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We Always Treat Women Too Well was first published as a purported work of pulp fiction by one Sally Mara, but this novel by Raymond Queneau is a further manifestation of his sly, provocative, wonderfully wayward genius. Set in Dublin during the 1916 Easter rebellion, it tells of a nubile beauty who finds herself trapped in the central post office when it is seized by a gro We Always Treat Women Too Well was first published as a purported work of pulp fiction by one Sally Mara, but this novel by Raymond Queneau is a further manifestation of his sly, provocative, wonderfully wayward genius. Set in Dublin during the 1916 Easter rebellion, it tells of a nubile beauty who finds herself trapped in the central post office when it is seized by a group of rebels. But Gertie Girdle is no common pushover, and she quickly devises a coolly lascivious strategy by which, in very short order, she saves the day for king and country. Queneau's wickedly funny send-up of cheap smut—his response to a popular bodice-ripper of the 1940s—exposes the link between sexual fantasy and actual domination, while celebrating the imagination's power to transmute crude sensationalism into pleasure pure and simple.


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We Always Treat Women Too Well was first published as a purported work of pulp fiction by one Sally Mara, but this novel by Raymond Queneau is a further manifestation of his sly, provocative, wonderfully wayward genius. Set in Dublin during the 1916 Easter rebellion, it tells of a nubile beauty who finds herself trapped in the central post office when it is seized by a gro We Always Treat Women Too Well was first published as a purported work of pulp fiction by one Sally Mara, but this novel by Raymond Queneau is a further manifestation of his sly, provocative, wonderfully wayward genius. Set in Dublin during the 1916 Easter rebellion, it tells of a nubile beauty who finds herself trapped in the central post office when it is seized by a group of rebels. But Gertie Girdle is no common pushover, and she quickly devises a coolly lascivious strategy by which, in very short order, she saves the day for king and country. Queneau's wickedly funny send-up of cheap smut—his response to a popular bodice-ripper of the 1940s—exposes the link between sexual fantasy and actual domination, while celebrating the imagination's power to transmute crude sensationalism into pleasure pure and simple.

30 review for We Always Treat Women Too Well

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    "Yes, my girl, it means that you've got to keep quiet." "About what? Why?" "We’re heroes, and not swine. Got it?" "Perhaps." "Of course you've got it. If it hadn't been for you we'd have been dead without any trouble, but, just because you went to have a pee at the precise moment of our insurrection, our glory may well be tarnished by vile gossip and filthy slander." (We Always Treat Women Too Well, p. 163) Funny how going to the loo at the wrong time can ruin everyone's day. It's 1916, the Easter Ris "Yes, my girl, it means that you've got to keep quiet." "About what? Why?" "We’re heroes, and not swine. Got it?" "Perhaps." "Of course you've got it. If it hadn't been for you we'd have been dead without any trouble, but, just because you went to have a pee at the precise moment of our insurrection, our glory may well be tarnished by vile gossip and filthy slander." (We Always Treat Women Too Well, p. 163) Funny how going to the loo at the wrong time can ruin everyone's day. It's 1916, the Easter Rising, and seven Irish rebels have just seized a Dublin post office. Their goal: to win independence, or die gloriously trying. But they didn't count on Gertie Girdle--pure, virginal Gertie Girdle--who, despite being engaged (to Commodore Cartwright, whose ship has orders to bombard the post office and the rebels inside) manages to outsmart, and out-sex, the hapless rebels who have taken her (or has she taken them?) prisoner. For King and country, of course. Of course. The nice thing about the New York Review of Books is that it keeps introducing me to writers I never would've found, much less read, on my own: see John Williams; see J. F. Powers. But I've noticed an unusual consequence (Quirk? Downside?) of that: while NYRB publishes little-known (to me, at least) writers, it often publishes little-known (to me, at least) books by better-known writers, too. Evan S. Connell had his Mrs. and Mr. Bridge novels, so why would I start off with The Diary of a Rapist? Surely Christopher Priest has more accessible (and less confusing) novels than The Inverted World. And who chooses to read Brigadier Gerard over Sherlock Holmes? This guy, that’s who. See also: Raymond Queneau. The writer of Exercises in Style is hardly known for writing We Always Treat Women Too Well--in fact, it was ignored by "serious" Queneau fans/scholars for twenty years after its publication--and yet this is where I decided to start. And it's a funny little novel. Queneau wrote it as a parody (satire? send-up?) of trashy '40s-era pulp fiction, with all the smut and filth intact. Sex and violence occur in droves, often simultaneously (including, in one case, a mid-coital decapitation via well-placed cannon shell), the line between rape and consent is blurred, and swearing abounds. It's less shocking now than (I imagine) it was then, and it's funnier than it has a right to be (Queneau is a great writer; Barbara Wright is a great translator), and it's still a strange book to start with if one wants to read Raymond Queneau. But if the rest of his work is as clever (and strange, and amusing) as this smutty parody of cheap smut, then I'll definitely have to add the rest of his work (especially Exercises in Style, right?) to my reading list. And maybe Ulysses too, just to get all the Joyce jokes peppered throughout...but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cphe

