A Dinner That Takes Forever – Featuring Crazy People (The Dinner Chapters 1-23)

Listening to the Persona 5 Soundtrack (which is amazing and I like to use it as motivation for homework)

Hey it’s been quite a long time since my last blog post. Choosing my next book was pretty difficult since none of the books really stood out to me, but I ended up choosing The Dinner by Herman Koch. Our teacher said that this book is about “crazy people,” however I was doubtful of that as well as annoyed during the first third of the book. Nothing really crazy was happening yet and I found it a bit hard to follow because it moved back and forth between the past and the present without that much of an indication. Once I reached chapter thirteen, things got VERY weird.

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My expression from chapter thirteen onward

Chapter thirteen was where the book began to become peculiar. For example, when Paul was in the washroom with the bearded man, he imagined that the man had “a big cock of the shameless variety, with thick blue veins right below the surface of darkish-grey skin that was ruddily healthy yet still rather rough” (ch. 13).

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My initial reaction was what did I just read? I was not expecting a detailed description of a man’s genitals after reading the first twelve chapters. I thought the author chose to include these details to create an almost creepy tone and imply that Paul is a crazy man. Simply writing that he thought the bearded man was big would not have had the same impact. My suspicions were confirmed when Paul was watching Serge who was feeling annoyed by the bearded man and his daughter. If Paul was in that situation with Serge, he “would have twisted the beard’s arms behind his back… so that Serge could concentrate on smashing his face” (ch. 17). That is an extreme reaction to someone who is only annoying you. After this, I thought of how unsettling it was to read about a violent and crazy man’s thoughts in first person because it felt like he was talking directly to you. These unusual thoughts reminded me of Yuno Gasai, an anime character from Future Diary, who is willing to kill anyone who gets in the way of her relationship with the main character Yukiteru; she is the very definition of a yandere (you can find more about this anime/manga archetype here). Originally she was not deranged, but after several traumatic events she became this way. This made me wonder if there was something that happened to Paul which caused him to be this way or is he just crazy? I am aware that he felt like “something [snapped]” in him, possibly “deeper than [his spine]” after he left the bike shop with Michel in his flashback which implied that he felt a change in him since he was aggressive with the bike shop owner and threatened to hit him with a pump (ch. 22). This could have been the trigger to his insanity, but there could be something bigger that happened in his life. Let me know what you think in the comments below.

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The crazy Yuno from Future Diary


The book became even more disturbing when it was describing two teenagers assaulting a homeless woman sleeping in the ATM booth. Here is an excerpt of this event:

They’re still laughing as they pick up the office chair and carry it over to the cubicle. Dirty, rotten shit-whore! They throw the chair, in as far as that can go into the little cubicle, at the sleeping bag, which the woman has now crawled back into. The cousin holds the door open, the brother goes back for the desk lamp, and two full garbage bags. The woman pokes her head out of the sleeping bag again, her hair really is stuck together in thick, greasy mats, she has a beard, or else it’s just caked-on filth. She tries to push the office chair away with one hand, but doesn’t really succeed. Then the first garbage bag hits her full in the face, her head rocks back, strikes hard against the steel wastepaper container on the wall. Now the cousin throws the desk lamp. It’s an old-fashioned kind with a round shade and a retractable arm. The metal shade hits the woman on the nose. It is perhaps strange that she has stopped screaming, that the brother and the cousin are no longer hearing her shrill voice. She merely sits there, nodding groggily when the second garbage bag hits her in the face. Stupid whore, go pass out somewhere else then! Get a job! That ‘Get a job!’ cracks them up again. Get a job! the brother shouts. Get a job, job, job! (ch. 21)

I found this a bit hard to read because of the things I was imagining and thinking of. The vivid imagery coupled with profanity emphasized the atrocity. I felt like this was just horrible especially because I was thinking of the homeless people I have seen in my life. Their situation is already really unfortunate and hard to deal with, but then visualizing those boys enjoying assaulting that poor innocent woman because of an asinine reason was painful.

Overall, I was not expecting to read such crazy things in a summative novel from a grade 12 English class but at least it’s interesting to read. What are your thoughts on Paul and the boys having fun in attacking the homeless woman? I look forward to hearing your responses.

-Adam

 

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4 thoughts on “A Dinner That Takes Forever – Featuring Crazy People (The Dinner Chapters 1-23)

  1. I get what you meant when you were talking about how nothing too significant was happening in the beginning of the book. It’s super jumbled and you’re constantly trying to follow the time jumps but honestly I think it made the book more unique and creative. COMPLETELY agree when you said everything got strange after chapter 13. I feel like the novel kept building up and in the span of just a few chapters, a million things were thrown our way. To answer your question, I think something may have happened to Paul in order to make him act crazy all the time. Possibly something related to his brother? Maybe that’s why he shows such a strong hatred for him? But you’re right he does not act like a normal person and a lot of his descriptions are put in disturbing ways… he’s a very sketchy character. As for Micheal and Rick, I saw the murder coming but didn’t think that they would be so cruel and merciless! Do you have any theories on what the parents are going to do about this incident? Also, in this section Claire left Micheal a message saying that “Paul doesn’t know anything and she wants to keep it that way”… what do you think she knows? Do you think she had something to do with Micheal and the murder?
    Let me know! Looking forward to the next blog post.

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    1. I think the parents will try to keep quiet about the incident because Serge is a well-known politician whose reputation cannot be tarnished if he wants to be elected. Additionally, since there are hints that Paul will just let it be and forget about it he will likely go along with it. I think Claire might know about what her son did, but I cannot think of any evidence to support that.

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  2. I agree with you and thought that the book was a bit slow at first, however I think that was the author’s intention: to make the reader feel extremely shocked and overwhelmed all at once. I also found that it built lots of suspense which I enjoyed.
    About Paul, I do think maybe there were things that had happened in his life that made him become this type of person. And Michel and his cousins, I was extremely disgusted by their actions and how they enjoyed tormenting this homeless woman.

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    1. Now that you mention it, it does make sense that the author chose to begin dry and then let that make the reveal of the craziness more dramatic. Thank you for your input.

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