Book discussion - The Quarry - Chapter 4

I finished it this weekend. Wonder who else?


I subscribe to the phrase, “sometimes you gotta rip the bandage off.”


Yep. Done.


I’m still here. Skipped last week but I’m caught up now.

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I have been dutiful up to this point, but y’all make a lot of sense: for this book at least, going by chapters isn’t really enough. I think I’m going to follow the lead and finish the book as well.

Should we have a vote on whether or not to consider the book fully read by this Friday, and write our comments accordingly, or does anyone feel that continuing by chapter is the way to go?

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well, personally, I faltered even on the chapter-per-week last week. I don’t see me reading the rest in 3-4 days, but I can just join the thread late if y’all decide to. reminder to set y’all’s thread settings to “watching” if your default is not automatic so you don’t miss late comments.

speaking of, I made a late comment on Ch 3 just now in the appropriate thread with a bunch of questions pertaining to understanding some English cultural things, so could UK folks go here and straighten me out?


I had got to chapter 5 by the time we were into chapter 3 and just ran through the rest this past weekend because I was on a plane. I’m for opening it up but don’t want to leave others out. @Raita, are things OK with you? I know you haven’t done the chapter summary but you’ve got a lot going on too.


Personally, I’ve been keeping to the prescribed reading schedule, making myself wait before cracking the next chapter. I like the pace of this club, since I’m busier than I expected to be right now, and the somewhat chess-by-mail pace lets me blow off reading or writing for a day or three if I need to. I’m still going to keep to the schedule. I find the discipline oddly comforting, in part because I so sorely lack discipline in every other facet of my life. But I feel no urge to rush through this book or this discussion.

Still, if the consensus is to get this thing over with faster, then I’ll go with the crowd. But I’m personally happy with the current pace.

As much as I find the characters repellent except for Kit (even Holly appears to be no more than the least-awful of an awful group at this point), I’m still finding the story oddly absorbing (like an old mattress). I really wish I could be there to tell Guy what an intolerable waste of space he is, dying or not. Everyone else in the story seems willing to cut him all manner of breaks because of his condition, but so far I’ve seen absolutely zero evidence that he would have been any more tolerable when he was well, nor does he seem to have grown/matured/learned any hard lessons in empathy or anything at all in his extremity. He’s a shithead now, and seems to have always been one, and I’m gonna spoilertag the following even though I still haven’t read a word of Chapter 5 yet and so this following is purest conjecture, but I can’t see any way this story can end without Guy being tossed ass over teakettle into the deepest pit of the Quarry from a great height, probably by Kit, and I’ll be cheering all the way if there’s even a small chance Kit might get away with it. Don’t tell me if I’m right or wrong. :wink:

I remember reading about that in Slate and Salon. It bugged the hell out of me, since I too think that Vertigo, while a hoot and a half (if a tad too long), isn’t a patch on Citizen Kane. I kinda felt Banks dropped the ball on Hol’s film choices since they do seem so utterly conventional, like she couldn’t have an original idea if she tried and yet still considers herself to be better informed and with better taste than anyone else in the book (with the possible exception of Guy, whom she idolized past all comprehension).


I have kept to the schedule and like it too. I can see how just finishing it at this point is appealing, since the conversation has largely dried up, but if the next discussion was on the entire second half of the book we’d likely skip over a lot of the discussions of small details and tangents. Since not everybody is indulging in those, it’s clear not everyone is interested in that, so I don’t know. I have no problem just finishing it but at this point if that’s the decision perhaps we should have another week to give everyone a chance to finish (in case anyone needs to plan ahead for time to read, etc.).

Anyway - as for Vertigo I agree. I love Hitchcock and his brilliance is staggering in even his lesser films (if you can even call them “lesser”). Vertigo has brilliance to spare but yet I’m not entranced by it as so many haughty critics seem to be, and really I find it hard to watch (and yeah, too long). I need to give it another try though as it’s been a few years, and it’s often noted that it’s a film that’s better when you’re older, which may partially explain its rise in the list. I’m not sure I’d personally place Citizen Kane at the very top (depending on how you personally define “greatest”, a handful of other Hitchcock films fit the bill IMO, along with e.g. Casablanca - but it’s understandable why those get put lower in a “serious” list), but between those two it’s a no-brainer.

Now that I think about it, with your remarks on Hol, your assessment of her is almost certainly how Banks intends you to think about her (if you give her that much thought). You get a sense that the other characters don’t necessarily regard her criticism all that highly - not that they look down on it or anything - other than Kit, who memorized it apparently. It’s not like she has bad taste even if it seems conventional - she knows her stuff. But her snobbishness, as others have pointed out, does her a great disservice. I’m more interested in a critic who is able to enjoy things for what they are. To use an example of something Banks has Hol dislike, Star Wars - read Roger Ebert’s wonderful 4/4 review from 1977, with these two quotes:

there’s entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.

Here, all mixed together, were whimsy and fantasy, simple wonderment and quietly sophisticated storytelling.

That also describes Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, and Casablanca, both of which would be near the top of my personal list. I get the sense that Hol is largely incapable of viewing movies through that particular lens.