    An offering from the New York Review Books Classic list, which has introduced this reader to a lot of gems, interesting books and vastly different authors. It was the quirky title that piqued my interest because I'd certainly never come across the author's name before. There is already a substantive synopsis on offer so no point in my rehashing. I know that many readers have rated this shorter novel far higher but it didn't quite "gel" with me even though I love books set in Ireland and I love the An offering from the New York Review Books Classic list, which has introduced this reader to a lot of gems, interesting books and vastly different authors. It was the quirky title that piqued my interest because I'd certainly never come across the author's name before. There is already a substantive synopsis on offer so no point in my rehashing. I know that many readers have rated this shorter novel far higher but it didn't quite "gel" with me even though I love books set in Ireland and I love the period of history that the novel was set in. The very dark humor, and references to James Joyce sailed over my head as I've never read Joyce I'm afraid. The novel itself is written at a cracking pace, and the chapters are short which gave the story a 'static feel". I realize that the novel was meant to be a parody but it just didn't resonate, parts that were meant to be humorous weren't to me. The characters themselves were strangely unsympathetic and lacked an emotional connection from the captive femme fatale Gertie to the Irish Rebels. Just not my cup of tea I'm afraid......

  3. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    This novel parodies cheap noir novels being sold by the shovel in the 1940s. Holed up in a Dublin post office, a group of Irish rebels hold hostage the canny temptress Gertie Girdle, and one by one, as the English crush their insurgency, fall sway to her peculiar charms. Dismissed as a crude failure upon publication, Queneau’s pseudonymous novel certainly lards more sex and swearing into the action than in his screwball comedies, but the parody is clearly delineated from the ludicrous dialogue a This novel parodies cheap noir novels being sold by the shovel in the 1940s. Holed up in a Dublin post office, a group of Irish rebels hold hostage the canny temptress Gertie Girdle, and one by one, as the English crush their insurgency, fall sway to her peculiar charms. Dismissed as a crude failure upon publication, Queneau’s pseudonymous novel certainly lards more sex and swearing into the action than in his screwball comedies, but the parody is clearly delineated from the ludicrous dialogue and the nods to Joyce. Despite the filth this is unmistakably a Queneau novel—zippy chapters, perfect comedic descriptions, broader backdrops of cantankerous protest against trends. A hoot, a veritable hoot! (Though several theses could be written on its sexual politics—don’t probe too deeply). See also Boris Vian’s I Spit on Your Graves.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Chuck LoPresti

