Hey, y’all. Just got thru it on my day-off. Been avoiding the old thread because I thought maybe the discussion had already started. I appreciate the decision to start a new thread chapter-by-chapter. I’m typing this out offline to paste here before I start crawling thru the thread and replying to everyone.
The second paragraph about Kit being really intelligent but also socially awkward read like a huge, waving red flag with lettering that said “self-insert” on it. I was a little put-off by that at first but it became more-and-more clear that, whether or not that is true, Banks is capable of crafting his writing at a level where this is probably not going to be a negative.
From a purely nuts-and-bolts perspective, the first chapter has done a successful job of introducing all the characters and setting and laid the foundation for the story very nicely, yet without being obvious about it; again, very well-crafted writing.
I thought I was up on my Briticisms, but I was wrong. Context clues mostly suffice, but I’m stumbling over some stuff. I knew what “wellies” were, at least.
I cannot help but draw a parallel with the movie [looks it up] Peter’s Friends
To wit: a group of English, politically left-leaning old friends meet up at a decaying home with a surly, take-no-guff housekeeper. Paul is the combination of Kenneth Branaugh’s character–an entertainment industry success whom some resent–and his gf Rita Rudner’s character–the spoiled, also rich, oblivious egomaniac that the housekeeper especially dislikes. The action, or rather inaction, centers around them arriving in a muddle and then later sitting around a warm room with facing couches. The new-boyfriend/girlfriend-that nobody-knows-very-well thing is in both. There’s even a woman of color whose character isn’t very well fleshed-out (yet, at least) in both. My own biases make me think that Holly could easily be played by Emma Thompson, although I don’t remember if the characters actually match up. I’m not crying plagiarism, these are common tropes, but it seemed very conspicuous to me. Ah well. There is no analogue for Kit at all, and I don’t recall anyone being deathly ill in the movie, at least.
I am also having trouble placing them generationally. Guy “feels” older than the rest of the pack (wait, am I skipping ahead saying that?) but some of the rest I keep thinking of as thirty-something, which is wrong too. Last night I was having trouble sleeping so I started on Ch. 3, and I was thinking of trying to “cast” the characters (just to keep two of the blokes straight, for that matter), but it might be a bit premature for that conversation.
I think you’re potentially on to something with the whole “supposed to be X-ers but actually written as Banks’ contemporaries” thing. Don’t get me started on how GenX is still getting as fucked as ever, only now we’re getting it from both ends thanks to the Millennials taking up all the air in the room.
I’ve been thinking about this since I first heard autism referred to as a “spectrum.” Certain of the tendencies are foreign to me, but some resonate like “wait, I totally do that,” but I think if you were to ask the outside observer I just come off as a either introverted or conversely a rambling neurotic when I finally do say something.
is also totally me. Learning to be funny really helps in social situations. But yeah, I question that it’s a binary. Either that, or I’m one and have adapted to where I “hide” it well (not that I’m trying to hide anything) but that’s too reductive to describe me; or anyone, I believe.
Also the thing about the number of people being a drain, god, i just found this out. I just thought it was normal for me to be exhausted all the time, but turns out that when I don’t have to interact with more than ten or so people in a day, I’m not completely exhausted and sleeping thru my alarm the next day, sleeping thru class, etc. Sucks cause I can’t go to the clubs or DJ anymore, though. what a fun thing to realize at age 40 when it doesn’t matter anymore! I guess Kit’s angle was more about being overwhelmed by interpreting all the stuff going on (although maybe that’s what’s going on with me) and also the “sweet spot” for convo exclusion (I like conversation, i don’t notice feeling that way,) but just venting a bit.
yeah, I think Gen-X is tiny in comparision with both the boom and millennials, which is part of the reason why I think this is true. Boomers still tend to dominate the cultural conversation in terms of who is at the top of cultural institutions, while millennials are a far larger demographic than Gen-X in terms of buying power, so they are the target those looking to sell to particular groups. it’s kind of weird if you think about it, and really illustrates the instability of the whole construction of generations in the first place.
But are we off topic? I do think the Boomer ethos seems to be informing Banks’ imagining of the group of friends, for whatever that’s worth.
Nah, late X-ers. The Prius is plug-in, so it’s essentially present day, and Kit says to us about Paul “He’s about thirty-nine. They all are, because they were in the same year when they went to uni and this was their home in term time. Only Guy breaks this pattern; he’s a couple of years older.” That kinda freaked me out, that with a mostly-grown son (I think Kit is around seventeen, though at first I thought he was older) and terminal cancer, Guy ends up being a few years younger than I am. I mean, I’m 45, but my oldest kid is only 7, since I had a late start. This had been feeling very Big Chilly to me as well, and it was startling to discover that I, with my Iron Maiden t-shirts and juvenile sense of humor, would be Old Man Petersen to all of these characters, even the dying patriarch.
Gladstone and Disraeli. Baldwin? Clem Attlee? Supermac? Maybe Wilson?
