Book Discussion - The Quarry - Chapter 3


#1

Continuing the discussion from Book discussion - The Quarry - Discussion of Chapter 2:

We are reading The Quarry by Iain Banks together as a group. Anyone is welcome to join. This is the discussion thread for Chapter 3.

Deadline for Chapter 4 is next Friday, 6th of March, at 12:00 noon GMT. That is when a new thread will be created for the discussion of Chapter 4.

There are no real rules set for the course of discussion. I say good guidelines are: don’t be a dick, don’t spoiler things from further chapters and try to have a real conversation with others.

Now, let’s continue our discussion!

Current member list:

  1. @Mindysan33
  2. @jerwin
  3. @daneel
  4. @miasm
  5. @chgoliz
  6. @funruly
  7. @Elusis
  8. @noahdjango
  9. @OtherMichael
  10. @SmashMartian
    continuing on next post…

Book discussion - The Quarry - Discussion of Chapter 2
#2

… continuing from previous post:
11. @Donald_Petersen
12. @crenquis
13. @aeon
14. @ActionAbe
15. @jlw
16. @Ignatius
17. @penguinchris
18. Raita

Chapter Summary:

The gang meets up atthe pub. Guy doesn’t want to go at first, but is persuaded to go. The group reminisces about how their group met; about how Guy first met Hol who was swept off her feet by the Guinness-drinking older man (and was not the first nor the last, as Pris and Alison note).

Kit is in the bathroom wondering what it would feel like to get sucked by one of those new hand-dryers when Paul comes in and offers him £50 now and £200 later as a finder’s fee for the tape if Kit brings it to Paul first. Kit asks him too if it’s a sex tape, and because Paul says no, Kit is starting to suspect it IS a sex tape.

There’s some quabbling about the Daily Mail and Guy makes a quib about Hol’s journalistic career. Alison and Rob explain about what they do at Grayzr is “Moral Compliance”, in a lot of words. Rick chooses not to come back to the ranch with the others, he feels like he doesn’t belong in with the group.

The drunk group chats about things like Gangnam Style when the topic of the tape is brought up by Guy. I’s revealed to be a will, but Guy thinks he has probably recorded over it or at least doesn’t know where it is. He had apparently suggested otherwise earlier, maybe just to get people to visit him. Guy talks about how nobody wants to be around dying people.

In the middle of this, for a while Kit narrates about how tall he is (193cm) and how he tried to use various ways to find out how tall others are, and how he also tried to do the same with weight, which turned into him just staying as close to 100 kilos as possible.

The group decides to go visit Yarlsthwaite Tower, even though dawn is nearing. When there, Kit helps Guy pee, but then needs to open a gate and move a car for a tractor, and almost freaks out, but then Hol helps Guy pee. They carry Guy in his wheelchair over a fence and at the tower discover the door that used to guard the stairs to the tower has been removed. The others decided to go up while Hol, Kit and Guy stay down.

Hol smokes a littleand Kit imagines vividly it setting off a cancerous tumour. Guy talks about the drugs he used to use (speed, coke, ecstacy, heroin) and says that maybe he should start using heroin and overdose if things get too rough. Hol asks if he doesn’t already get opiates, and Guy says that cancer takes the fun out of even opiates.

Rob and Paul decide to try to get Guy in his wheelchair up the tower, which proves to be difficult. Meanwhile, Hol tells Kit about the various relationships between the group members. She says she had a thing for Rob (“a happy medium between Guy and Paul”) while him and Alison were broken off, but ended up not trying anything and “giving” Rob to Alison, which she still seems to regret a little. They fail getting Guy up the tower and get him back down.


#3

Oh, good! I’m still at the point where they’re struggling to get him up the stairs, and I was afraid it would be a surprise In Bruges thing.

NB: not what I’m referring to.

THIS, however, is time-linked to what I’m referring to. WHICH DOES NOT HAPPEN IN THIS BOOK.


#4

I’ve been waiting a week to say: that Dyson thing squicked me.

That’s my vanilla roots showing. Yup.


#5

There’s one of those Dyson hand-dryers in the crapper outside Stage 21 on the WB lot (nowhere else on the lot, as far as I’ve seen), and it had never before occurred to me that it might be fun to fuck it. And now I’ll never again be able to use it without wondering.

Thanks, Banks!


#6

I’ve only run into one of those once (last week as luck would have it). My hands are too big to fit in it without occasionally touching the side. I had to remind myself that everyone who used it probably had also washed their hands because otherwise I would still be in that airport washing my hands again and again.

