Join Me: The True Story of a Man Who Started a Cult by Accident Paperback – 3 Jun 2004
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"One of the funniest stories you will ever read" (Daily Mail)
"The hilarious true story of a bunch of strangers being swept up in a bored man's experiment" (Heat)
"Hugely funny." (World Magazine)
"Join Me is the kind of book I love: effortlessly funny, painfully accurate and entertaining to the very end. Brilliant." (Mike Gayle)
Danny Wallace was bored. Just to see what would happen, he placed a whimsical ad in a local London paper. It said, simply, 'Join Me'. Within a month, he was receiving letters and emails from teachers, mechanics, sales reps, vicars, schoolchildren and pensioners - all pledging allegiance to his cause. But no one knew what his cause was. Soon he was proclaimed Leader. Increasingly obsessed and possibly power-crazed Danny risked losing his sanity and his loyal girlfriend. But who could deny the attraction of a global following of devoted joinees? A book about dreams, ambition and the responsibility that comes with power, Join Me is the true story of a man who created a cult by accident, and is proof that whilst some men were born to lead, others really haven't got a clue.See all Product description
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Danny thinks he can do better and wants to commemorate his late uncle in some way. So he puts an classified advert in Loot magazine which simply says 'Join Me' and a note asking for a passport photo to be sent to his home address.
Join Me is a semi-sequel to the fabulous 'Are You Dave Gorman?' which he co-wrote with Dave Gorman. In that book it was Gorman who was the eccentric, the person wanting to find 54 people namesakes; Wallace was the straight man; the one telling Dave to calm down, to stop the madness before it went too far.
It isn't clear how far after the previous book all this happened for it seems pretty close. It's as though Wallace secretly missed the chase he was sidekick to and needed something to fill the hole. In this book it turns out he's possibly even madder; at least Gorman has a perceptible limit to his work. Wallace shoots the ball going and doesn't even goal. But one of the joys of the book is the constant revelations as it proceeds and since I'm going to recommend you buy this at the end of the review I don't want to give too much away.
Part of the charm here is that Wallace admits that he doesn't have the writing ability of other people in the genre and name checks travel writer he thinks would be doing a better job. Ironically he's actually as good as they are. For various reasons he takes a trip to Paris and perfectly captures what it's like around the Eiffel Tower and in the cafes.
As in the Gorman book he also captures the silent majority of people in the UK who are extraordinary for no apparent reason other than they feel like they should be doing something out of the ordinary. It's not anarchy, or non-conformity in the traditional sense. It's that idea that if you want to change the way life is and expected behavior, your only course of action is to have a go. I'd say the recent craze of FlashMobbing and BookCrossing (leaving old books about for other people to pick up and enjoy) are other examples of this.
For me the most interesting aspect of this endeavor is that at no point does the reader feel that all of this happened because of a potential book deal. It was a personal project, something the journalist wanted to do so that he was at least doing something.
But I'm not going to pretend it's a book for everyone. As with the Gorman book there is a built in pointlessness about the story which will not appeal to all. There are a couple of occasions when some readers might wonder about the motives. For the rest of us, those who love the idea that moments of magic like this can happen in the world we're stuck with at present, it's a joy and reinvigorates your belief in people. Here is the bit were I recommend you buy the book. Buy the book.
I joined. Near the beginning. You can read about it if you like in this book (chapter 10, begins on page 118 when you get to it). It's not a cult, it's a collective, I was told and I believed Danny. Why should I disbelieve the bloke? he helps old men, he visits Belgium, he asks his joinees to do random acts of kindness every Friday. He even invented a new word: joinee -- try looking that up at dictionary.com!
This is the book of something very, very silly, but at the same time something so beautifully simple and wonderful how can it possibly go wrong? This is a beautifully and hilariously written book, by a shambling, truly postmodern cult leader of the most humble kind.
Why not do someone a good deed and buy them a copy too when you order yours.
Gold Joinee (and Reverend) Saunders
(p.s. refering to another review: the vicar - that would be me - was in Inverness, not Aberdeen!)