wouldn’t you like to read part 1 and part 2 first?
“Join Me” by Danny Wallace is not a typical book. Well, it is typical in that it has many pages bound by glue within a cover, but the words inside -not that they aren’t printed in a standard typefont- tell a different sort of story. “Join Me” is the story of motivation, determination, addiction, mania and love. It’s a feel-good tale that is in parts humourous, inspirational, and frustratingly tragic. Sure, sounds a little hokey, perhaps conventional, but what if I told you it’s all true? No, not based on a true story, but honest-to-gosh true.
This is the story of Danny Wallace circa early-2002, in brief. Danny’s great uncle died, the very same great uncle that many years before had tried to start his own commune of 100 and failed miserably (at 3 joinees). Danny, having come off of working as a producer for the BBC and into unemployment took inspiration from his now departed great uncle and took to taking out an advert in a local paper stating “JOIN ME, send a passport photo to:” and he put his address.
Little did he know what he was getting into. He took advice from the man who owns the moon, and he travelled around Europe to promote and collect joinees, at first 100, but 100 was too easy, so then it became 1000 joinees in a non-bet… 1000 joinees and he calls this whole Join Me lark quits.
As his flock gathered, and passport photos collected in a shoebox or somesuch reservoir, and through his website and email his joinees finally began to demand to know what this joining buisiness was all about. So, deciding to use his congregation for good instead of malice, they were charged with a task: help out an old feller. And the joinees did. And they felt good, and they asked for more.
Thus was born Good Fridays, where members of Join Me set out to do good deeds on Fridays, any good deeds, any at all. Meanwhile, with all of this, Danny, aka “the Leader” was keeping this whole “I’ve started a cult…err… collective” thing a secret from his ever-thinning of patience girlfriend (a carry over character from “Are You Dave Gorman?).
When the lid blows, and Danny’s gal finds out about the big secret he’s been keeping, all the German newspaper clippings, the Belgian talk-show, the passport photos… well, she ups and leaves him. In every effort he tries to win her back, going to her Netherlands home to plead with her, but the only way to keep her, he knows, is to let go of his flock and his sense of whimsy and he just can’t do it. And though he is distraught he still perseveres and carries through and solicits for Norwegians to join him.
He eventually gets his 1000 joinees, but by that point it’s a force larger than him, and a truly good willing and decent force it is. So, Danny Wallace remains the leader of “Join Me” to this day, almost twenty months later, and his following grows to well over 4000 to which I find myself wishing to be included.
What did I say?
YES, I said it. I’m going to join Danny and party like it’s 1984 (which was a particularly good year for him) and not out of some sense of whimsy or hipsterism… I got past the point of novelty with it somewhere around the halfway point of the book. Sure it’s a charmingly told, and really quite odd and funny story, but it also has a purpose, a purpose grown beyond its original intention, and as you read the book it does in fact hit you, if you are at all decent, that being nice to people, intentionally, on Fridays isn’t too much to ask out of life.
And you know what? I did it…
wouldn’t you like to read part 1 and part 2 first?
hey, how about reading part 1 first? No? oh well, continue then…
So “Join Me” by Danny Wallace sat at my bedside, as more than one (and often more than ten) have (and still do) on occasion (at present there’s some books on language, creativity, Cuba, sex, and superheroes, to mention the short list).
I knew, having read the back of the book - at least twice over - what the general concept was, and it sounded as equally quirky as “Are You Dave Gorman?” had been, but alas, the time just did not seem right.
There was a copy of Elmore Leonard’s “Cuba Libre” sitting atop the alarm clock (generously muffling the morning wake-up loudspeaker) where it has remained, half read, since at least Summerfolk weekend in August. Chances were (and remain) that I was never going back to it. You have to understand, though, how difficult it is for me to accept this, as when I start with a story, I have to finish it, no matter how bad… which I why I stuck throughTerminator 3, even after realizing 20 minutes in that it wasn’t even comedically bad… not that Cuba Libre was bad, just no really that engaging, for my tastes. Probably not my best first exposure to Leonard’s written word (but I’ve liked and/or loved the movies base on his novels, including Jackie Brown/Rum Punch, Get Shorty, Touch, and best of all, Out of Sight).
