Total Drek

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 9, Part 1

Welcome back ladies and gentlemen to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that will... uh... you know what? I've been coming up with pithy catch-phrases in this introductory paragraph for sixteen episodes. I have another thirty-three to go, not counting this one. Fuck it. Welcome back to our regular feature on Left Behind, a book that just really, really f-ing sucks. Last time we were reminded why Rayford should have been surgically sterilized years ago. What happens this week? Well, I don't want to spoil it, but if you're lucky you'll just barely get to meet Chloe before it ends.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for a comment so brilliant, I think it scared all the other usuals off:

"They had Chloe during their first year of marriage but, due to complications, waited another eight years for Ray Jr."

That's one hell of a headache.


I have to admit, I laughed rather a lot at that. Then I considered the possibility that maybe Irene just needed eight years before she could stand the thought of more sex with Rayford. And even then, it sent her into depression. Quite the man that Rayford Steele! Anyway, congratulations, scripto, and best of luck to everyone else! Today, after all, is yet another chance to win.


And with that, let's begin! As always, page/line numbers are in bold, quotes from the book are in block quotes, my commentary is in regular print, and you can navigate the whole series with the provided tag.


----------

Dramatis Personae

A ouija board gave me the order...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer. No longer attracted to Hattie. Bad father. Cries a lot.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven. Reader of marriage books. Cleans obsessively. Likes egg in her coffee. Bakes really silly cookies. Likes butter churns.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist. Clumsy on slides. Travels a lot. Graduated from Princeton. Human alarm clock. Expert in Romanian politics.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford.

Chaim Rosenzweig: Israeli chemist. Kinda freaky. Friend of Buck's.

Steve Plank: Buck's boss at Global Weekly. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions.

Raymie Steele: Son of Rayford Steele. Taken in the rapture.

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy.

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.

----------


Chapter 9: In which we learn a little more about the conspiracy, find out that the conspiracy killed Buck's contact in the U.K., Chloe gets home, and we have a really dumb conversation about faith and reason between Chloe and Rayford.


Page 151- Line 1-3:
Buck's subconscious waking system failed him that evening, but by 8:45 PM he was back in Steve Planck's office, disheveled and apologetic.


Okay, so apparently the man isn't a robot. On the other hand, those of you speculating that Buck and Steve are having a gay tryst now have a little more evidence to throw on the pile. Alas, he's in Steve's office because the famed Global Weekly is having a big meeting of its senior reporters, at which coincidentally Steve is screwing half the staff by putting Buck in charge of some freakish mega-story involving a global currency, a world government, and a one-world religion. Because, you know, all of that really sounds plausible...


Page 151- Line 14-16:
"Most Israeli Nationalists think the Holy Land has gone too far with its bounty already. This is historic." [Juan Ortiz, token hispanic reporter said]


Okay, just so we're clear, they're talking about that whole "one world government" thing that, obviously, is totally compatible with nationalism. It's well known, after all, that those who can be accurately described as "nationalists" just love the idea of joining peacefully with other nations in a spirit of cooperation. Right. Oh, and what the hell are they talking about with that "too far with its bounty" crap? This almost certainly has something to do with the super-fertilizer introduced in chapter 1 which, as you may recall, Israel decided not to share with anybody (chapter 4). Instead, they just sold the produce they were able to grow and made a shitload of money. So, apparently, the authors are saying that the most generosity you can expect out of Israelis is for them to sell you food at a fair market value. Okay, that may be a little harsh, but I seriously have no idea what the hell they mean since they have never once depicted an Israeli doing anything that wasn't in his or her best interests. Regardless, Steve Planck explains to Juan that he should just shut up and accept that Buck is now in charge. We then have a side conversation with Jimmy Borland, the Global Weekly religion editor...


Page 152- Line 22-25:
"Will there be religious Jews-"

"Orthodox." [Jimmy corrected]

"OK, Orthodox Jews at the ecumenical meeting?" [Buck corrected himself]


Yes, folks, you heard it here first: reform and conservative Jews are- by definition- not religious. Riiiiiight. Regardless, the conversation gradually turns to the U.N. Specifically, to how the U.N. seemed to be involved in determining global fiscal policy. It's so cute that the authors think the U.N. has any actual power! Then we start wondering if the super rich are somehow involved.