The second quote is from the end of this paragraph:

The most fascinating single scene, for me, was the one set in the bizarre saloon on the planet Tatooine. As that incredible collection of extraterrestrial alcoholics and bug-eyed martini drinkers lined up at the bar, and as Lucas so slyly let them exhibit characteristics that were universally human, I found myself feeling a combination of admiration and delight. “Star Wars” had placed me in the presence of really magical movie invention: Here, all mixed together, were whimsy and fantasy, simple wonderment and quietly sophisticated storytelling.

Which sounds vaguely familiar/Badass :wink:


I don’t have much to say because I was reading through the book, hooked, but waiting for it to get good.

I finished it, still waiting.

I am reminded of reading 1Q84 and The Kills – much larger investments of effort for a similar payoff. The difference being that 1Q84 made me re-assess (in a negative fashion) my previous regard for Haruki Murakami, but I’ll give Banks a pass on The Quarry. However, I don’t particularly like nor recommend it, and I have to agree with his own assessment:

If I’d known it was going to be my last book, I’d have been quite disappointed that I’m going out with a relatively minor piece. (source)

NB: linking to a review does not condone reading said review for those that have not finished the book or are unduly swayed by reviewers.

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Just want to give everyone the heads-up that I will have spotty internet connection in the next two weeks so if you don’t hear from me, don’t worry!

Totally OT, but it seems we have some Hitchcock fans…

There is a Hitchcock film I cannot find. I should mention that I used to be in the business, so I’ve seen even the ones that never played in commercial cinemas. I thought it was his first talkie, but that doesn’t seem to be it. It was definitely while he was still in Britain, before coming over to the States. The plot is a murder mystery with a young Cockney couple teaming up with a gentleman (this is Britain, after all) to try to solve the case. If anyone has a clue what I’m talking about, please let me know!

I want to find it because it has a memorable scene I think encapsulates Hitchcock’s skill: if you’re just paying attention to the surface details, the couple has shown up at the appointed time to the gentleman’s lodgings, which happens to be as his valet is serving him lunch, so he invites them to sit down and eat with him while they talk about the case. But if you pay attention, while they’re all talking the young Cockney wife pours a little of the soup from the bowl to the saucer underneath, picks up the saucer, blows on it, then drinks. Without the slightest tic, the gentleman follows suit. That tells you all you need to know about his decency: he puts good manners over etiquette. You know you can trust him.



And I don’t particularly like Vertigo or Citizen Kane, either.

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I haven’t been commenting (or written the chapter summary - sorry guys!) during the last few days because of personal stuff. I’m fine, nothing big, it’s just been the same “two steps forward, one (or two) back” kind of life (as those who have read my other thread can imagine) and I felt like I deserved a break from, well, everything and just watched TV shows and played video games for a few days.

Anyway, this chapter had some interesting things.

As someone who is studying environmental care, I liked it when Kit talked about recycling. He said something about how it makes you more aware of everything you consume and in a way feel more connected to your own life, which is a really good point and something I feel too though I haven’t ever put it to words.

I didn’t understand why Alison wanted to check the attic so much. I get she wants to find the tape really bad and wants to do things in some order, but you’d think she’d realize Kit is the one who knows the house and is also the most organized and logical person of them all so he should be trusted with the search. Either there’s something I’m not getting, or it was simply Banks’ way of showing Ali’s urge to find the tape.

I found it interesting that because Kit felt immune to women’s “coquettishness” (a completely new word for me; +1 for learning!) he once thought it meant he’s gay. Personally, when I was really young and confused about all things sexual, there was a brief period of time when I thought I was asexual. Soon I realized I sure as hell am not and since then have known I’m and identified as bisexual/pansexual.

The insult competition part about HeroSpace actually seemed fun and constructive - online video games have enough insulting in them already, so turning that into something actually creative and funny would be a good idea. I don’t know if Banks got the idea somewhere or he came up with it, but either way, I liked that part. On the other hand, I found it pretty unbelievable that there would be players who would do nothing but be spectators (especially to certain players). I know most FPS games have spectator modes, but what’s the point of only being a “Voy” and just looking around when you can do that plus a lot more as a full-blown player - if it was free, then maybe, but paying just to watch? And the way it was described made it clear that it’s not a mode, you still have an avatar and all and have to walk around and all. Plus, the famous players who have fanbases could surely stream or record their games to those who want to watch.

As painful as they are to read, I somehow really like the scenes where Kit helps Guy and they talk about medication and Guy acts like a shithead. In this chapter, though, his rant about positive thinking was spot on. The way people focus on positive thinking and “fighting” as the key factor in cancer treatment is pretty appalling. And with breast cancer, all the pink stuff… ugh. The book “Bright-sided” by Barbara Ehrenreich covered this pretty well, among other things about positive thinking - recommended.

And lastly, I obviously much enjoyed Kit’s thoughts about religion and faith at the end of the chapter. Couldn’t have said it better.

When you consider that Banks made a book where all but one of the characters are former film students, I would imagine he has made a bit more research than that. Yeah, her favourite films are a bit stereotypical, but I think that is intentional and not the result of sloppy research.