Or at least, nobody in my lifetime (well, maybe. I don’t remember Jim Callaghan). Major seemed like a decent sort, liked cricket, but his party was awful.
Honestly, I can’t imagine ever not considering the leader of any country a tosser. Obama certainly is, even though the alternatives were worse (and depressingly, I think that’s true of Cameron too). Miliband is going to be worthless as well.
They’re around 40. I think they mentioned 39 as someone’s (Paul’s?) age, and if they all went to the same school, then they should all be around that age.
People talking about generations always confuses me. Baby boomers? Gen X/Y/Z? Millenials (is that people born during the 21st century, or my generation, or…)? Just give me the years! I can understand where baby boomers comes from, but why do people try so hard to define people from a certain era, especially when it’s all so muddled and and hard-to-define and doesn’t always work cross-country and there’s no clear cut-off point. (This is mostly me covering up the fact that I don’t understand the terms)
That’s well said. It’s easy to see why some are put off by the start, but I think that by the end of the first chapter the character of Kit is very well established, self-insert or not.
I also have that problem, on top of not being a native English speaker as well. But I love learning new words!
That is true about every mental disorder, but especially true about neurological disorders. I think saying that every single person is on some point of the autism spectrum can be misleading, but it’s true. I just would say that everyone is a little neurodiverse. Neurotypical is what people with no neurological disorders are called (though obviously there’s no right brain, it’s just the average). But it’s possible to have no disorders or resulting difficulties and still have some symptoms of autism or other disorders. Difficulties with social situations are very common and varied, and can have different sources and different solutions - I doubt there’s a person alive who doesn’t have some sort of social problem (even if it is being too social, which can be a problem even if many don’t consider it such).
Some have Asperger’s and yet it causes them little problems in their daily life because their life experiences, relationships and situation have supported them in such an ideal way that they need no other help. Others can barely cope because experiences and other problems have aggravated their Asperger’s symptoms - very often, bullying is the trigger that sets off the Rube Goldberg contraption.
The autism spectrum isn’t a disease. It’s not good or bad, it just is. In most cases, the problems it causes are only problems because the majority acts differently. If the majority had autism, they would be neurotypical and you would be strange.
Sometimes it’s useful shorthand, other times it’s not. The baby boomers were a huge group of people, and a lot of sizable cultural shifts happened around (and sometimes because of) them, so they still wield outsize cultural influence in the West. The ol’ Wikipedia lists the demographic the way I was taught it:
The term “baby boom” most often refers to the post–World War II baby boom (1946–1964) when the number of annual births exceeded 2 per 100 women (or approximately 2% of the total population size).
As for my generation,
The Harvard Center uses 1965 to 1984 to define Gen X so that Boomers, Xers and Millennials “cover equal 20-year age spans”
Jon Miller at the Longitudinal Study of American Youth at the University of Michigan wrote that “Generation X refers to adults born between 1961 and 1981” and it “includes 84 million people” in the U.S.
The Millennial grouping seems a tad fuzzier:
In May 2013, a Time magazine cover story identified Millennials as those born from 1980 or 1981 to 2000.
In his book The Lucky Few: Between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boom, author Elwood Carlson called Millennials the “New Boomers” (born 1983 to 2001), because of the upswing in births after 1983, finishing with the “political and social challenges” that occurred after the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and the “persistent economic difficulties” of the time. Generally speaking, Millennials are the children of Baby Boomers or Generation Xers, while a few may have parents from the Silent Generation.
The Pew Research Center, an American think tank organization, defined Millennials as being born from 1981–1997. However, they also stated these dates are tentative.
A global generational study conducted by PwC (a network of member accounting firms) with the University of Southern California and the London Business School defined Millennials as those born between 1980 and 1995.
In Australia, McCrindle Research Center, used 1982 to 2000 as birth dates in a document titled “report on the attitudes and views of Generations X and Y on superannuation”. Separately, McCrindle has also defined Millennials as those born between 1980–1994.
Obviously, these terms are only useful (if at all) in discussions of the broadest demographic and cultural nature, but as long as we acknowledge the limitations of discussing such huge groups of people based solely upon their birth decades (sort of like an ultra-wide-band form of astrology, no?), then we can make a few generalizations at least.
I found that part particularly interesting. Kit has to make allowances for people but most people make few or no allowances for autistic people. Hol does, Guy does. The rest of the cast seem to grudgingly make some allowances.
I don’t know that that’s really fair. When Kit is transcribing verbatim what someone says (particularly if it’s unrelated to Kit, Guy, or Hol), I think it’s reasonable to assume he’s conveying that accurately. If we get the opinion that someone’s an ass because of something Kit said they said, that’s necessarily our interpretation. If we’re missing context we might normally have, it’s not because Kit is deluding himself about the world around him or trying to make himself seem better than he is.