Page 153- Line 25-28:
"Well, everybody knows he's [Jonathan Stonagal] circumspect. But is there a Stonagal influence?" [Buck asked]

"Does a duck have lips?" [financial editor Barbara Donahue replied]

Buck smiled and jotted a note. "I'll take that as a yes."


But... I don't think ducks have lips! They have a beak, yes, but not lips per se. Is it possible that Buck... you know... doesn't know what a duck is? In any case, regardless of Buck's zoological knowledge, the meeting wraps up and the narrative returns to Rayford who is- amazingly enough- actually worrying about Chloe. He then gets around to calling Irene's church which is named- I shit thee not- the "New Hope Village Church." In any case, when he calls he gets a recorded message rather than an actual person...


Page 155- Line 8-14:
"While our entire staff, except me [unidentified male], and most of our congregation are gone, the few of us left are maintaining the building and distributing a videotape our senior pastor prepared for a time such as this. You may come by the church office anytime to pick up a free copy, and we look forward to seeing you Sunday morning."


Believe me when I tell you that you will get to hear what's on the videotape, whether you want to or not. If I'm not mistaken one entire chapter is pretty much given over to describing Rayford watching it, which when you think about it is only slightly less dull than our usual time with Rayford. I think the authors even agree with me on that since, so far, we've been treated to reading about Rayford reading a book, are about to be treated to reading about Rayford watching a video... he's so boring, even the narrators want to hear or read about someone else.


Page 155- Line 17-19:
What a creative idea, to tape a message for those who had been left behind! [Rayford thought]


So, you're taking notes, right? Because the authors aren't giving you advice like this for their fucking health, you know? Get those video cameras out and start filming creepy videos for your relatives. Chop chop! Oh, and don't forget your e-mail notifications!


Page 155- Line 19-21:
He [Rayford] and Chloe would have to get one the next day. He hoped she would be as interested as he was in discovering the truth.


I imagine she will be, Ray, but what makes you so damn sure that it can be found in a videotape? I'm just sayin' is all. Regardless, Chloe arrives a few sentences later and they have a heartfelt reunion that is not really described. Apparently the love of a man for his daughter pales to insignificance beside Krazo! And then, amazingly, the narrative is back with Buck, who manages to reach one Nigel Leonard at the London Exchange where his (Buck's) friend Dirk Burton worked. And as a side note: "Nigel Leonard"? The authors weren't satisfied with giving their characters one shitty first-name each and decided to give this guy two? Damn.


Page 156- Line 12-23:
"I'm taping our conversation, sir. If that is a problem for you, you may disconnect." [Nigel said]

"I don't follow." [Buck replied, demonstrating his quick wit]

"What's to follow? You understand what a tape is, do you?"

"Of course, and I'm turning mine on now as well, if you don't mind." [Buck answered]

"Well, I do mind, Mr. Williams. Why on earth would you be taping?"

"Why would you?"

"We are the ones with a most unfortunate situation, and we need to investigate all leads." [emphasis original]


In the margins I have scrawled, "Oh. My. God. This dialog is annoying!" And, indeed, it is. It reminds me of nothing so much as the mutant dumb version of the classic "who's on first" routine. In any case, before Nigel reveals what the hell the "unfortunate situation" is, he gets Buck to admit that he (Buck) is a journalist. Then comes this bit...


Page 157- Line 23-25:
"Because I [Nigel] am aware that both in your country and in the British Commonwealth, anything said following an assertion that we are off the record is protected."


Obviously, Nigel wants to talk to Buck "off the record". Fine. Whatever. My thing is: is there any truth to that "protected" business he babbles about? My guess is that it's an informal understanding rather than a formal protection, but I will bow to qualified legal folk on this point. Anyway, only now do we get to the point:


Page 157-158- Line 157:30-158:1-7:
"Mr. Burton's body was discovered in his flat this morning. He had suffered a bullet wound to the head. I'm sorry, as you [Buck] were a friend, but suicide has been determined." [Nigel said]

Buck was nearly speechless. "By whom?" he managed.

"The authorities."

"What authorities?"

"Scotland Yard and security personnel here at the exchange."