    If a coherent Alfred Jarry wrote Dog Day Afternoon after reading Joyce you would end up something like this. This is a dirty little book that is a one-sit read for most. Reading the description you might think there's better use of your time than literary smut but you'd be doing yourself a disservice to miss this. Not quite as depraved as Bataille's Story of the Eye and not as cheap as Pulp Fiction the pleasure in this book derives from Queneau's ability to handle a plot with his ever-present wi If a coherent Alfred Jarry wrote Dog Day Afternoon after reading Joyce you would end up something like this. This is a dirty little book that is a one-sit read for most. Reading the description you might think there's better use of your time than literary smut but you'd be doing yourself a disservice to miss this. Not quite as depraved as Bataille's Story of the Eye and not as cheap as Pulp Fiction the pleasure in this book derives from Queneau's ability to handle a plot with his ever-present wit. At no time is the reader led astray into simple arousal or easy identification. Q keeps his aim firmly locked on making fun of such literature but never really stooping to simple parody. Much is made about the Joyce-influenced character names and locations but to best understand this work I think Rabelais is the true parent of most of Q's work. Imperfect characters booze it up and spread some seed with anything but joy but the true measure of their manhood is best defined by their will to control their self-image. Do what thou whilst - but call a duck a duck, the Thelemic code, is on full display here. Like Jarry - Q's questionable characterization of women is often less than flattering. It's the uncontrollable sexual impulses of a woman that enables the inevitable fall from grace that wasn't supposed to accompany the likely death of these bachelors that leave her stripped bare and sodomized. But - why should a book that parodies crap try to do better than that? The men are painted with the same brush. If, like me, you watched Pulp Fiction and felt dumber for having sat throughout the experience - you'll probably appreciate this mock black humor. Q is never anything less than a great writer in my experience and it's his subtlety in panning such crap that makes it all work. This is funny, smart and insidious in its destruction of tawdry noir pulp. So if you can snicker at a severed penis and chuckle at chilly sensuality of an Irish terrorist and gladly wash it all down with a pint of Guinness - you'll enjoy this as I have.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Glyven

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Though it's undoubtedly less outrageous today than it would have been in 1947, Queneau's funny and subversive satire is perhaps easier to appreciate in a time when things like ambiguity of sexual consent, genital mutilation, and mid-coital bodily rending might provide fodder for dark humor in films and television. What distinguishes Queneau's treatment of such material is his amusingly discreet approach; a more passive reader might not even catch his description of, say, an act of fellatio, whic Though it's undoubtedly less outrageous today than it would have been in 1947, Queneau's funny and subversive satire is perhaps easier to appreciate in a time when things like ambiguity of sexual consent, genital mutilation, and mid-coital bodily rending might provide fodder for dark humor in films and television. What distinguishes Queneau's treatment of such material is his amusingly discreet approach; a more passive reader might not even catch his description of, say, an act of fellatio, which lurks beneath the surrounding action. One might say that Queneau cleverly writes with the "correctitude" that preoccupies the novel's male characters. As in any good satire about the battle of the sexes, both genders fare pretty badly--this may be an implicitly pro-feminist novel, but only in the sense that the central female humiliates the men through her sexuality alone. She's also the least likeable of the characters, and that's counting a man who masturbates to the sight of a dead woman. The reader, perhaps as intended, doesn't come away with a particularly positive impression of human beings in general.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    A nymphomaniac sassesnach corrupts the IRA squad which accidentally kidnaps her during the Easter Uprising in this satirical take on the erotic pulp novel. Perverse and funny.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This satirical French novel about the Irish Rebellion is a bit too oddball to be taken seriously, but it is rather fun to read. A number of Irish rebels take over the (fictitious) post office at Eden Quay, killing several of the employees in the process. Before long, they start striking attitudes as brave and highly principled rebels, when suddenly it is discovered that one of the female employees has locked herself in the loo. In no time at all, she is dragged out. Although she is supposedly vi This satirical French novel about the Irish Rebellion is a bit too oddball to be taken seriously, but it is rather fun to read. A number of Irish rebels take over the (fictitious) post office at Eden Quay, killing several of the employees in the process. Before long, they start striking attitudes as brave and highly principled rebels, when suddenly it is discovered that one of the female employees has locked herself in the loo. In no time at all, she is dragged out. Although she is supposedly virginal, she practically rapes all the rebels in turn. As one of the rebels remarks, "If it hadn't been for you we'd have been dead without any trouble, but, just because you went to have a pee at the precise moment of our insurrection, our glory may well be tarnished by vile gossip and filthy slander."

