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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

QMBC IV: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo



Preamble

The venue was Lotts Bar, Liffey Street and a comfortable alcove on the mezzanine level overlooking the hussle and bussle of this fine North-side hostelry was selected. The bar obviously had excellent security as the meeting was able to unfold without any disruption from the colourful inner-city natives.

An astute observer would have noted that there was more eyeballing of strangers and checking the location of wallets by attendees than would have been customary in an equivalent Southside venue but the worries of attendees were soon allayed by a nubile young Uruguayan barmaid on her first day of work.

Her ample bosom and lilting speech impediment of an accent brought a smile to the face of more than one QMBC member. However, her abilities as a hostess were to be sorely tested by XP whose appetite was in rare form, it having been at least 3 hours since his carvery lunch.

WC chose this meeting as a suitable opportunity to celebrate his recent legal victory over a large electronics corporation by purchasing a large platter laden with delectable vittles for his legal team; a goodly portion of whom are members of this esteemed club. A rare but deserved “good show” commendation was bestowed on him for this gentlemanly act.


The Main Event – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The starting pistol to the fourth meeting of the Quincey Morris Book Club was fired by TM who threw his thesis about Stieg Larsson being a complete “tit man” to the rest of the group as an opener.

His thesis received wide spread support among attendees and the universal agreement is duly minuted here. The degree of verbatim recall by attendees of the descriptions of Lisbeth Salander’s flat chest and Cecilia Vanger’s breasts leads your minute-taker to conclude that Salander may not have been the only one with a good memory for figures.

Unfortunately, the failure of XP to be able to remember any of the character’s names during a brief anecdote caused the ever irascible WC to suggest that he might not have read the book. Such an accusation against a member’s reputation is not to be taken lightly and in his defence, XP gave Cecilia Vanger’s nick name “Mrs Big Tits” as evidence to the contrary. This was deemed to be enough information to avoid a Winchesters at dawn situation but WC’s countenance could not hide his continued suspicion of XP in this regard.

The discussion then moved on to the use of butt plugs in the book and the group collectively sought clarification as to the purpose of such devices. TM thought that they were widely used by homosexuals but their exact function remained unclear – something to do with their butts probably. This was followed by a contemplative pause and much wringing of hands and shaking of heads, no doubt members were taking this opportunity to pray for a cure for homosexuality.

The next point of order came from WS who enquired as to whether the character of Kalle Blomkvist looked like the picture of Larsson in people’s heads. This question raised the issue of the similarities between Blomkvist and Larsson – same age, same profession etcetera.

Indeed, Blomkvist was thought by CJ to be pure wish fulfilment by Larsson, the character of a crime solving freelance journalist who was forever tapping ass of all ages (Salander, Berger, Cecilia and Harriet) would seem like an appropriate fantasy for a tubby middle-aged Swedish journalist who was more Bilbo Baggins than James Bond.

Forever with his finger on the pulse of the group, TM enquired as to whether it was felt that the scenes of sexual assault on Salander were glorified. AM felt that they read as if they were penned by a woman which was as interesting a point as it was worrying. There was no consensus on this point but MW mentioned how unexpected the first rape scene was for him (and no doubt Salander) but he was puzzled by how little struggle Salander appeared to put up in the Advocat’s office given how incredibly violent she proved she could be later in the book.

In terms of literary style, WC mentioned that he enjoyed the jumping back and forth between Salander’s and Blomkvist’s stories by the author. However, WS stated that he did not particularly enjoy Salander’s story at the beginning given its dark overtones.

MW commented that the book was a good insight into Swedish culture with its faux liberalism, nihilism, godlessness and open marriages. He postulated that the Swedes (like the Dutch) were heavily impacted by WW2 in that they were so afraid of being called fascists that they had lost all sense of when to say no to anything and I am sure if he had more time he would also surely have attempted to blame Protestantism for these weaknesses of character, as is his customary wont.

It was agreed by all that the book was a real page turner but there was some divide in the camp with regard to the book’s long term literary standing. AM said that it was the literary equivalent of eating a Big Mac# in that it was instantly forgettable; a statement which appeared to cause WC some upset. WS agreed with AM adding that he did read all the pages in the book but he may not have read all the words on every page which seemed to pain WC even further.

WC

launched his defence of the book saying that it was a great book – offering two great stories for the price of one. MW admitted that he had read it very quickly because it was an easy read and a good story and had moved on to the second instalment but had given up in due course because he had got “sick of Salander’s fucking autism”.

MW also added that he felt that author was good at building tension but poor at unwinding this tension with sufficient climax citing the abrupt denouement of the “Hello Harriet” scene and the scene in Martin Vanger’s garage as evidence.

At this point in the discussion, the need arose within the group to include a disambiguation between Martin “The Pervert” Vanger and any other perverts who may or not be named Martin. For fear of litigation (ahem), your minute-taker makes no further comment on this point.

Getting us back on track, WS stated that in his opinion the author had produced no good scenes between two people in the book which had an impact on his assessment of the quality of the book’s writing.

TM felt that despite all the sex, murder, child abuse and rape that he did not find the book that erotic.

CJ felt that mysoginism was one of the book’s central themes and this was agreed with by all. The original title of the Swedish novel being “Men who hate women” was sufficient evidence on this point. The idea that the book might have been written by a women was echoed again. AM felt that the book certainly had a “feminist tinge” but CJ highlighted the flaws in any feminist agenda in the book by having a male character who beds every woman in the book with little or no effort on his part. CJ poured further scorn on the statistics that opened each chapter by reminding attendees that “100% of Irish men have been threatened by a man” intimating that these statistics on violence against women in Sweden were sensationalist guff.