I’ve noticed that too. Amateur film critics (by which I mean snobby film lovers who like obscure movies and love to judge big blockbuster movies - like me!) tend to have a more varied taste, but when you get to a certain point, it seems like people can’t help but start appreciating the same old critically acclaimed works of art. I don’t know if that’s because they really are objectively so good, or because after spending so much time with like-minded people who mostly share the same opinions, the peer-pressure works its magic, or something else.

Me? I don’t know if Citizen Kane or Casablanca are the best movies ever because I haven’t even seen them. Of course I still think I have the right to (silently) look down on people who watch Transformers instead of Synechode, New York. :wink:

I should check it out some time.

I’ve been enjoying commenting each chapter seperately, but if the majority of people want to just talk about the book as a whole, then that’s what we’ll do. I can’t read the book by Friday, though. Sunday would work better for me.

But I just know that if we decide to discuss the whole book, the discussion won’t be much longer than these individual chapter discussions have been. Details will be forgotten and we will just discuss the themes of the book and how we liked it, and after a few back-and-forths the discussion will die out. Maybe that’s what some people want, at this point, since some people clearly aren’t enjoying the book. I think it’s good to read and discuss a book you aren’t so keen on, maybe even more so than a book you like because people often have a hard time actually discussing things they don’t like in-depth (aside from a few sharp words).

I like the little things. Like now, commenting on a little bit about recycling, or . I’m not enough of a literary critic to say meaningful things about the book as a whole, but being able to talk about every little funny or interesting or infuriating or odd thing that the book has is what makes this book discussion group so fun to me. Talking about AS and its affect on not only the book but people in general has been really interesting, as has been all the little details, and keeping up this book discussion has been one of the things that has really helped me with my recovery.

I understand that not everyone feels the same way, as some preferred the whole-book-discussion way before we even started (but the vote took us this route).

I feel like we might have no choice, anyway - if so many people have already finished the book, they probably won’t feel very inspired to discuss every chapter individually if we decide to still do that and we might end up with only 4 or 5 people actively involved in the discussions.


Well said. I think the discussion has slowed down in part because the novelty of discussing this book is wearing off and many people have stopped discussing or never commented much to begin with (which is fine, it’s not like this is compulsory). Plus it was pretty clear from the get-go that there were a few people who were keeping the active discussion up with back-and-forth and their walls of text, one of them being me and when even one of those people isn’t there right away to say things that excites other people to agree or disagree or otherwise generally talk about it, the discussion doesn’t really fully get started. I think groups like these need a few people who pull others in with their excitement.

Synechode, New York head a great storyline. Transformers had great audio design and CGI.

I thought the attic-search was a bit of a power-play from Ali, and her obessiveness. Like a cop - even if somebody tells you something, you still have to personally verify it, or it’s hearsay. In this case, going to the attic wouldn’t be a horrible loss – if the boxes were mostly empty, it’s a quick check, bam! done! If nothing found, on to the next spot. But – the possible payoff for such a quick labor is scooping everybody else!

I think this is one of the hardest things for me (speaking about where I was at this point in the book) - I’m not expecting a big “aww, he’s just a big softy on the inside!” turn, but man, there’s usually something that makes difficult characters sympathetic to me and I’m just not finding it with Guy.

He’s pretty much a jackass. And I love your proposed ending. :smiley:

I think this pretty much tells us what we need to know about her.


Well, it has well-done CGI, sure. But if we think about it in terms of the visual look (which I’m taking to include CGI, set design, effects and so on), I still think Synechode, New York takes the cake. This is the same thing I say about video games; great graphics are nice to have, but if everything is greyish brown and looks the same, it’s mostly wasted - and if the gameplay sucks, then it’s just completely pointless. I’d rather have great graphical design than execution, personally. The CGI in Transformers might as well be the pinnacle of modern animation, but unless you look at it as nothing more than a technology demo, it’s just not used well - at least Avatar was nice to look at.

Audio design, I dunno about. Perhaps.

She, like everyone else, thinks Kit is there to be bossed around.

He cooks for them, he drives for them, he cleans for them, he searches for the tape for them.


I was utterly delighted by how he simply steamrolled right over her attempts to charm/browbeat/nag/convince him to do things her way. I didn’t think he’d be able to do it, and I was happy to see that he was as delighted as I was at how fun his resistance to her turned out to be.


I do think that another factor is that we’ve been eager for the plot to get rolling. After Chapter 1, we’d met all the characters and were eager to see what they’d do. After Chapter 2, it felt like we were getting more character exposition, but nothing much else was happening. After Chapter 3 it was starting to become clear that that there wasn’t going to be much action or drama going on. We’ve just been getting more of the same: further indications of how unpleasant these characters can be, and an increasing sense that they’re all just here to find some all-important videotape that seems destined to be a pretty danged anticlimactic Macguffin once it shows up (if it ever does; might be a videotape named Godot for all I know). Anyway, the conversation has slowed down in part because there just isn’t much to chew over in this book, other than Kit and the AS stuff. That said, I really am enjoying reading and discussing with you guys. I hope we can do another (perhaps meatier) book real soon!