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    This was a strange book. I realise it was meant as a parody of cheap novels. Perhaps I do not really enjoy that genre. The Easter Rising and the seizing of the post office by a group of rebels and Gertie going on the rampage. It all seemed a bit fantastical and unrealistic. Not my cup of tea.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    queneau parodies bad writing in every conceivable aspect, taking the overt form of a ludlumesque action thriller - the evil twin brother of "exercises in style"

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dan Keating

    Raymond Queneau's satirical work of pulp fiction is a subtle study in minimalism; it's easy to miss the satire if you're not paying close attention, at least not until about halfway through the story. The story's cheerful amorality will definitely bother some, as it is a story of a girl who decides to use her sexuality as a subtle weapon against her enemies and who is, in turn, raped multiple times. Despite these violent acts being visited upon her, Gertie Girdle (yes, that's really her name) co Raymond Queneau's satirical work of pulp fiction is a subtle study in minimalism; it's easy to miss the satire if you're not paying close attention, at least not until about halfway through the story. The story's cheerful amorality will definitely bother some, as it is a story of a girl who decides to use her sexuality as a subtle weapon against her enemies and who is, in turn, raped multiple times. Despite these violent acts being visited upon her, Gertie Girdle (yes, that's really her name) continuously gives the impression that she's not overwhelmed, that she is in control of both herself and the situation, and even if things aren't going exactly according to some carefully-laid-out master plan, things are at least going her way even as they appear to not be at all. The story also manages to lampoon the sense of nationalistic pride felt by its characters, making them all seem a little ridiculous for the strong feelings they have for the institutions of their countries, which drive them to say and do things they clearly don't fully understand. In the end, "We Always Treat Women Too Well" is a well-executed satire - it at first doesn't appear to be satire at all; then it starts to vaguely become clear that everything is not as it "ought" to be in a sincerely-written story regarding this subject matter; then the absurd rears its head; and by the end, all the institutions of the subjects being satirized have been turned completely on their heads. The book satirizes sexy, quasi-erotic bodice rippers by being more explicit in many ways without being sexy; it satirizes staunchly nationalistic stories as ridiculous on an individual level; and it satirizes morality tales by giving a heroine who manages to "save the day," so to speak, through a combination of sex and subterfuge. At the same time, the book is not without its flaws. The extremely short "chapters" are occasionally a bit annoying, and the almost utter interchangeability of the Irish Republican characters makes telling who's talking (and caring) a bit difficult at times. Still, worth a read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Perhaps it is wrong to judge a book written seventy years ago by our own modern moral expectations however as I read this book I found the casual treatment of sexual assaults in a humorous fashion as distasteful. I read the introduction of this classic explaining that this book is a satire of the American pot boilers of the forties and fifties with it's casual mistreatment of women and that Gertie is an ironic heroine however for me it didn't work and it simply felt exploitative. I don't even th Perhaps it is wrong to judge a book written seventy years ago by our own modern moral expectations however as I read this book I found the casual treatment of sexual assaults in a humorous fashion as distasteful. I read the introduction of this classic explaining that this book is a satire of the American pot boilers of the forties and fifties with it's casual mistreatment of women and that Gertie is an ironic heroine however for me it didn't work and it simply felt exploitative. I don't even think I'm prudish as the humour for example of Tom Sharpe is sexual but it's irony and satire pokes fun at the institutions it seeks to undermine, in this book it is simply sexual assaults apparently made acceptable because the heroine enjoys the experience!! The plot, well bizarrely in 1916 Dublin a fictionalized post office is taken over by rebels, gertie is locked in the toilet but emerges to cause sexual havoc amongst the revolutionaries. Not even the final scene where she pulls her tongue out at the surviving Rebels as they meet their final fate rescues it. It's only saving grace is that it was so short.