I should start carrying hand towels for times I’ll be places where they might not have paper towels.


I don’t have a whole lot to say on this chapter (though I just started it about an hour ago and finished it just now … very long week). Nearly everyone is really mean to nearly everyone else the whole chapter through. Not enough to have a blowout that fractures the group but it was still pretty stressful for me.

The scene with them trying to get Guy up the stairs was really painful. He didn’t want to go and it was clear that those dragging him up didn’t really have a clue that they were ill prepared to do it which made things more painful. Little cruelties all the way through. Some of them intentional and some of them through negligent caprice.

Since it’s technically not early to start reading chapter four, I guess I’ll carry on reading so I’m not late next week for any reason other than barely having any time on Fridays. :laughing:


#7

I like the Dyson dryers. I too had not considered any… alternate uses… for it but once you’ve used a Dyson one, anytime you use a non-Dyson dryer - even a particularly good one, I won’t even get into how ridiculous the bad ones are for even existing - you are reminded how annoying they are and it makes you want to use paper towels despite that feeling ridiculous.

@Ignatius I think it’s hard to avoid touching the sides even without big hands (though my hands aren’t small, not particularly big either) for most people in casual use. That’s certainly a drawback to the design, but, the solution to the problem lies in the instructions printed on the machine. They tell you to insert your hands all the way, and pull them out slowly - slow enough that your hands are dry in a single pass (which given how good the machines are is not even all that slow). If you do that, it’s easy to avoid touching the sides. And, actually, pretty pleasurable, in a “wow that was efficient and actually worked” kind of way.

I was surprised by that comment by Kit, which seemed to come out of nowhere (more so than any of his other asides), but considering what, and how much, I just wrote about these… blowers… it does make sense. As I commented about chapter 2, I think after the set-up of chapter 1, a lot is being revealed about Kit that I didn’t really expect. I think it’s a good representation - every AS person is very, very different, despite popular imagination. But not sure what Banks is really trying to do here with it yet.

Which brings me back on topic to the chapter itself, which I didn’t enjoy. It basically just confirmed our suspicions that these are horrible people. Hol is still the most reasonable person (more likable than Kit I would say though we hardly know anything about her, though I would say that they’re both inherently good people as far as we can tell, which isn’t true of the others) but you can’t be entirely sure about her.

Here’s hoping that Hol and Kit dump everyone else into the quarry after watching the videotape, to protect whatever the secret is, and then do something more enjoyable to read about.


#8

There’s no need for spoiler tags when you mention something from the current chapter (how else could we have a discussion?). I was confused for a second and almost didn’t read them, but Donald’s response made me realize what you were talking about.

In any case, reading that bit made me wonder if putting your dick in such dryer is something other men have thought about. As a woman, I can’t relate, but I know some men have tried sticking it in a vacuum cleaner or used various other devices and holes to please themselves, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it came to some men’s minds. As a woman, I think about various possible sticks and vibrating objects - I remember being 13 and trying to find some old children’s toy of mine that vibrated (I never found it), because I couldn’t get an actual vibrator.

It certainly came out of nowhere, but I don’t think it was that surprising. He’s a teenager, of course he’s gonna have that kind of thoughts. There was another point in the chapter where Kit’s sexuality came up, towards the end of the chapter when he was half-hugged (or something? I have a hard time picturing how somoene “leans against me, and puts her arm through mine”) by Hol and he thought about how, although Pris is the prettiest, Hol is very attractive and the sort of woman he can have fantasies about without her being very bothered if she found out. I think these things have less to do with autism, and more with his age and healthy libido. Which is good representation, I agree, because it shows that AS people aren’t all asexual, we have sexual fantasies just like “normal” people.

I actually have a theory that AS people are more likely to be into the BDSM scene (or rather, more likely to enjoy it if they get into it). Mostly because of the play-acting (since AS people kind of always “act” anyway) and roleplaying (it’s easier when you know exactly what role you have), plus being bound makes many AS people feel comfortable (which Temple Grandin also discovered and went on to invent the “hug machine”, similar to how cattle are squeezed in a chute).

Everyone (well, you two) is talking about how the characters are such horrible and mean people, but I see it completely differently - I think this chapter in particular brought out the humanity in them. Sure, they might be there mostly because of the will (I wonder what it says, and if the others know what it says), but as Guy said, nobody wants to be around a dying person, it really is rough, and Guy in particular is a difficult person to be around (though you can see that he wants the group’s company, even though hew has a hard time showing it).

