We are celebrating 10 years of QBMC this
2019 twentybiteen with a throwback to past books, movies, and a couple of exciting socials!
Attendees: Alexius, Rachel, Ron, Dorcas, Malcolm Sunny, Jason, Raj, Asy, Darren, Zoe, Clement, Timmy
Thank you to dearest Raj “Ponpon” for the wonderful spread of Turkish delights! All of us were definitely delighted (heh heh) with the delicious morsels. “Come for the book club, stay for the food,” Timmy declared.
A summary of the book by moderator Vicky started the discussion, highlighting events such as the depressive episode the narrator was going through at the start of the book, the lusting of Haluk Pekerdem, and the openly queer culture of Istanbul.
There were a couple of things that we did not like about the novel, namely the handling of the murder case, and the writing. Of the former, Timmy felt the mystery got shafted in favour of the narrator’s adventures and histrionics, while the murders’ motives were unclear to Dorcas. More people had issues with Somer’s writing, calling it “wordy” (Ron and Jason), “lengthy” (Vicky), and “too detailed on everything else but the murder” (Raj). Alexius thought the first half of the book was written smoothly, only for it to be let down with a clumsy second half. Rachel wondered if the translation of the book may have seemingly altered the original text. Zoe did not find the book suspenseful or as thrilling as other books in the genre.
Vicky noted the distinct sense of style that was present in the book. Malcolm envisioned it like a cabaret, emulating the grandiosity of Shanghai Tang. Jason thought there was a mismatch between the style and the technology being used. Raj liked it, as it merged the old and the new while making it all relevant. Timmy referenced Archer, an animated spy sitcom that employs a similarly anachronistic style.
We talked about the melting pot of Middle Eastern culture and Western influences, particularly on the formalities and customs vis-à-vis the idolation of British and American personalities. “We can relate (to all of it),” Raj said, elaborating that the formalities and customs are forms of respect for the elders, which all of us are all too familiar with. The amalgamation of the two, Jason opined, made the book “very Turkish” but also “very cosmopolitan”. Vicky appreciated the inclusion of the glossary.
The portrayal of violence in the book, particularly in relation to the narrator not thinking twice in beating down the other characters, was deemed problematic in Vicky’s eyes. “Was that even necessary?” she questioned, implying that they may have been able to beat people up and get away with it due to male privilege. Malcolm and Rachel remarked that the scenes were included to show that trans people are not weak.
As we were talking about the narrator’s penchant of inflicting physical harm, the discussion naturally shifted towards the character itself. We wondered what the narrator’s preferred pronouns were (“He in the daytime, she in the nighttime,” Timmy joked), whether the character identified as a trans person or a drag queen, and why was the protagonist written nameless. All of us observed that because the narrator was fleshed out as the book’s lead character – Dorcas admired the narrator’s confidence, while Vicky felt that she was too dramatic at times – the other characters faltered as one-dimensional supporting roles.
Other things that we discussed:
- The start of the book, where the narrator was going through depression after their break-up. Jason suggested that the entire chapter should not be read in a medical context. Vicky found the scene helpful in its believability, though Raj bitchily commented that it just painted the narrator as a drama queen.
- The portrayal of friendships in the book were genuine and solid, which all of us truly appreciated. The scene in which all the drag sisters turned up at the narrator’s house to rally around them felt “very communal, very Malay,” according to Raj.
- Was the constant lusting and adoration of Haluk Pekerdem necessary? Vicky and Zoe found it excessive, though Rachel felt otherwise, citing that crushes are typically written as such. Fixation can also border on obsession, Asy supplemented.
- The writing of Cihad2000, a disabled (gay) character who is into BDSM. Raj felt he was real; Malcolm found him to be a multi-faceted character. The conversation then segued to Vicky posing this question to everyone present: “Would you be a friend and help out a disabled friend?”
- Could Huseyin the taxi driver be suffering from anger management issues?
- A lot (of good things) were said about Nimet Hanoglu, calling her a “strong, independent, likeable” “dragon lady” “good wife” who is pretty similar to Michelle Yeoh’s matriarch character in Crazy Rich Asians. (Nimet was such a good person that Alexius thought that she sent the two robbers to be the narrator’s sex dolls. Oops!) We realised how differently Nimet Hanoglu and Canan Hanoglu Pekerdem were portrayed, following that up with asking if there was a character bias.
- Most, if not all of us, were disappointed with the ending: Dorcas felt it was a let-down; Jason found it farfetched; Rachel was not expecting Haluk to be involved; Alexius knew that his wife was the murderer. Malcolm noted the way the coming together of characters and eventual reveal of guilty parties reminded him of Cluedo.
As the first book to kick off the club’s tenth anniversary, Somer’s novel was favourably received by everyone: “colourful and descriptive” (Dorcas), “lively and sexualised” (Ron), “stylish” (Vicky), and “campy and comedic; imaginable as a mini-series” (Jason). Rachel found the book “different” and “cool” in comparison to the other books that the club has done since her first attendance. Malcolm speculated if the author wrote the book to subvert societal norms, calling it a “liberal book”. Alexius likened the book to Desperate Housewives and deemed it MRT-friendly.