  12. 4 out of 5

    aloveiz

    Could anything this well named be bad? Of course not. I heard about this by way of somebody's very distraught ex secret boyfriend who related to the title rather personally. The form here is unique. The characters are undescribed and undeveloped -they are just names that things happen to. They have little in common outside of their decision to collectively wage a war against their oppressors. This only makes the story more exemplary. I am fascinated by the fact that Queneau originally published t Could anything this well named be bad? Of course not. I heard about this by way of somebody's very distraught ex secret boyfriend who related to the title rather personally. The form here is unique. The characters are undescribed and undeveloped -they are just names that things happen to. They have little in common outside of their decision to collectively wage a war against their oppressors. This only makes the story more exemplary. I am fascinated by the fact that Queneau originally published this book under the pseudonym Sally Mara because this piece is so intricately masculine -even misogynistic when it can manage to be. The story is terse and tragic and a very valid literary creation. Recommended for anyone who thinks surreality is normal.

  13. 5 out of 5

    David

    Sometimes time just passes a book by. This has its moments, but it primarily a curiousity at this point. Yes, yes, I understand Queneau (a smart and creative author) was spoofing a particularly low-class style of sadistic/erotic thriller. And he does that well, and there are definitely some funny little toss-offs along the way. But is it worth the read at this point, 60 years later? I don't know. Maybe. I guess I read it. It's quick, and definitely has its coldheartedly funny moments. (I've just ta Sometimes time just passes a book by. This has its moments, but it primarily a curiousity at this point. Yes, yes, I understand Queneau (a smart and creative author) was spoofing a particularly low-class style of sadistic/erotic thriller. And he does that well, and there are definitely some funny little toss-offs along the way. But is it worth the read at this point, 60 years later? I don't know. Maybe. I guess I read it. It's quick, and definitely has its coldheartedly funny moments. (I've just talked myself up from two stars to three stars. But really it's probably a 2.5.)

  14. 4 out of 5

    William

    this is kind of snubbed by Queneau scholars. i seem to run into these types of novels often. but that's because i've found the novelists that i like, and you can't win 'em all when you come to their novels. this one has a great story though. nowhere near as amazing as Zazie in the Metro or Pierrot Mon Ami, but that's by Queneau standards. by normal standards, this deserves the four point rating. i say the same of this as i said of Exercises in Style (also Queneau)--read if you're a Queneau fan

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    From the back cover blurb this promised to be a dark tale with an erotic subtext, but unfortunately it's a farce in many senses of the word and never gets as interesting as it might have done. It's difficult to see why this French writer would have written such a book and it is impossible to give a hoot about any of the characters. It might be funny, but it didn't appeal to my sense of humour (or rather, the writing style didn't appeal). Flooded with stereotypes and littered with misogyny I was From the back cover blurb this promised to be a dark tale with an erotic subtext, but unfortunately it's a farce in many senses of the word and never gets as interesting as it might have done. It's difficult to see why this French writer would have written such a book and it is impossible to give a hoot about any of the characters. It might be funny, but it didn't appeal to my sense of humour (or rather, the writing style didn't appeal). Flooded with stereotypes and littered with misogyny I was bored by this nevertheless swift read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Yogodot

    I read this book nearly 30 years ago and absurd images from it still haunt me. I'm the first to agree that Queneau was a genius, for Elements of Style, The Bark Tree, and The Last Days, and I have nothing against parody or satire as such, but this story doesn't connect with any of his other works. The effect is juvenile in the extreme, a quality which Queneau shares with Alfred Jarry, but really it's the title and the attitude it pronounces upon the subject which makes it reckless and belligeren I read this book nearly 30 years ago and absurd images from it still haunt me. I'm the first to agree that Queneau was a genius, for Elements of Style, The Bark Tree, and The Last Days, and I have nothing against parody or satire as such, but this story doesn't connect with any of his other works. The effect is juvenile in the extreme, a quality which Queneau shares with Alfred Jarry, but really it's the title and the attitude it pronounces upon the subject which makes it reckless and belligerent. Any comic effect is quickly overwhelmed by disgust.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Skye

    this bizarre send-up of hostage drama written in 1948 has a great conceit: Irish rebels storm a post office of English sympathizers. They removed all the workers except one Gertie Girdle. Erotic & violent chaos ensues. All the rebels' names are taken from Ulysses and they shout "finnegan's wake!" as a salute. Despite it being very funny in parts, it's a bit of a let down. But, it's pretty short if you're that curious. this bizarre send-up of hostage drama written in 1948 has a great conceit: Irish rebels storm a post office of English sympathizers. They removed all the workers except one Gertie Girdle. Erotic & violent chaos ensues. All the rebels' names are taken from Ulysses and they shout "finnegan's wake!" as a salute. Despite it being very funny in parts, it's a bit of a let down. But, it's pretty short if you're that curious.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Illy

