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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 24, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes eternal damnation seem like more of the same. Last time Buck had really confusing conversation with Steve and then had a chat with Hattie. What happens this week? Uh... well... basically nothing. Oh, except Buck converts, but that's basically nothing, right?

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for, perhaps, explaining why Buck is so enamored of Chloe:

""So now it's Nick, is it? Well, he and I [Buck] are not close enough for that familiarity, and I don't provide female companionship even to my friends."

I can't even provide female companionship for myself. They won't talk to me and keep asking to change seats on the airline. I think they're playing hard to get.


See? Her first mistake was not changing seats when he appeared on the plane. Well, okay, her first mistake was returning from Stanford, but you get my meaning here. Still, if we were to accentuate the positive, at least we know Buck has the potential to be a truly awesome wingman for Rayford!

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.


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Dramatis Personae

In an order determined by my fellow Mexican wrestlers...

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

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. Fast runner. Hot for Chloe.

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. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid. Possibly hot for Buck. Christian.

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. Press secretary for Nicolae Carpathia.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Secretary-General of the United Nations. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

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

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

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.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. President of Botswana. Botswanan national.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died Murdered by falling being pushed off of the Staten Island ferry. A strong swimmer.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.

Carolyn Miller: Wife of Eric Miller.

Alex Phonecompany: Friend of Buck's. Works at the phone company.

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Page 438- Line Ooga-Booga:

No quote, but we pick the "story" back up with Rayford and Chloe, who are in church. Makes sense. I mean, where the hell else would they be? It's not like either of them have lives or a purpose or supernatural evil to fight or anything like that.


Page 438- Line 21-27:
Rayford and Chloe watched for Buck until the last minute the next morning, but they could no longer save a seat for him when the sanctuary and the balcony filled. When Bruce gave his message, Chloe nudged her father and pointed out the window, down onto the walk before the front door. There, in a small crowd listening to an external speaker, was Buck.


This is like evangelical porn when you think about it. Not only is the church full to overflowing, but people are actually willing to hang around outside- standing no less- just so they can hear the "real preaching and teaching" (Page 125- Line 5-8) via a crappy external speaker. I bet Tim LaHaye got wood just thinking about this bit. Moving on, given Rayford's recent decision to stop being polite, I'm sure he immediately rebuked Chloe for gazing idly out the window rather than eagerly taking notes on Bruce's "message".


Page 438-439- 438: 27, 439: 1-2:
Rayford raised a celebratory fist and whispered to Chloe, "Wonder what you're going to pray for this morning?"


Right. OR he could playfully tease his daughter in church about how her loins are warm for a creepy older reporter. Family values, folks, you read about 'em here first. Anyway, Bruce's sermon consisted of playing the previous pastor's videotape, telling his own half-assed story, inviting people to believe, and then defaulting to open mic night at New Hope Village Church. Chloe went down to tell her own boring damn story, by which time both she and Rayford had lost sight of Buck. And indeed, they couldn't even find him after the service. They did, however, find a note from him pinned to their front door when they returned home. No word on whether there was also a box containing a dead chipmunk with a note that read, "Unlike this chipmunk, my love for you will never die," but I like to assume the authors meant for us to read between the lines. Anyway, Chloe- or Rayford, it's not really clear from the text- waste no time in reading the note for us verbatim, which is, let's face it, an improvement from the old days when Buck would basically read us his to-do lists (Page 87- Line 8-12).


Page 439- Line 21-22:
It isn't that I [Buck] didn't want to say good-bye. But I don't.


I think we can all agree that is a really inauspicious way to begin a note to someone. That's doubly the case when you're hoping that they'll be jumping your bones within another book or two.


Page 439- Line 22-23:
I'll be back for bureau business and maybe just to see you, if you'll allow it.


Does that even matter? Now that she's converted she may as well have "Property of Rayford Steele" stamped on her forehead. Unless maybe this letter is meant for Rayford? Oh, how awesome would that be? Alas, he's about to spoil that pleasant dream by using Chloe's name. Oh, tosh.


Page 439- Line 26-27:
You are a lovely person, Chloe, and I was moved to tears by your story.


Thus demonstrating once again that nobody in this book has appropriate emotional responses to anything. On the other hand, is it just me, or does it sound like he's breaking up with her? Without even dating her? Classy. Regardless, he then moves on to the big request.


Page 440- Line 1-2:
Would you [Chloe] do something I [Buck] have never asked anyone to do for me before?


Don't get excited, folks- he's not talking about a threesome with Hattie.