The characters might not be the most likeable people in the world, but they’re just human. They’re visiting an old friend from school because he invited them and implied there would be a will. They might be really interested in finding the tape that has the will (they all say it’s embarrassing, I wonder why), but despite some animosity between certain characters, you can see there’s still a lot of love. They remembered their school years with fondness, and when drunk they made the kind of quips about each other that only old friends could make without it being weird. They can sound mean, but probably only Guy really meant to hurt others with his words, the others said them in a loving way or were being sarcastic, which our narrator usually doesn’t understand. It seems to be the group’s way of coping with this difficult situation - they’ve grown apart and now have been again united by a dying, bitter man who lured them there and wants their company yet only shows his animosity. That’s not very easy.

When Paul and Rob tried to get Guy up the stairs, their intentions were good. Guy was just being Guy, swearing a lot and protesting loudly. Yeah, it was a bad idea, but Guy clearly can’t appreciate it when people try to do something nice for him. The fact that Hol didn’t try to stop them shows that it wasn’t really that serious - Guy’s way of saying things can make it seem worse that it was in reality, but I think it was meant to be humorous (I at least found it somewhat funny).

But really, I just don’t understand how you can see the group as horrible, cruel people. Maybe Guy is, though I think we’re starting to see another side of him (not that it excuses his behaviour, but at least we can understand him). The others we don’t even know very well yet, but what we’ve seen, through Kit’s eyes, shows that they’re all very different people with their own flaws. The setting and situation brings out the worst in them all, Hol included. I might not find Pris or Alison or Rob or Paul very relatable (Haze maybe, but I can’t tell yet), but that doesn’t mean they’re bad people. What is it that is supposed to make them bad? Is it the fact that they came there for the tape (which is a claim made by Guy that we can’t confirm), because I think it’s pretty understandable to not want to visit Guy if he’s like that. Or is it the things they said to each other, because I don’t think that a group with a complicated past making sarcastic jokes and quips about each other makes them bad people.

I’ve never had a tight-knit group of friends like that in school or elsewhere, so I can’t know personally, but I’ve deduced from what read elsewhere and heard and seen that when such a group grows up, reunions can bring up all kinds of old feelings and grudges and old crushes. Needless to say, Kit doesn’t understand these things, and neither does he understand sarcasm, so his narrating leaves out a lot of the things that are unsaid yet presents during conversations, only telling us the harsh words words and non-subtle actions.

Guy said it well: “Hot and cold running sarcasm in every fucking room.”


#10

Of possible ancillary interest.

'‘I asked him what he was drinking,’ Hol continues, ‘and he said, What did it look like? and I said, “Well, Guinness, the old man’s drink”, and he just sort of took a deep breath and sat back on his bar stool and held the glass up and looked at it like he was studying it for the first time and said, “That’s the thing about a good porter” – and he shrugged, or shook his head and sounded so rueful and sort of growly as he said, “Deals with all your baggage.”

The Difference between Porter and Stout


#12

I think you’ve just summed up the chapter perfectly!


#13

Ah, yes, this is exactly the sort of thing Kit would be horrible at understanding…or really any outsider; a long-standing group can say things to each other that would shock anyone else if they overheard.


#14

One thing about the attempt to carry Guy up the stairs…

It’s clear that he doesn’t want people to know how bad it is, and at least some of his foul humor is probably due to the many horrible side effects of cancer and treatments. I’m sure he’s in constant pain and can barely keep conscious much of the time. And it’s true that he has rallied during the course of the day so it might seem like he’s OK, but this is the longest he’s been up so far in the story – as they all know – and it’s included going out for a drive, having to stand almost without help while peeing by the side of a road, and being man-handled up a flight of stairs.

For heavens’ sakes, don’t these people realize he’s in pain? Hol does, clearly, because she apologized when she punched him in the thigh to get him to shut up when they were all sitting around talking. And yet, I can’t imagine any of my friends doing that when I was going through chemo or radiation. You treat people with cancer with kid gloves. You don’t bang them around.

These guys are old enough that even if they don’t have major medical issues themselves yet they’ve been close to family members or other loved ones who have. Guy looks like death warmed over, and they’re treating him like he’s still a buddy at college. It’s a level of inconsideration that shocks me.

