The Overton Window: Chapter 8
As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes, amidst stiff competition, to Sassafras for hitting the nail on the head:
There is just so much wrong, it's hard to sift through all the inanity.
1) A "charming, rustic" Southern rock bar in Tribeca? My glorious white ass. Have these authors ever been to New York?!
2) Noah is a "seasoned pedestrian" what with his Arthur-esque millions from the old man (ironically named Arthur... or not? Perhaps the authors are nodding to the classic 80's film starring Dudley Moore? One can only dream.)? Highly bloody unlikely. It's like the authors were worried he didn't seem stupid enough so made him incapable of walking and THINKING at the same time.
3) "Huckster of the highest order" -- who fucking talks like this, much less thinks about their dad in these terms?! It makes Arthur Gardener sound like a squint-eyed king of the carnies.
Ah, yes, the squint-eyed king of the carnies. Well, you can't really blame the authors for that one. I mean, you know the advice: write what you know. And yes, Noah clearly aspires to be bright enough to walk and think at the same time, but I'd settle for his just not breathing through his mouth all the time. Great work everyone, and keep it up! The "best" is surely yet to come!
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.). Lah-tee-dah!
Dramatis Personae: In an order chosen by the reading of entrails from a goat.
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 Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high".
Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck.
Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.
Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.
Chapter 8: In which Noah arrives, finds Molly, and meets a sasquatch.
Recommended Mood Music:*
Page 50, Line 2-4:
The place was packed wall to wall; light from inside the tavern was dimmed by the press of a standing-room-only audience lined around the interior windows.
Either the authors are really optimistic about the political appeal of their views, or Noah got his addresses mixed up and there's actually a wet t-shirt party going on inside. I'll leave you to imagine your preferred option for the scant few lines until Schrodinger's Cat is let out of the bag. Noah briefly contemplates just giving up on the whole thing but decides, hey, this night has sucked quite a bit already, why stop now? Why indeed? I mean, hey, if tax cuts don't work, clearly the solution is more tax cuts so, by the same logic, if your night has been craptacular thus far, clearly your best bet is to persist in the same behavior.
Page 50, Line 11-14:
Noah checked his look in a darkened shop window, ran a rake of fingertips through his hair until it looked somewhat presentable, straightened his dirty, wet clothing, and crossed the street to wade into the rowdy sea of redneck humanity.
Some authors might have used that remark about Noah's "look" as an excuse to describe Noah's actual clothing to us a bit, but not these authors. Clearly, we have no need to imagine how he's dressed. Begone, characterization! We don't need your kind here! Second, you caught that crack about the rednecks, right? Because the authors are totally about to "make us think". Brace yourselves.
Page 50-51, Line 50: 17-18, 51: 1-6:
The diversity of the gathering was another surprise; there seemed to be no clear exclusions based on race, or class, or any of the other traditional media-fed American cultural divides. It was a total cross section, a mix of everyone- three-piece suits rubbing elbows with T-shirts and sweat pants, yuppies chatting with hippies, black and white, young and old, a cowboy hat here, a six-hundred-dollar haircut there- all talking together, energetically agreeing and disagreeing as he moved through them.
Wow! Now, if only we could get the cop and the indian chief, the gang would finally be back together! More seriously, this scene encapsulates the weird conceit, and fundamental weakness, of this book- this gathering is the wet dream of your average populist but it relies on this weird idea that "the people" can be regarded as one homogeneous mass who are beset by external enemies (e.g. "the government"). Indeed, this is one of the underlying views of the book but the problem is that these various groups often do not appear at the same rallies because their interests are genuinely different. Or, more bluntly, the kinds of laws that please folks with $600 haircuts are often not the sorts of laws that are of greatest concern to those who prefer to wear cowboy hats. Part of democracy is the existence of competing, and different, interests, and even as the book allegedly celebrates democracy it basically sweeps the existence of real, fundamental differences in interests under the rug. Perhaps the authors intend for us to believe that there's some crosscutting issue that brings these folks together but, if so, we're never clearly told what that is. No, really, this scene is really just meant to combat the notion that the Tea Parties are a bunch of uneducated white folks. And in case you missed the implication, the authors just went right ahead and spelled it out...
Page 51, Line 6-8:
In the press, these sorts of meetings were typically depicted as the exclusive haunts of old white people of limited means and even more limited intelligence. But this was everybody.