Page 440- Line 2-3:
Would you pray for me? I will call you soon. I promise. Buck.


Wow. Creepiest love note ever. Alas, we don't get to find out how Chloe reacted to this steaming pile of rancid affection because the narrative suddenly jumps back to Buck, who is very much in his happy place.


Page 440- Line 4-5:
Buck felt more alone than ever on the flight home. He was in coach on a full plane, but he knew no one.


Excellent. Another scene with Buck on a plane doing nothing. Hell, if this dude spent any more time on passenger aircraft they'd use him as a model for the emergency instruction placards. I'm guessing he'd be, "Man running away from burning airplane." Except that would imply a certain proactive tendency that Buck lacks- how about, "man injuring himself on evacuation slide"? I think we can all- even the authors- agree that sounds more like Buck (roughly Page 41-43).


Page 440- Line 5-8:
He [Buck] read several sections from the Bible Bruce had gien him and had marked for him, prompting the woman next to him to ask questions.


I know the authors are trying to subtly imply that a good way to get people to invite you to evangelize is by reading a bible in public. I get that. But somehow, this bit doesn't ring true to me because more often than not I think that realizing your seatmate is reading a bible is a signal that you're better off leaving them alone. Hell, I think it's a sign you should avoid eye contact for as long as possible. Anyway, the flight ends- apparently uneventfully since the authors fail to remark on it- and we're suddenly in bed with Buck (Ewww!) while he ponders his fate.


Page 440- Line 15-18:
Bruce Barnes had sounded convinced that if Nicolae Carpathia were the Antichrist, Buck ran the danger of being mentally overcome, brainwashed, hypnotized, or worse.


At this point if the next line read, "Buck only hoped that he would remember to cry out 'expecto patronum' when it came time to face the antichrist," my surprise would only extend to wondering why it had taken them so long to admit that this book's religion is the most simple-minded version of sorcery imaginable. So far, the only real distinguishing characteristic between Jesus and the Antichrist (aside from the fact that the Antichrist is here helping whereas Jesus is taking a breather) is that Jesus' magic is supposed to be stronger. Jesus is basically the Dumbledore to Carpathia's Voldemort, but without the charm or useful moral lessons. Anyway, Buck wakes up, thinks to himself about how he's already covinced that either Carpathia or Stonagal is the antichrist, and then things get weird.


Page 441- Line 7-9:
He slung his bag over his shoulder, tempted to take the gun from his bedside table but knowing he would never get it through the metal detectors.


Wait, what? Buck has a gun? When the hell did Buck get a gun? Given that he was being chased by an evil conspiracy not that many chapters ago, why on Earth are we only hearing about the gun now? Bloody hell. Just for fun, though: the authors clearly mean us to assume that Buck has a pistol, but they don't really say. So, for my own amusement, I'm going to assume Buck has a musket. That he keeps by his bedside table. And considers appropriate for self defense. Now, isn't that more amusing than anything else in this book? Buck decides not to take said musket, and then wonders whether he should just go ahead and convert already.


Page 441- Line 17-20:
He decided that becoming a believer could not be for the purpose of having a good luck charm. That would cheapen it. Surely God didn't work that way.


And I might have said the same thing about this book's entire theology. The one and only reason we're ever given for accepting Jesus in this book is for protection: from the Antichrist, from hell, and frankly from god himself. So, no, "good luck charm" is not an unfair characterization.


Page 441- Line 26-28:
There was only one reason to make the transaction, he decided- if he truly believed he could be forgiven and become one of God's people.


One of god's people? He's going to become... Jewish? And didn't you just miss that "transaction" language? I don't know how you can complain about your faith being cheapened when you consistently refer to it in the same terms you'd use for buying a pack of gum.


Page 441-442- Line 441: 30- 442: 1-2:
It only made sense that if God made people, he would want to communicate with them, to connect with them.


Why? No, really, why? You're an omnipotent, omniscient being- you hold dominion over the entire universe. Would you want to have a pleasant chat with humans? It's roughly akin to my inviting a sundial over for milk and cookies. Hell, the Book of Job makes it pretty clear that we're just not that important in the great scheme of things and god only sorta cares about us individually. This is a logic fail of epic proportions. Bah. Whatever. Buck arrives at the U.N., runs into Bailey who, as it turns out, is coming along too, and then we jump back to Chloe and Rayford. They have a pointless conversation for about a page about how Chloe is going to try and have lunch with Hattie because... um... yeah, who knows? And then we're suddenly back with Buck. Buck is on his way to the conference room but, the closer he gets, the more frightened he feels. Yet, he realizes his fear isn't of physical peril.


