Free Culture Book Club — Quand manigancent les haricots pt 2

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This week, our Free Culture Book Club reads the first third of Quand manigancent les haricots, from Ceci n’est pas un repas de famille to Chapitre qui, lui, aurait pu être plus court. Note that I needed to correct the chapters; somehow, I miscounted the lengths, originally suggesting that this week’s discussion would end with La recherche post-apo, which actually sits at the mid-point of this section of the book.

Beans spilling down an incline

To give this series some sense of organization, here are some basic facts without much in the way of context.

  • Full Title: Quand manigancent les haricots (When the Beans are Scheming)
  • Location:
  • Released: 2021
  • License: CC-BY-SA
  • Creator: “Garlicness”
  • Medium: Short novel
  • Length: Approximately 35,000 words
  • Content Advisories: More zombies, grief, objectification of a young woman or teenager

This should go without saying—even though I’m going to repeat it with every Book Club installment—but Content Advisories are not any sort of judgment on my part, just topics that come up in the work that I noticed and might benefit from a particular mood or head space for certain audiences. It’s to help you make a decision, rather than a decision in and of itself.

Quand manigancent les haricots 🔗

I know nothing about this novel, and the blurb on the GitHub repository doesn’t exactly help, though it might help those who want to read along.

Just a repo that contains a French short novel written in Markdown, semantic release and the jobs to generate the .epub file.

To read it, download the E-pub-book asset of the last release. If you do, thanks in advance for reporting typos and discrepancies (I don’t find the time to review everything from scratch like I should do).

From some quick investigation, I know that “Garlicness” probably speaks French natively, works as a software developer, and doesn’t want their artistic projects to interfere with their career in software.

If I had discovered this earlier in the life of the Free Culture Book Club, I might have considered working through their rap lyrics, instead. But since we’ve recently covered two musicians—Woodward and Lehrer—and poet Charles, I didn’t want to push my luck. I’ll make sure that we circle back to those songs when we revisit artists who we’ve previously seen, though.

What Works Well? 🔗

While this section has some more serious aspects, it maintains a consistent sense of humor about things.

Unique to the works of zombie fiction that I’ve seen, at least, this does a surprisingly nice job of actually building out a post-zombie culture. Most similar stories primarily devolve into a power fantasy, where the protagonist needs to become a local sociopathic warlord. By contrast, this digs into the joy of still having other people to live with, but also the studied detachment that people treat each other with, to avoid the grief in the event of their friend or child turning into a zombie, and the contradictory attachment to certain zombies kept around in the event of a cure.

Likewise, this introduces the delightful idea of obsessive zombies, who people can mostly ignore, as it collects shiny objects or performs some other simple activity.

What Works…Less Well? 🔗

What do we mean by less well? Free Culture exists as a special kind of idea. By licensing a work appropriately, the creator gives each of us permission, authority, and power to make the work our own. This section tries to remind us all of that, by indicating areas of the project where you, dear reader, might consider it as an invitation to get involved with the project.
And yes, sometimes complains slip through, too…

Keeping the focus on Loir for so long—apparently, he has become our protagonist—seems like a strain that the story might not have the strength to manage. While I do enjoy the sloppy investigations, the fact that the author now uses it to throw more incidental characters—more characters—at us tells me that the investigations probably don’t bear much sustained scrutiny.

Also, I mention it in the Content Advisories above, but it feels like Arya exists solely for Loir to lust over. Even beyond the fairly lazy trope, where everything revolves around the male gaze, she mostly only clutters the book with the rest of the characters who we met once and then forgot about.

Since we get more than one “Civilization Course” chapter in this section, and it looks like this will continue, I have to admit that I don’t really see the point of them, in the larger narrative. They sometimes carry a couple of small jokes—any of which could’ve worked into a more relevant conversation—but they break the flow and need to build up a lot of scaffolding to tell us about things that we readers already know (because we live in our world, already), to make those jokes.

Opportunities 🔗

It seems that Garlicness still makes an occasional appearance on their GitHub account, though I don’t see any suggestions for contributions or see any history of how they handle contributions.

What’s Adaptable? 🔗

As mentioned earlier, this seems to mark the first appearance of robotic zombies that pose no threat to people.

Other than that, we get another batch of names, but none of them connect to anything significant where I’d call them “characters.”

Next 🔗

Come back in a week, when we’ll finish Quand manigancent les haricots, from Concertation publique en vue de l’adoption d’une politique de développement à long terme to the end, Bye bye, merci d’avoir lu.

While we wait for that, what did everybody else think about Quand manigancent les haricots?

Credits: The header image is Haricot beans by Jessica Spengler, made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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