The Overton Window: Chapter 2
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Sassafras for explaining everything:
A 27-year old sex-addled sociopath working a job clearly above his abilities/education suddenly has an laughable epiphany and describes it in terrible prose?
Now why does that sound familiar...
-- "There's nothing better than looking at a hot, naked chick." (Glenn Beck, 2006)
Indeed, Beck has had something of a wild ride over the years, and the notion that The Overton Window is, from Beck's point of view, semi-autobiographical will be a source of endless amusement. Or, at the very least, the occasional good snicker. Well done, Sass! As for the rest of you, I still love you, and you still have a chance at the comment of the week. Just not this week, for reasons that I trust are obvious.
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. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Tally-ho!
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a toothless hooker.
Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.
Beverly ???: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's.
Noah Gardner: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works at a PR firm. Went to NYU.
"Hottie McPretty": Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood.
Chapter 2: In which Noah attempts to pick up Molly Ross, fails, and ends up saying he'll go to some odd political meeting.
Recommended Mood Music:
Page 10, Line 1-3:
"Can I help you with that?"
Noah's opener, not one of his smoothest, was punctuated by the thunk of his Tootsie Roll into the metal tray of the candy machine. [emphasis original]
Wow, that'll be a story for the kids, desk jockey. This would be an embarassing opener in a porno, much less in a serious novel. Ah, well. At least the authors seem to recognize that the line sucks. That's more reflexivity than we ever got in Left Behind. Now, if only they would realize that they're not actually writing a serious novel, we'd have all our ducks in a row. In any case, Hottie McPretty gives him the once-over, then gets a stool and goes back to pinning up her flyer without answering him. So, on the negative side, she's rude but, on the positive side, has the good sense not to get mixed up with Noah. Not that it will help her in the end.
Page 10, Line 11-14:
Fortunately, Noah was blessed with a blind spot for rejection; she'd winged him, sure, but he wasn't nearly shot down. He smiled and, even at a distance, imagined he could see just a hint of dry amusement in her profile as well.
Yeah, ladies and gentlemen, we're dealing with that guy. The women in the audience no doubt know exactly what I'm talking about here- that guy who cannot take a hint, that guy who just won't leave you alone even after you make it very clear that he's about as sexually attractive to you as roadkill. We're talking about the oblivious horny male and there are few forces in the universe more annoying. And, coincidentally, he's our main character. That just can't work out well. On a more meta level, however, notice that the authors describe him as "imagining" that he can see a hint of amusement. I think there may be an unintended hint there. Specifically, a hint that Noah is, in fact, extremely delusional. There isn't any amusement there, not really, but Noah imagines that there is. Let's watch and see if this hypothesis is borne out.
Page 10, Line 15-16:
Something about this woman defied a traditional chick-at-a-glance inventory. Without a doubt all the goodies were in all the right places...
Oh, man. I got a little queasy just reading that. "Chick-at-a-glance"? Is that like a word-a-day calendar, or something? And I guess it's reassuring to know her goodies are all in the right places, rather than, you know, her boobs growing out of her knees or something. Maybe that's what setting the bar "medium-high" (Page 7, Line 12-14) means? Noah doesn't sleep with weirdly deformed women?
Page 10-11, Line 10:18, 11:1-2:
Though he'd been in her presence for less than a minute, her soul had locked itself onto his senses, far more than her substance had.
I fail to see how that's possible given that she hasn't spoken yet. Hell, we don't even know her name- I'm still referring to her as "Hottie McPretty". As such, I fail to see how any of that shit could have happened. Unless, that is, by "soul" the authors mean "tits and ass" and by "substance" they mean "her unique qualities as a human being". Regardless, though, in a break from the tradition they have established thus far, the authors proceed to describe Hottie McPretty. She wears hardly any makeup, simple silver jewelry and threadbare jeans, she has dark auburn hair pulled back in a French twist and held in place by pencils. That's all you get so far, but it's better than we've had a right to expect.
Page 11, Line 13-15:
These liberated chestnut curls framed a handsome face made twice as radiant by the mysteries surely waiting just behind those light green eyes.
That's some pretty amazing speculation given that she's been facing the wall for the majority of this scene. How the hell does he know what color her eyes are? Honestly, this book is like an episode of "Law and Order: SVU" told from the perspective of the serial rapist.* Consistent with that, Noah steps closer and begins reading the flier over her shoulder. It's styled to look like it's written on a piece of "tattered, scorched parchment" and is advertising a political meeting. Featured speakers include a former Libertarian presidential candidate, the New York community liaison for the "Liberty Belles," and a bunch of other people that we've never heard of. Two of the named people will eventually be characters- one of them even a pretty important one- but we don't know that now, so I won't waste our time by typing out the flier. You should know, however, that it is reproduced in the text verbatim, because that's a good use of page space.
Page 12, Line 12-13:
"This event, it's happening tonight?" Noah asked.
"Congratualtions, you can read." [Hottie McPretty answered]
Actually, he phrased that as a question, so maybe he can't read? Hey, that would be an interesting twist, no? Regardless, she explains that she isn't really expecting anyone at the business to be interested. Noah asks why not and she turns to engage him.
Page 12, Line 24-25:
Close-up now and face-on, she had a forthrightness that was every bit as intriguing as it was disquieting.