If we get that impression because the person (whose name I forget presently) argues with Hol and Kit admires Hol and is protected by Hol, that’s maybe an instance of Kit being an unreliable narrator. I’d argue mostly not because—at least so far—Kit hasn’t really painted that character much at all other than to quote him.
If Kit is an unreliable narrator, we all are all of the time. We each view the world through a different prism that causes us to interpret the information we receive in certain ways and even to “not see” pieces of information we have no context for.
For me, I found it nerve-wracking rather than disorienting. I could sense what was going on there. It’s a major source of tension for Kit. I feel like Kit was literally avoiding telling us. There’s also foreshadowing in how he reacted to touching Hol’s car. Dying slowly is a very messy business.
I felt that was an interesting revelation of Kit’s particular perspective. To him, having a family means having specifically a mom. Or, at least, not having a mom is the thing he feels like he’s been deprived of the most. (Quote borrowed from @Raita because I don’t have the book in front of me at the moment:) “has a pair of parents, or at least a mother, or at least knows roughly where they fit into all that family business in a way that I, for better or worse, don’t.” He feels he doesn’t know how he fits in the world and he feels the underlying reason is that he doesn’t have a mom … or any of the larger family context.
Which may also be an interesting hint about Guy. Guy has gathered this interesting cast of characters around him and they seem to have filled the space of a family for him. If he has living (or dead) relatives, he hasn’t made them a part of Kit’s life at all.
Being a bit further on the spectrum than some ( ), I’ll say that the exposition method doesn’t bother me. But! Kit does bother me some. Not on an accuracy level per se but there’s a trope (even clinically speaking) that autistic people lack empathy. As far as I can tell, it’s not true. We just often lack context and useful ways of conveying that empathy.
Sometimes it can be very painful to empathize with a particular character. Kit would be on the light end of the characters I find painful to empathize with. I also find Dexter Morgan’s character painful to empathize with to the extent that I can’t watch the show Dexter. I don’t have trouble empathizing with Dexter on his serial murderer tendencies because I outright don’t empathize with that. But his social skills are very stressful to me. Same for Kit in that regard.
My own social skills (to the extent I have them) I picked up the hard way. I suspect watching (or reading) the interesting bits of my life in story form with enough changed to keep me from recognizing myself would stress me out quite a lot.
Quoting to agree strongly.
On that note, I’m going out of town on business for a few days and if it goes like last time, I will have limited access to internet. Last time, BBS—when combined with autocorrect on my tab—made for some extremely stressful (to me) misunderstandings. So, if I can’t get internet on my laptop, I won’t be posting until Friday night at the earliest.
That’s a couple of years older than me… I keep forgetting I’m supposed to be middle aged now, cause I don’t feel like an adult. Still. I’d guess I probably need therapy.
Honestly, it’s all about marketing more than anything else. If public relations can help to define a “generation”, they can sell it something. Jon Savage wrote on this recently in his book Teenage…
And I think this, more than anything else, proves the instability and constructedness of such things in the first place.
I don’t think that’s a problem on your part, but does pin down how words and phrases (or ideas) can become convenient short hands for something we’re all supposed to understand intuitively. Like this whole notion that Banks is drawing on his generational understanding of a cohort in terms of how youthful experiences shape your adult life. The Boomers (generallly understood as people who were born after the second world war, up to the early 60s (62, I think) tend to dominate what it means to be a teenager, since they were one of the largest cohort of teenagers. But this might not be seen in the same way in the rest of the world, since so much of this idea depends upon a particular set of cultural values, which in the rest of the world, might not mean as much. I mean, I think that right now, the Middle East is predominantly under the age of 35, so it’s kind of their baby boom period.
Meh. I well remembered the Ewoks as sort of a defining cultural thing, and don’t really consider myself a millennial. It’s as much personal as it is socieital, I think. My cut off is more along the lines of “do you remember what it was like to live in the Cold War” and “do you remember when MTV played nothing but videos…” Anything after that, millennial.
I’m really getting the feeling that Chapter Two, or perhaps even later on, is where it get’s interesting. What we have now, is a group of potentially antagonistic cast of characters.
Yes, I’ve read it before. But I’m doing my best to read it again for this group.
HOLLY: Well, if you erase all the Agatha Christie novels from my memory
bank, I can read 'em again tonight.
LISTER: How do I do it?
HOLLY: Just type, “HolMem. Password override. The novels Christie,
Agatha.” Then press erase.
LISTER jabs two-fingered on a keyboard.
LISTER: I’ve done it.
HOLLY: Done what?
LISTER: Erased Agatha Christie.
HOLLY: Who’s she, then?
LISTER: Holly, you just asked me to erase all Agatha Christie novels from
HOLLY: Why should I do that? I’ve never heard of her.
LISTER: You’ve never heard of her because I’ve just erased her from your
HOLLY: What’d you do that for?
LISTER: You asked me to!
LISTER: Just now!
HOLLY: I don’t remember this.
LISTER: Oh, I’m going to bed. This is gonna go on all night.