Tuesday, November 17

Join Me - Danny Wallace

Bored out of his mind one day, Danny was searching for something interesting to do. When his mother rang to tell him that his gread-uncle Gallus had just died, Danny had no idea that this event would set him off on one of what his girlfriend Hanne called his "stupid boy projects" (both meanings - stupid projects and projects of stupid boys - are accurate). For Join Me is the story of how a relatively normal bloke, inspired by an elderly relative's long-ago attempt at forming a commune, created a cult. By accident.
Danny discovered this information during the wake - even fifty years later Gallus's attempts were the cause of great hilarity among his surviving relatives. Out of a village of a hundred Gallus had hoped to recruit 100 members, but succeeded in only attracting three. On his return to London Danny wondered how well he'd go at gathering followers - to find out, he inserted a small ad that said only"Join Me: send one passport-sized photo to..."
What follows is a truly amusing, well-crafted tale that had me laughing aloud at several points. Each chapter begins with a verse detailing events that will follow. Chapter one, for example, begins:

1. In the beginning was the Word.
2. And the Word was There.

There is a man in Camden, Noth London, who once made me very happy.

Some of the humour is situation specific and therefore not easily described in a brief review, and all of the verses are amusing, particularly verses 9 - 11 (wherein the toasted cheese sandwich of the Leader burns) and Chapter 13, verses 1 + 2:
1. It came to pass that the words of Daniel were heard by a second Daniel, son of Ander.
2. And Daniel - nay, but the other one - was mending a chariot from the land of the Ikeans.
For conspiracy theory lovers like Lynn and I, the entire section with Benjamin (which takes up most of chapter 13, appropriately enough) is worth the price of admission, as Danny tries valiantly to distance himself from the many secret societies that Benjamin is convinced want to rule the world. I think my favourite part is when, after Benjamin asks him about a whole series of secret organisations ("What would you say if I said the words: 'The Process'?... What about The Children?... The Finderers" etc), Danny finally interrupts with:
"No. No, I've never heard of any of this lot. They're nothing to do with me. Im doing something called Join Me, and it's about good deeds. That's all. No Moon Children, Luciferians, or Finders."
"You've heard of The Finders?" Benjamin's eyes filled with horror.

"You just mentioned them a minute ago," I said...
Benjamin looked around the room, decided it was safe, and whispered conspiratorily "Since 1987, The Finders have been active, mainly in America."
The words "mainly in America" translated to me as "this is bollocks" and I sat back in my chair with a sign.
There's gold everywhere, from Wallace's self-deprecating comparisons of himself to other authors ("I'm sure if I'd been Bill Bryson my taxidriver would have told me a funny story of something") to language barriers ("She clearly meant it as a compliment, but round my neck of the woods being called 'a special' won't really wiin you any girls"), and a spectacularly amusing scene involving an evil friend and a tinted limo.
There's also impending doom - Hanne had been very clear after his last 'stupid boy project' that it had better be the last, and you sense from the start that when she finds out about Join Me she will not be pleased. There's also the tension of working out what he's going to do with all these followers, and some interesting sociological questions about joining in general, and why these people decided to Join Danny knowing almost nothing.
Join Me is spectacular fun and I cannot recommend it highly enough. - Alex


Matt Whitby said...

But... did you join?

Love, Joinee Whitby

Almost-Joinee Alex said...

I'm still searching for a (relatively flattering) passport sized photo but have already begun good deeding :)