Page 444- Line 21-28:
No, what he [Buck] feared, he knew, was not mortal danger. At least not now, not here. The closer he got to the conference room, the more he was repelled by a sense of evil, as if personified in that place. Almost without thinking, Buck found himself silently praying, God, be with me. Protect me.

He felt no sense of relief. If anything, his thoughts of God made his recognition of evil more intense. [emphasis original]


And here the authors made a point for me, however inadvertently. Thanks to Rayford's preaching and his new belief in god, Buck has discovered new things to be afraid of. Not only is Jesus the solution to fear, he's part of the problem. Buck wavers for a while about entering the room- along the way noticing that Hattie is seated next to Carpathia as his personal assistant- and then, at the last moment, he heroically flees to the men's room. He sticks a janitor's bucket outside, locks the door, and then falls to his knees to cast his magic spell of protection. So, just to recap, so far in this book we've had three conversion scenes: one in a living room via VCR, one on an airplane in flight, and one in an f-ing men's room. Inspiring, this book is not, although I daresay this isn't the first time Buck has found himself on his knees in a men's room. And let's all keep in mind that when Rayford converted he insisted on laying his forehead on the floor (roughly Page 215-217)- if this is like any men's room I've ever seen, Buck's probably got face herpes by now. Regardless, following his mystical experience, he cleans himself up, and heads back to the conference room.


Page 447- Line 21-30:
While no special feeling had come with Buck's decision, he had a heightened sensitivity that something was happening here. There wasn't a doubt in his mind that the Antichrist of the Bible was in this room. And despite all he knew about Stonagal and what the man had engineered in England and despite the ill feeling that came over him as he obserbed his smugness, Buck sensed the truest, deepest, darkest spirit of evil as he watched Carpathia take his place. Nicolae waited till everyone was seated, then rose with pseudodignity.


And, again, this is a critical point, because the authors are pointing out that if you don't accept Jesus, your perceptions will themselves be flawed. This is a deeply, deeply dangerous sentiment because it denies not just the correctness of others' views, but indeed their very ability to be correct. It asserts that everyone who disagrees with me is delusional, and that's a scary thing to believe. I have pretty strong opinions, and voice them, but I don't even come close to believing that. And if that's what you believe about your critics, what possible hope is there of a respectful compromise?


Page 448- Line 1-7:
"Gentlemen... and lady," he [Carpathia] began, "this is an important moment. In a few minutes we will greet the press and introduce those of you who shall be entrusted to lead the new world order into a golden era. The global village has become united, and we face the greatest task and the greatest opportunity ever bestowed upon humankind."


But, dear friends, we do not face that task this week, because we've reached the end of the chapter. Come back next week when we start the twenty-fifth and final (!) chapter of Left Behind. What will happen? Well, Buck will not spend any significant amount more time in the bathroom, but we will witness a murder, some mind-control mojo, and then the sort of ending that you should have come to expect after this book's existing mass of jack-assery.

I know I can't wait.

Labels:

4 Comments:

Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Nicolae waited till everyone was seated, then rose with pseudodignity.

pseudodignity? I think they toured with Modern English in the early 1990s.

No wonder Left Back readers follow Sarah Palin.

He [Buck] read several sections from the Bible Bruce had gien him and had marked for him, prompting the woman next to him to ask questions.

I think you're misreading this sentence. It's that Buck prompted the woman next to him to ask questions. ("What's this word?" "Why was text in red in the other sections but not at the end?" "Why did your friend treat a book so badly?")

Don't get excited, folks- he's not talking about a threesome with Hattie.

Great: one who doesn't, one who has done but is willing to settle for Rayford, and one who never could do. No wonder people write slash fiction about these, er, "characters": they need to pretend the time they spent reading "about" them has some meaning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"When Bruce gave his message, Chloe nudged her father and pointed out the window, down onto the walk before the front door. There, in a small crowd listening to an external speaker, was Buck."
Just outside the 200 foot limit as set forth in the restraining order.

"You are a lovely person, Chloe, and I was moved to tears by your story."
The one where she said "Um, Ok Dad, I guess I'll become a Christian what with the disappearances and all." That is riveting.

"although I daresay this isn't the first time Buck has found himself on his knees in a men's room."
Uh, excuse me but that was my joke.

Thursday, July 29, 2010 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Pseudodignity!

Thursday, July 29, 2010 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Sorcia MacNasty said...

I like to imagine the cast of Left Behind in the landscape of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Who do you think they would eat first? I bet Hattie.

Friday, July 30, 2010 6:05:00 AM  

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