Ferretbrain Presents: the TeXt Factor 2011, Episode 3 - Spot the Deliberate Error

by Wardog

Two down, ten to go
listen to podcast
(MP3, 78:03, 96 kbps, 53.52 MB)
This week we are a bit sure about our favourite things, and switch to a ranking system. We still find Cotillion adorable, and have our expectations confounded by about the Color Purple. Jamie enlightens us about the significance of bananas. Dan gets distracted by the name of the Host, and we find out what happens when three rabbis try to move a cabinet. Kyra wuvs Mrs Cadwallader, and we spend a long time Talking About Kevin.

Our continued support for Contest makes Jamie cry.

0:00:49 - Introduction and Talking
05:14 - Cotillion
0:10:12 - The Color Purple
0:18:49 - Gaudy Night
0:25:18 - Lavinia
0:30:40 - The Host
0:39:50 - The Autograph Man
0:44:00 - Middlemarch
0:53:11 - We Need to Talk About Kevin
1:05:01 - Dark Side of Love (Unfortunately Deleted)
1:05:40 - Contest
1:12:39 - Vote

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Comments (go to latest)
Arthur B at 17:53 on 2011-10-02
In a way it's a shame we never got far with the Dark Side of Love. We didn't get to the bit about the Curse of the Donkey Dick.
Wardog at 18:28 on 2011-10-02
You say "shame" I say "bloody relief."
Ibmiller at 15:52 on 2011-10-03
Am only halfway through listening, but I just want to say that I hope Gaudy Night makes it very far, since it's one of my absolute favorite novels (mystery or otherwise) of all time.
https://profiles.google.com/netwomble at 23:09 on 2011-10-03
Can someone do some magic so that this shows up in the RSS feed so that my podcast app picks it up? I'm really enjoying the series so far.
Rami at 23:59 on 2011-10-03
Fixed -- sorry about that!
Wardog at 10:20 on 2011-10-21
Gaudy Night is awesome; I think it suffers in this format for being quite intricate, however, in that we never have a clue what's going on from week to week.
Arthur B at 11:22 on 2011-10-21
It's also quite long so we never get to the big leather dog collars and the autoerotic asphyxiation.
Wardog at 12:47 on 2011-10-21
Yeah, I feel the text really let itself down by not having those in earlier.
Arthur B at 14:37 on 2011-10-21
Rereading it with knowledge of that stuff really adds a new dimension to
Harriet and Peter's relationship. Especially since we were reading it as "I won't marry you Peter, kindly cease bothering me" when it's actually "I won't marry you Peter, but I'm happy to let you collar me and indulge in mutual strangulation."
Wardog at 15:01 on 2011-10-21
Re spoiler text:

That's not so very strange. There are plenty of people I'd be unwilling to marry but would perhaps consent to...(spoiler text).
Arthur B at 15:12 on 2011-10-21
Not saying it's strange, just saying it's a dimension of their relationship we weren't aware of on the first reading. :)
Jamie Johnston at 19:32 on 2013-12-29
I finished reading The dark side of love a couple of days ago, and, wow, if there was ever a book that was not going to do well in TeXt Factor it's that one. You remember the moderately interesting murder mystery plot that took up pages 6 to 22 and then seemed to vanish? You have to wait until page 769 to get any sort of indication that it's ever going to be mentioned again. The romance plot that opens the book is also dropped pretty early and doesn't come back until you've read about 200 pages of the history of the lovers' various ancestors. It wasn't until about page 300 that I could say with any confidence what the book was even about. Basically it's a book that asks for a huge amount of patience and perseverance. And I'm not entirely sure the reward is worth it.

I mean, there is a lot to recommend the book. I enjoyed most of it, even when at the same time I was thinking 'where's this going and will it get there soon?' The setting and the main characters are slowly built up to be very well-rounded and compelling, and there's a wealth of entertaining digressions and episodes (including the regrettably brief account of
a secret club of feminist assassins
). But A suitable boy, which is about 600 pages longer, absolutely rattles along in comparison. Given the nature of the TeXt Factor exercise, I think we were absolutely right to ditch it pretty early.

(Also, obviously it isn't inherently wrong to write an 850-page novel and only devote about two pages in total to mentions of queer sex / relationships, but if you're going to do that then you should maybe not add an afterword claiming that you wanted to write 'a novel about all the varieties of forbidden love to be found in Arabia'.)
Arthur B at 05:28 on 2013-12-30
So what did you make of the whole Curse of the Donkey Dick subplot?
Jamie Johnston at 00:21 on 2014-01-04
Well, forewarned is forearmed, so when I got to it I was able to go, 'Ah yes, this is the bit that Arthur told us about' and then sort of powered through. But yeah, it was weird, not only because it's weird for the size of someone's cock to be a major plot-point in a Serious Literary Novel but also because of how very much seemed to be determined by the size of the cock. I think you'd mentioned that but still it was more extreme than I'd expected. And I don't think you'd mentioned (or maybe I'd forgotten)
Elias' other super-power of being able to literally smell sexual attraction with 100% accuracy
, which is possibly even weirder.

The best I could make of it was to read it as a sort of folk-tale element in the story, like how stories like Struwwelpeter or Pinocchio have heroes whose physical features have plot-driving semi-magical powers. I think we talked about whether the book was trying to incorporate different styles in the different periods of the narrative, with the more remote historical periods being more like folk stories, and I still have a feeling there may have been something like that going on that might have been more recognizable if one were more familiar with Syrian traditional storytelling. Or alternatively there may just be things about the book that are kind of weird and don't work very well.

The best thing I can say about the Curse of the Donkey Dick is that it goes away fairly quickly and gets subsumed in a more general strand of
George Mushtak hating Elias for less specific and less bizarre reasons
. It also, mercifully, is not mentioned again when, much later in the book,
Elias starts cheating on his wife
. Which is actually one of the things that makes me think it may have been meant to create a folk-story vibe, because logically it would make sense for the later episode to be blamed on the Donkey Dick business in the same way that it's portrayed as the cause of the stuff that happens earlier, but by that point the story has become more naturalistic and mundane, and it's basically just put down to him being a bit of a jerk.
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