Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge


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Simon Koncz

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This is the best piece of Titanic fiction ever written. Narrowly missed winning the 2005 (?) Booker prize. It won the Whitbread prize.
If I were to begin to interest someone in the Titanic and its world, I would give them EMFH to read, over any dry narrative history.
Has anyone read it? Any thoughts?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Hallo, Simon. The praises of this book have been sung (by myself and a few others) in a number of threads here on ET, but it always surprises me that so few Titaniacs have read it - or even heard of it. It is not of course a novel about the Titanic but rather one in which the ship and the sinking provide a (quite convincing) backdrop for the social interactions of a variety of fascinating characters. But it's still the only quality work of fiction to feature the Titanic, and the only one to be found on my bookshelf. Beryl Bainbridge could set out to write the instruction manual for a washing machine and deliver a work of art.
 

Senan Molony

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I read it twice, or was it thrice?

You talk of a 'work of art' Washing Machine Manual, Bob, but I remain perplexed with my owner's problem.

There is still a flood every time.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Senan, after you've piled in your Y-fronts and the Persil are you remembering to close the water-tight door?
 

Senan Molony

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Hi Bob,

Thanks for trouble-chuting this...

There is a porthole you can look through...

And events certainly seem to tumble over themselves okay...

But when I open Every Man for Himself there's always lots and lots of water, and everything has turned soggy and blue.

No matter how much I try to avoid people dyeing on top of me.

(I previously owned a Samsung at Journey's End, and it was fine.)

.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Now there's where you're going wrong, Senan. Right author, wrong manuscript. Browse immediately to Amazon and order Hotpoint Service Manual 4777546 by Beryl Bainbridge. Or if you're as mean as I am you can wait 70 years and download it free from Project Gutenberg. I also have a paperback copy of Dan Brown's The Household Appliance Conspiracy. It's good on the theory but doesn't offer much in the way of practical guidance.
 

Senan Molony

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Yeah, Bob, now that you mention it, I seem to recall with the Samsung (rigged up in Norway for some reason) that there was a drum involved, and it went round and round for absolutely ages... although there was quite a bit of violins at the height before it all came to a shuddering end.

I did try to ring up! Honestly!!
I tried to get someone around yesterday.
But they said they were all out at some industry dinner...
Do you think I should try again today to be a man booker?

There was a chap across the road had an EMFH, and like me, it gave nothing but trouble every time.

He would get his mechanic out to look at the book, and there was always this vignette of yer man's coat hung up on the railings.

It was quite sad really.
 

Senan Molony

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No such luck, Bob !

When I rang just now, they said they no longer do North Atlantic call-outs and anyway the guarantee group had long since expired.

Any other ideas?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Well, maybe you just have a bad copy there, Senan. Take it back to W H O'Smiths and change it. Mine gives no trouble, but I do have a copy of Ms Bainbridge's The Birthday Boys which freezes up in cold weather. I can't afford plumbers, so I never did find out whether Captain Scott made it back ok.
 

Senan Molony

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Well my copy is the Abacus edition (go figure).

I had another look at it myself, and managed to get it away from the wall. Had a look round the back, where you get the dust/wrappers etc.

There's huge lots of piping feeding into it - gushers from the Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times, Sunday Times, Independent on Sunday, Evening Standard...

Standard? Don't make me laugh. All I know for sure is that there's cold water and that it must be hot in there too.

Anyway, I am late for work now and I have left it out in the middle of the kitchen.

I have a friend called Sam who is an engineer. I might ask him to have a look at it, as he is good at twisting things around.

He's very busy in other areas however. A great believer in the use of ball-bearings to cut down on fiction.

Seriously - like Scott, must dash!
 

Bob Godfrey

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I know Sam the man and I find him to be very helpful, though I do get confused sometimes with the technicalities. But he never gets frustrated and yells "What do you expect me to do, draw you a diagram?" He just draws me a diagram.

My local plumber is called Stan, and he's hopeless on night call-outs. He always spots my socket signals but with a lifetime of experience he still can't figure out what they mean. I end up having to call out an emergency service from 50 miles away, and by the time they get here the place is awash.
 

Senan Molony

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Well, I am in work, and my wife rang me (to complain about the book left out in the kitchen, obviously). She got the neighbour in, and Mr Hichens thinks I am just turning the dial the wrong way.

He seems to have convinced the wife, but I don't believe it.

From what I can remember, there is a narrow slot at he front of the book with 'Prologue' (Prologic?) written on it. It doesn't seem to advance very far... I guess that is where you would be keeping your powder dry.

The rest of it would be where your fabric goes in, and obviously your dash of Beryl, to lift it all out of the ordinary mire and give everything that bit of gleam and sparkle.

Anyway, that's the theory. I do agree that it is very well constructed and crafted etc, but right now it is just sitting there.

Maybe I won't bother calling Sam. He's a bit too feng shui about having everything always oriented northwards. He's very short-sighted as well, which is why those diagrams never make sense.

I agree - Stan is great. Drops everything and barrels through anything at top speed to get to you first thing in the morning. Nobody wants him around at night.

He rang up Phillips one evening (they're in Eindhoven) and was told to clear off, everyone in the service department was busy.

Charming!
 
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Simon, I'm another who enjoyed Bainbridge's Titanic based novel immensely. It is the standout novel in my Titanic fiction collection, and I'd give it shelf space even if I had no interest in Titanic. The only reason it's not one of my 'desert island' novels is that I prefer her The Birthday Boys, a retelling of Scott's last expedition. (Oops, I hope that wasn't a spoiler for Senan.)

And Bob, if we're talking Booker standard Titanica, there's Julian Barnes with his odd little chapter about Lawrence Beesley in The History of the World in 10½ Chapters. A longer bow to draw is Amin Maalouf's Samarkand (where the original Rubaiyat is lost in Titanic's sinking at the very end of the book) or Anthony Burgess' Any Old Iron, the life story of AB David Jones, fictitious Titanic survivor (insane combination of Titanic, Arthurian legend and scrap metal references amongst others).
 

Bob Godfrey

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Thanks for the tips, Fiona. I really must find a copy of Any Old Iron. I generally buy more specific service manuals but you can't get them any more for my obsolete Moulinex.

Seriously, you can't go far wrong with Mr Burgess and that one looks like a gem, with or without the very tenuous connection to the old canoe. Off now to the Amazon Marketplace.

__________________________________________________________________________

Unemployed and poverty-stricken - So much time, so few books!
 

Simon Koncz

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Thanks Fiona. I must get a copy of TBB then too!
EMFH was the first Bainbridge I had read. It was that strong, dreamlike quality of the narration that so hooked me.
How can any Titanic narrative be "dry" btw?
Tut.
 

Senan Molony

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I can recommend The Birthday Boys, in fact anything by Bainbridge, a majestic writer now lost to us. But what a canon.
She was the Queen of Disasters in particular.
Beryl the Peril ?
 

Simon Koncz

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I think thats her wonderful Liverpudlian background kicking in. Also her fascinating life.
She came to historical fiction very late. A pity! She had the eye and the ear for it, to a incredible degree, if Every Man For Himself is any indicator of her innate historical empathy.
I look forward to a Bainbridge reading orgy.
 
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