    Wonderfully bizarre with quite possibly the oddest punchline I have ever encountered. The back summary describes it as a send-up of 1940s pulp erotica, and in that aim it did a fabulous job: one can't help but to simultaneously laugh and squirm uncomfortably during certain scenes between Gertie and the Irish rebels holding her hostage within the Dublin post office. Wickedly hilarious and just a fun and quick read overall.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bridget

    This book might have felt more relevant if I gave two shits about James Joyce but I don't. It does however prove my point that you don't have to like Object A's influences B &C to like Object A (in popular music, A would equal the White Stripes and B would equal Robert Johnson and C would equal ever more obscure blues musician captured by Ken Burns.) Having not read much Joyce, this book was nonetheless engaging, funny, and a bit slutty- all qualities I enjoy in the world. This book might have felt more relevant if I gave two shits about James Joyce but I don't. It does however prove my point that you don't have to like Object A's influences B &C to like Object A (in popular music, A would equal the White Stripes and B would equal Robert Johnson and C would equal ever more obscure blues musician captured by Ken Burns.) Having not read much Joyce, this book was nonetheless engaging, funny, and a bit slutty- all qualities I enjoy in the world.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Van

    This was actually a great follow-up to Ulysses because all of the character's names, some locations, and the text are a parody of Joyce's works. I had no idea that was the case when I chose to read this though. The style reads sort of like Joyce meets Quentin Tarantino with maybe a slight dash of Douglass Adams. If that sounds like a strange mix, it is, but it works quite well. It's absurd and interesting and funny. I recommend it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Troy

    A hilarious and smutty joke, much like Boris Vian's ridiculous noirs. Just try to read the opening lining with some twit shouting "God Save the Queen!" and ending up puking blood out of a newly acquired eighth orifice without laughing and plunging full speed ahead into this dark sick joke of a book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tosh

    This title is a sister to Boris Vian's "I Spit on Your Graves." Queneau wrote this for the same publisher under the name 'Sally Marr.' I think it was Sally Marr, but maybe I got Morrissey on my brain. Nevetheless it's a masterful piece of fiction by one of France's great writers.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Elie

    Queneau's homage to Joyce's Dublin was much more fun than I expected. An English hussy hides in the bathroom during a Republican raid on a bank, and as they decide the most honorable way of getting rid of her, manages to guilefully corrupt them all. Silly rewards for reading Ulysses abound.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Catalina

    Nationalism, heroism, rebellion, everything just pales in front of sexuality! Even if considered ironic this book presents us with very true aspects of human nature, differences between sexes, primal instincts, all wrapped in a very funny narrative!

  25. 4 out of 5

    stephen

    excellent. a lovely precise and very funny parody of pulp s&m novels set during the 1916 easter rebellion in dublin. most enjoyable little book. excellent. a lovely precise and very funny parody of pulp s&m novels set during the 1916 easter rebellion in dublin. most enjoyable little book.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tarrastarr

    very different sort of book. not great narration but great story with super interesting characters.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Loved it. Only Queneau could pull off a raunchy violent spoof of romance lit and make it enjoyable like this.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Bursey

    For a review of this book and Witch Grass, go to: http://www.jeffbursey.com/downloads/R... For a review of this book and Witch Grass, go to: http://www.jeffbursey.com/downloads/R...

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

    Bad taste written with Queneau's usual flair for phrasing. Sally Mara is to Raymond Queneau as Vernon Sullivan is to Boris Vian.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Luke

    Nothing really too spectacular here. It's engaging and suspenseful. But it lacks what makes Queneau's other work so great.

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