solely for the character Tones Malarkey, who lived in a hammock and had a rather elaborate method set up to prevent bailiffs from getting into his abode.) Action 9/15 ; Well writtenness 19/15 ; Interestingness 19/15 ; Unputdownableness 18/22
Total: 66.5/83 “B+”

Whitby: Characters 14/20 ; Plot 11/20 ; Execution 15/20Food for thought 6/10Extra points 10/13 “Two points being given for Discussableness”
Total: 56/83
Whitby again feeling the need to tweak his original scoring system.

Atticus: 66/83 “Best of the books read so far in QMBC.”

Xavier: QMness 5/15 ; Action 5/14 ; Well written 7/14 ; Interestingness 8/14 ; Unputdownableness 17/21 ; Discussableness 4/5
Total: 46/83 “A story of two halves”

This gives The Ginger Man a final average of 60.5/83.

Nominations

As previously referred to by Atticus as being like the business end of the Eurovision we moved on to the nominations. The change in format moved to each member pitching two books only.

Pitches are quoted below.

Whitby:
The Manual of Detection by Jebediah Berry.
"An alternate world detective novel" (but not like The Legend of Zelda, as suggested by Atticus).

The Man who was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
"Written in 1908. A poet is hired by Scotland Yard to infiltrate a group of anarchists where the leaders are named after the days of the week."

William:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson
"Crime thriller of the year 2009. Film is coming out soon. Set in Sweden and the main character is a journalist."
Dissolution by C. J. Sansom
"A murder mystery set in an Abbey back after the Reformation."

Xavier:
Avenger by Frederick Forsyth
"Vietnam tunnel rat chasing a Serb warlord. Action packed."
No second nomination.

Tiger:
All Quiet on The Western Front
As per previous pitch.
The Mystery of Olga Chekora by Anthony Beevor
"Russian born Nazi actress who was a double agent for the Russians"

Mycroft: (presented by William)
The Ascent of Rum Doodle by W.E. Bowman
"Parody of mountaineering manuscripts."
To aid the pitch, William brought along with him his copy of this book and highly recommended it. William and Whitby had both read it and although it wasn’t vetoed it was felt by all that two members having read it was probably too much to go for a re-read. It was agreed though that everyone should read it. Carl took the copy away with him.
No second nomination.

Atticus:
No first nomination.
No second nomination.

Winner: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Second: The Manual of Detection
Third: The Mystery of Olga Chekora (the possibility of some bleak Russian WW2 bleakness appealed particularly to Martin.)

The QMBCIBPP

After the scoring Whitby introduced the idea of The Quincey Morris Book Club International Book Proliferation Program. The idea being to send a book to an address in another country and for the book to embark on a journey. This idea received much support from several of the members still present. The idea further developed into something where we might send the book to someplace particuarly apt. William thought immediately of sending books to the Green Zone in Baghdad. In any case, Whitby’s copy of The Ginger Man was posted the following day to a friend of his in Sydney who was to read it and then pass it on.

Further Discussions

There was a discussion about our unnamed sister club and how they don’t have any rules about nominating books or voting for new books. It seems that either Tiger had been unable to accurately explain the workings of the QMBC or girls are just unable to comprehend the awesomeness of Quincey Morris.

Whitby mentioned the existence of the book “Quincey Morris, Vampire”. Tiger queried immediately why this hadn’t been nominated. Whitby also mentionedanother Quincey Morris related book which hypothesises that Quincey’s illegitimate son is a paranormal investigator of some sort.

Whitby suggested it might be possible to predict the next selection based on the information we have to date. With time setting on the x axis and realism on the y axis (nominally scored 0 to 1), I have graphed below the four books to date. As you can see they alternately jump forward and backwards in time but at each stage there’s an increase in realism.I project the next book to be set in the early 1970s and to be primarily factual in nature. I will further go out on a limb here and suggest that Tiger is the most likely candidate to suggest a very factual book from this period, perhaps a phone book from Limerick from that era.

The rest of the discussion moved away from literary related material and returned inevitably regularly to the iWobble.

In summary then, another resounding success. There were no debacles and no misconstrudings.

Onward to QMBC IV!

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