MW commented that the female anti-hero of Salander and the feminist slant may be an explanation for why the book has been such a best-seller particularly among young ladies; the book being favoured by Oprah and the Richard and Judy Book club also could not have hurt its sales. MW was on the verge of blaming something on the Spice Girls but could find no causal link between them and whatever he was going to blame them for.

WC who had clearly enjoyed the book as a thriller seemed perturbed at the direction the discussion had taken, claiming that he had read a different book because he had read it at face value. All the talk of feminist agendas and mysoginism had given him sad face.

It was suggested that certain (contrarian/elitist) members of the QMBC might have felt cheapened by the book’s widespread popularity and that this may have tempered their views on the book. This was not denied by anyone but it was also accepted that if this had occurred that it was not anyone’s fault. Such behaviour being the prerogative of members of an elitist gentlemen’s literary club.


TGWTDT in a Nutshell: One Sentence Summaries

Whitby Syme:

“I read words on every page but I didn’t read every word on every page.”

Xavier Paddington:

Damn Good” (unsure whether talking about the book or the goujons)

Tiger McGavin:

“I liked it.”

Carl Jameson:

“A happy-meal of a book … fun but ultimately unfulfilling.” #

Mycroft Webb:

“A page-turner and a bona fide mass market thriller but probably a bit mainstream for the QMBC’s literary aspirations.”

William Clay:

“Brilliant. A very original storyline.”

Atticus McCarthy:

“Murder She Wrote meets Frost on an Island….. but I enjoyed it.”

# - your minute-taker wonders whether the presence of food at the meeting may have lead to a subliminal increase in the use of food similes by members.


The Scores on the Doors

In order to avoid fisticuffs it was decided to move on the rating of the book by each member, the scores from each member are outlined below:

Whitby Syme: 38 / 83

Characters: 9 / 20

Plot: 14 / 20

Execution: 10 / 20

Food for Thought: 2 /10

Extra Points: 3/13

William Clay: 75 / 83

Quincey Morrisness: 13 / 16

Action: 12 /15

Well Written: 15 /15

Interestingness: 14 /15

Unputdownableness: 20 / 22

Carl Jameson: 40 / 83

(No breakdown provided)

Atticus McCarthy: 40 / 83

(No breakdown provided)

Xavier Paddington: 65 / 83

(No breakdown provided)

Mycroft Webb: 59 / 83

Quincey Morrisness: 11 / 16

Action: 12 /15

Well Written: 7 /15

Interestingness: 11 /15

Unputdownableness: 18 / 22

Tiger McGavin: 60 / 83

(No breakdown provided)


The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo earned a QMBC rating of: 53.86/83 but this point estimate conveys little of the drama behind this meeting and your minute taker felt that a more detailed statistical analysis was required for all the books to date to allow greater insight into the workings of the QMBC – see the attached appendix.


The Nominations for QMBC V


Carl Jameson:

Patient Zero by Jonathan Mayberry

Do or Die by S.E. Lee


Xavier Paddington:

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


Tiger McGavin:

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lamb the Gospel according to BIFF


Whitby Syme:

61 Hours by Lee Child


Atticus McCarthy:

Waiting for the Barbarian by JM Coetzee

1984 by George Orwell


Mycroft Webb:

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


William Clay:

The Mechanical Turk by Tom Standage


The Voting

Next: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Nearly: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (WC: “Perverts”)


A reversion to the literary classics was always on the cards for QMBC V after the club’s attention had been enjoyably diverted by more populist fare in the last meeting. The selection of a pulitzer-prize winning author and a book set in depression-era dustbowl America was thought to be sufficient penance for those who had dared to seek enjoyment from reading.

It was with this selection that the formalities of a highly enjoyable meeting came to a close but your minute taker is dutybound to report that the evening was not debacle free.


The Curly-Wurly Debacle

The fine people at Lotts Bar had seen fit to arrange a regular quiz which dove-tailed perfectly with the end of the fourth QMBC meeting and a quorum of steely-eyed members saw this as an opportunity to profit from years of erudition on their part.

The self appointed team leader MW sought to collate the ideas generated by the remaining panel of experts from legal, scientific and financial backgrounds. The Quincey Morris Quiz Team (QMQT) fought hard and fought true only to be beaten into second place in the end by an obvious act of cheating by another team – naming the 7 members of the cast of the Academy Award winning film “The Hurt Locker” was an act of recall that could only have been achieved by use of the Global Interweb.

Nevertheless, the QMQT earned itself a promissory note to the order of €50 from a well known turf accountant and this was almost universally seen as venture capital for other Quincey Morris related activities. I say almost universally, because XP (no doubt being governed by his appetite) attempted to swap our €50 prize for 3 Cadbury’s Curly Wurlys (RRP = €1.80) won by the team in last place. His cries of “A Curly Wurly in the hand is better than a €50 bet in the bush” still echo around that faithful pub. He earned a severe rebuking by all who remained for his myopia and a “poor show” rating was sought to be added to the official minutes and it is duly noted here.

In order to relieve the stress after this debacle, an earnest hardcore remained and supped long into the evening playing movie trivia games amongst themselves and discussing the merits of myriad vanity projects including the launch of a six-panel comic to the Irish market.


Appendix - Click to enlarge pictures

Figure 1 -

Statistical Analysis of Historic QMBC Ratings

Figure 2 - Graph of Historic QMBC Ratings



Figure 3 - Linear correlation coefficients between QMBC members’ ratings

Based on their reviews of the last 4 books, a near perfect positive correlation between CJ and AM has been observed while an almost perfect negative correlation exists between WS and XP. It will be interesting to observe how these trends progress over time.

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