Back in September I got a rather large collection of graphic novels from my dealer back home and left the all-text world by the wayside. Having thinned those out by Thanksgiving, however, I was looking for something else… something to get me back into the text world (and here, arguably, I should have focussed on my own work and gotten back to the final edit of the novel-indefinitely-on-hold… *sigh*). Emma’s mother had a signed gratis copy (running a bookstore does have some perks) of Margaret Atwood’s latest “it’s-not-science-fiction” sci-fi novel “Oryx and Crake” - of this I have to say two things to start: 1) it is most definitely science fiction, 2) it’s just not particularly good, is all.
The book, well, is boring. Almost unreadably so. I would read the book on rain-days when I had to take the streetcar to work instead of biking. Very quickly I learned how to force myself to speedread, and made it two-thirds of the way through the book in a week, before it was relegated to the unused spot of my courier bag (unused, mainly, because there was a hardcover piece of nonsense filling it up). This one I had no problems stopping reading.
So archway of book-reading was slowly closing its gates on me when Ryan Waddell alerted me to the presence of a new Nick Hornby book. “Songbook” was titled “31 Songs” in its original domain of publishing, was retitled and also added “5 new essays” for domestic release, and is as you can surmise, a grouping essays about music (further distilled as about 31 songs, specifically, and 5 more essays about other music stuff). I was so excited by this revelation that I went out in search of that book that night (truth be told I actually went out in search of the new Tenacious D DVD but didn’t find it and felt disappointed enough to buy this book and other such stuff instead).
I love Nick Hornby. Reading his words is effortless and his words resonate deeply, almost as my own, if not necessarily in subject, than definitely in thought. “Songbook” was ingested within a week (for this “Song-book”, tis not a “long-book”) and I’m a better man for it.
One essay of note, Hornby’s writes of freeing himself from the self-inflicted punishment the concert goer sometimes endures when at a show… this liberation of leaving something that’s not enriching your life even though you’ve paid for it, invested in it as is, well, it’s a truism we all should embrace. This feeling of liberation is equally felt for shitty movies, television, books, plays and cds as it for bad concerts.
Anyway, all asides aside, after finishing off “Songbook” so rapidly, I wasn’t quite done with this engaging slice of someone else’s life. I needed another fix. Yet, there was nothing more to be had from the Hornby collection that I had not already inputted into my system. So, looking down the side of my bed, I stared in Danny Wallace’s big puppy dog eyes and decided it was time…. it was time to join him.
And I did.
part 3… soon
On of my regular must read blogs is Neil Gaiman’s journal, which, if you’re someone who likes writing, or blogs that are written well with a charming candor to them, then it’s tops on the list.
Anyway, Neil often answers questions from the doubtlessly hundreds of fanboy and fangirl emails he gets each day, and one day, not too long ago a fan wrote:
Second, have you come across Join Me yet?
It’s an account of how Danny Wallace set up his own cult by placing a cryptic small ad in Loot, one of our local newspapers. All it said was “Join me” and people did. Now he’s going Stateside (website: http://www.join-me.co.uk).
It was Danny Wallace who made another curious journey with Dave Gorman - they tracked down all the Dave Gormans they could worldwide and made a book/tv series about them all.
To which he responded:
I’m already a fan of Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman ( see here, from a year ago). I bought lots of copies of “Are you Dave Gorman?” and sent them to friends.
Join us looks like fun…
Well, if it’s good enough for Gaiman not to just read, then to send to friends, then I too must have this book. So I poofered around the ‘net and quickly came across Mr. Gorman’s site wherein he told me that a) there was no copies of “Are You Dave Gorman?” in the USA and that b) Amazon.co.uk was probably the best place to get it.
When I was on the aformentioned site, ready, willing, but barely capable of making my purchase, I noted that they were also bundling Danny Wallace’s “Join Me” book for a discounted price if you bought both. I looked at the