Meanwhile, when Haze bows out of helping because of his back, they all roll their eyes but accept his stance. Guy says no repeatedly during this chapter with regard to various things, but no one seems to respect his wishes. He’s the senior member of the group, and the host, but they treat him like he’s just a toy to play around with.


#15

That is helpful indeed to this non-drinker. I knew Guinness was a stout; didn’t know that it was also a porter. Under ordinary circumstances I wouldn’t have cared except for historical interest, but I liked this distinction:

Brown-stout is only a fuller-bodied kind of porter than that which serves for ordinary drinking.

I like root beer, and my favorite is Henry Weinhard’s, but it’s so rich and creamy that I only use it for floats and dessert-y occasions, rather than just for when I’m ordinarily thirsty for a soda. On a hot day I can easily imbibe a Double Gulp’s 64 ounces of, say, Dr Pepper in a couple hours (not that I recommend drinking half a gallon of sodee-pop to anyone), but a 12-ounce bottle of Weinhard’s root beer is really quite enough for me. If I’m still thirsty, I’ll drink water.


#16

As appalling as the whole thing seemed to be, there did seem to be a familiarity between the schoolmates that informed just how far they could press Guy. Even though he seems to be really, really upset at being manhandled up the steps (“I’m not going up those fucking stairs…I don’t fucking trust you… Let me go, you cunt!.. Make the buggers stop!.. The fuckers are going to kill me!.. Let me go!.. I’ll fucking sue!” etc., he seems to resign himself to it somewhat abruptly:

“When we get to the top and I ask you nicely,” I hear Guy say, “will you toss me off?” Then he wheezes with laughter.

If I were Guy and genuinely afraid for my life (rather than just my dignity) I wouldn’t be able to crack a joke. Kit seems unsure of whether Guy’s genuinely in danger or not, and needs Holly’s assurance that Guy’s just making a harmless scene. The whole thing is weird as hell, and does seem to underscore how caustic and arguably poisonous this whole circle of friends is, but it also underscores Kit’s unique unreliability as a narrator. Still, I did wonder why Paul and Rob didn’t just hoist Guy upstairs in a fireman’s carry and leave the damned chair downstairs. How much good would the chair be at the top of the tower? Did they really need to carry him like a sultan in a sedan chair?

Oh well. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds. This one seemed a trifle masturbatory, unless its revelations lead to other stuff down the road.


#17

But I get the feeling he was the alpha instigator-borderline-bully back in the day.


#18

Oh god please I hope I’m not reading some revenge fantasy.


#19

I don’t think he worried he’d be killed in the process – might have even hoped for it, as he joked – it’s more that the banging and jostling would have been extraordinarily hard for him, and would have consequences (in real life, he’d have to go straight to bed and stay there, probably for a few days, with extra pain killers).

Kit is the only one who knows the true extent of how bad it is for Guy. He’s the one who knows Guy can’t just lean on a crutch to stand by the side of the road and pee, for example. Even Hol suggested he just go move the car, like Guy could simply stand there and wait. No one else has a clue that Guy is barely holding on.

Tell me about it! What were they thinking? A chair up winding stairs? Totally stupid.

Interesting simile.


#20

Yeah, I can see that too.


#21

Ah, that makes sense. Still, the scene just doesn’t ring true to me like the earlier chapters did. I haven’t read any of Banks’ work before (and someone earlier mentioned that Banks didn’t think this was anywhere near his best work), but it seems to me that, so far at least, Banks is having trouble fleshing out the characters in a remotely believable fashion, except for Kit. Rob and Alison, for example: why do the other characters allow them to spout so very much postmodern techno-capitalist-babble almost completely unchallenged? They should be hounded mercilessly for being walking corporate androids, but instead they’re giving Guy shit. Haze, so far, might as well be Shaggy from Scooby Doo for all he contributes. Paul just strikes me as a slightly younger, healthier Guy: self-obsessed dickweed who needs to be the center of attention. And Pris has been given no memorable stage time yet; I dunno who the hell she is or why she’s here yet.

What are we, a third of the way through the book? Is something gonna happen?


#22

I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

I didn’t like any of the characters early on, and they aren’t growing on me. I know you don’t have to have likeable characters in a story, but it really helps me to stay engaged. Most of these people are totally repellant.

The only other ‘regular’ novel of his I have read is The Wasp Factory, and that is definitely more memorable than this one.

But you’re a genre guy. Definitely try the SF stuff - The Player of Games, Use of Weapons and Excession I all loved. His AI characters are great.