Right, so, Dirk Burton, wacky conspiracy theorist, was not taken in the rapture. He was, instead, shot in the head and- we can only assume- is now roasting for all eternity in hell. I'd feel bad but, shit, at least this way I won't constantly be trying to type "Dick" instead of "Dirk." And, in addition, this sets up one of the most awesome lines in the entire book:


Page 158- Line 8:
Scotland Yard? Buck thought. We'll see about that. [emphasis original]


Oh, really, Buck? You'll "see about that"? Are you a dime store hero or something? Seriously, if you can read that line and not giggle a little bit, you're a better man/woman/child than I. Anyway, Buck assures Nigel that Dirk didn't kill himself, they hang up, and Buck decides to fly off to London to... you know... see about that, I guess.

And that more or less brings us to the end of part one. Technically, we're ending slightly before the halfway point, but the remainder of this chapter is made up of Chloe and Rayford talking theology (sort of) and I think it's better to keep it all together in one lovely shit sandwich for next time. So, please join us again next week when Chloe demonstrates how pointless an education at Stanford apparently is, and we all groan at the titanic leaps of illogic.

It's gonna be "good," so don't miss it!

Labels:

8 Comments:

Blogger Mister Troll said...

So ducks don't have lips? Huh... we'll see about that!

I wasn't able to comment last week because the Krazo "joke" was so horrid I was unable to come up with any kind of reply at all. It's taken me a week to recover. Also I don't yell "Ozark" any more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

" Is it possible that Buck... you know... doesn't know what a duck is?"

He f*cks enugh of them that he should.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Btw, Community, not Village.

How do a minister and a writer manage to combine to get the name of a church wrong?

Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"Mr. Burton's body was discovered in his flat this morning. He had suffered a bullet wound to the head. I'm sorry, as you [Buck] were a friend, but suicide has been determined." [Nigel said]

Buck was nearly speechless. "By whom?" he managed.


By definition, you idiot.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:44:00 AM  
Blogger JLT said...

I loved your last post. I don't know why (and I'm afraid to find out) but I'm fascinated by the complete disconnect between the story the authors (probably) want to tell about Irene and Rayford and the story they actually tell.
You said it in your last post: Their marriage - a fundy fairytale!
But what I read is this:
He gets her pregnant, they marry, she drops out of college. They get Chloe and on they first wedding anniversary he gives her a BIBLE as present. She's probably bored to death, unhappy, and lonely (as is he; they never meant to marry, they just had to because of her pregnancy). For the company she joins the local church and it goes downhill from there. She turns into a self-righteous, preaching, love cookie baking wanna-be saint who probably thinks all sex is eeeeeevil and Rayford is frustrated, horny, middle aged, depressed by the fact that the authors wouldn't allow him a little fling with the cute stewardess because he's meant to become the hero of their story, and turns from a not very sensitive guy into a full-blown a******.

But that was last week. This week you're all focussing on the fact that the authors apparently think that ducks have lips. That isn't really that surprising. Since when do creationists have any grasp of biology? They believe all kind of crazy stuff. The really funny part is that Buck is jotting a note about it. What does he write?
Ducks, lips = Stonegal influence.
?
And this phone message:
and we look forward to seeing you Sunday morning.
Because, after a substantial part of humanity disappeared almost without a trace (although they did leave behind their dirty underwear), it's important that church services continue to be on Sunday mornings and only on Sunday mornings? Instead of, you know, people just gathering at the local church at whatever time?

And this conversation Buck and Nigel are having? That's almost Dada-esk.
- I'm taping.
- What's a tape.
- You don't know?
- I'll tape, too.
- Why would you?
- Why would you?

Kinda poetic.

Friday, November 20, 2009 2:41:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

JLT: Ceci n'est pas un roman?

Friday, November 20, 2009 5:29:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

The below was a comment from JLT that got eaten by the comment moderation system. I finally managed to recover it, and have included it here:

"Left behind as a postmodernistic novel? Might explain some of its narration style (if you can call it that). Or did I get your reference wrong?

While I was googling "This is not a novel" I stumbled on this quote by Dorothy Parker:
"This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."
I didn't know she had read Left behind."

No, JLT, you definitely got the reference. I think I'd say that "Left Behind" is a simulacra of a novel- it resembles it in form, but nevertheless is not the genuine article. And now that I've made heavy references to post-modern art, I need to go wash off the feeling of dirty.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

[I'd like to share what I just saw on the www. No, there was no copyright notice. Belle]

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Thursday, November 26, 2009 5:02:00 PM  

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