Yeah, because women-folk is supposed to be submissive and whatnot? I have no idea how to feel about that. Anyway, she explains that she doesn't think people at Doyle & Merchant would be interested in her rally because it's a PR firm and, therefore, comprised entirely of liars. That's not an exaggeration, that's pretty much what it says in the text. Noah considers arguing, but decides she's right, and thus changes tacks, returning to his efforts to enter her panties as rapidly as possible.
Page 13, Line 6-7:
"I'm Noah," he said.
"I know. I sort your mail."
Yeah, but that doesn't mean she knows him by face. Or I assume, anyway. Maybe in New York they stamp people's faces on the addresses as a service for those like Noah who are illiterate? Anyway, she then lists a series of facts she knows about Noah.
Page 13, Line 9-10:
"Noah Gardner. Twenty-first floor, northwest corner office. Vice president as of last Thursday. And a son of a... big-shot."
Yeah, whatever. My question is: if he's a vice president of a major New York PR firm, why is his snack a Tootsie Roll bought from a vending machine? Shouldn't he be eating foie gras off of a cheerleader's nipples or something like that?
Page 13, Line 11-12:
"Wow. For a second I wasn't sure where you were going with that last one."
Last week I suggested that the narrator was best imagined as having the voice of Glenn Quagmire. By this point, I think we can all agree that Noah should probably be imagined as Troy McClure:
It helps. Anyway, it comes out that Noah's father owns the advertising firm. One wonders, then, why the name isn't "Doyle, Merchant & Gardner," but what do I know?
Page 13- Line 16-19:
"You [Hottie McPretty] haven't told me your name yet," Noah said, "and I've been trying to read it off your name tag, but I'm worried that you'll get the wrong idea about where I'm looking."
"Go for it. I'm not shy."
Okay, one, Noah has also never asked for her name, which is usually viewed as the polite approach. Two, is this supposed to be flirting? Because Noah sucks at it. Seriously, that's the kind of shit a virgin high schooler would come up with. Three, given Noah's behavior thus far, would any woman invite Noah to take a good stare at her chest? Somehow, I doubt it.
Page 13, Line 20-25:
On their way down, his eyes wandered only twice, and only briefly. He caught a glimpse of a small tattoo, finely drawn and not quite hidden by the neckline of her top. All that was visible was an edge of the outstretched wing of a bird, or maybe it was an angel. And a necklace lay against her smooth pale skin, a little silver cross threaded on a delicate wheat chain.
Yep. He's taking his time with this loving examination of her chest. In the next paragraph we hear about how her sweater is apparently skin-tight, however that's possible. Then, finally, he gets to the I.D. tag.
Page 13, Line 31-32:
"Molly Ross," he said.
She tipped his chin back up with a knuckle.
And then kicked him in the groin before filing a sexual harassment complaint with HR?
Page 14, Line 1-2:
"This is fascinating and all, Mr. Gardner, but I need to go and service the postage meter."
There are all kinds of jokes I could make here, but it'll be more fun to turn y'all loose on that particular bit. In any case, Noah asks if she'll be at the meeting she's advertising, she answers affirmatively, and then he says he'll go too because he's very patriotic. Me, I think he's gotten the term "patriotic" confused with "erotic," which is pretty funny given that he's neither.
Page 14, Line 10-18:
"That reminds me of a joke," Molly said. "Noah comes home- Noah from the Bible, you know?"
"So Noah comes home after he finally got all the animals into the ark, and his wife asks him what he's been doing all week. Do you know what he said to her?"
"No, tell me."
Molly patted him on the cheek, pulled his face a little closer. "He said, 'Honey, now I herd everything.'"
And "Ozark" spelled backwards is "Krazo"!** Laugh, damnit, laugh! Regardless of the absence of humor, Molly gets down off of her stool and makes for the door, seeking to escape the skeezy stalker dude we know as "Noah."
Page 14, Line 21-24:
"Don't forget your candy bar," she added, over a shoulder.
Despite his normally ready wit, the door to the break room had hissed closed and clicked behind her long before a single sparkling comeback came to mind.
Ready wit? Are you joking? This dude has all the game of Urkle, but without the charming earnestness. Regardless, though, that's the end of our chapter. So where are we? At this point we have a protagonist about whom we know next to nothing except that he's able to develop powerful fixations on women he's just met and who have shown substantial contempt for him. This does not bode well for the future of this narrative, and yet, I think it does suggest that our hypothesis that Noah is being subtly portrayed as delusional might hold some water. The only real question is, did the authors mean to subtly portray him as delusional? Moreover, if the authors created a delusional character unintentionally because they themselves are delusional, does that make the character intentionally delusional? Are you confused too? Good!
Come back next time when we briefly dispense with Noah's attempts to play hide the salamie with a woman he's only just met and, instead, meet the book's primary villain. I wouldn't get too excited, though- when he graduated villain school this guy was a few class ranks behind Dr. Evil.
See you then!
* My wife is actually a huge fan of SVU, so much so that we've watched pretty much every episode of every season. In later seasons, the cases start getting so weird that you'll find yourself longing for a good old-fashioned rape-torture-murder.
** If you didn't read my earlier series on Left Behind you're probably not going to get that.
Labels: The Overton Window