Right, everyone got that? Tea Parties=everyone. I'm glad we cleared that up. Anyway, Noah notices a guitarist on stage playing a 1960's folk song, which pretty much guarantees it's left-wing, thereby permitting Noah- PR genius extraordinaire- to muse about the following.
Page 51, Line 20-26:
This music and the mood it was creating, it was a smart PR move if they could make it work. If their enemies were trying to paint them as a bunch of pasty-white NASCAR-watching, gun-toting, pickup-driving reactionaries with racist and violent tendencies, what better ploy could these people make than to subtly invoke the peace-loving spirits of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi? If nothing else it would drive their critics on the left right up the wall.
Technically the authors are adhering to their promise to not name specific political parties but, that said, they're not shy about demonizing one side of the political spectrum (i.e. "the left") and praising the other (i.e. "the right"). So, truthfully, I don't think their discretion really matters. Leaving that aside, the odd thing about this passage is that before the chapter is out Noah is going to meet a guy at this meeting who could be described as a white, NASCAR-watching, gun-toting, pickup-driving dude, and it turns out that pretty much everyone in this "movement" loves the hell out of firearms. So, really, the impression the authors are saying is incorrect in the above turns out to be more correct than not in their own novel. It's hard to know what to make of that, other than just bad writing.
Page 51, Line 28-29:
He [Noah] turned to see whom he'd run into, and there, standing before him, was Molly Ross.
Wow. What a totally plausible turn of events!
Page 51, Line 30-32:
The first thing he noticed was that she'd changed her outfit. More stylish jeans and a warm autumn sweater, nails freshly done, a little purple flower in her hair instead of the pencils.
Well thank god! I was afraid we might have a sympathetic female character who didn't show proper obeisance to traditional gender expectations. Noah realizes that her greater attention to her appearance is because she actually cares about how these people see her (Remember that, ladies: if you haven't got your nails "freshly done", it's because you don't care about who sees you), and then he just gets more awkward.
Page 52, Line 4-5:
That's what it was; she seemed like she was right where she belonged, and the effect was very easy on the eyes.
"Easy on the eyes"? He's been wanting to plow her like a field since Chapter 2 and that's be best he can do? She greets him with the traditional chestnut about cats and the unpalatable things they drag into the house, and then we get a speck of description.
Page 52, Line 7-8:
For the first time he noticed a light Southern lilt in her words.
So, just to clarify: she's a white southernor at a Tea Party rally. We're just shattering the crap out of stereotypes here, aren't we? In any case, Molly notes his wet, filthy apperance, helps him out of his overcoat, and then tells him to follow her to her table with a promise of finding someone with an extra shirt. I'm not much of a drinker so I don't know but, is it common to go to bars with an extra shirt? Because it doesn't seem like it would be.
Page 52, Line 21-23:
Soon they arrived at a little round pub table for two near the stage, with high stools on either side. In a higher-class joint, seats this close would have been reserved for VIPs.
Amazingly, Noah doesn't contemplate the possibility that this means that Molly IS a VIP. This little notion might have saved his dumb ass a lot of trouble down the line but, alas, our "brilliant boy" is unable to re-examine his own beliefs even when presented with a clear reason to do so. Also at this point we should recall how crowded the authors claimed this place was, and reflect upon the suitability of a table right next to the stage for any purpose other than listening to the show and/or inhaling the body stank of the fifty people crammed into a six foot radius. But, hey, the scene now calls for a more intimate setting so I guess the authors have dismissed most of the extras for the remainder of the chapter. Anyway, Molly disappears, and a waitress comes by to take his order. Let me say that again: crazy crowded bar, shit-tons of people lurking around, Noah is sitting in what would certainly be the most crowded area, and a waitress comes to get his order within moments of his sitting down. I don't get service that fast in the average Chili's on an f-ing Tuesday for crying out loud. Noah orders a Samuel Adams, which he views as some sort of weird dig (no, really, the authors explicitly state that it's meant as a dig- Page 52, Line 30-31) for reasons that elude me, and then Molly returns.
Page 52-53, Line 52: 32, 53: 1-2:
Molly came back with two cups of coffee, a choice of three dry shirts, and an enormous bearded man in jumpsuit coveralls and a Beech-Nut baseball cap.
I just don't know what to say to that. I mean, where do you start? She's in a bar on a Friday night and she returns with coffee? Would the bar even have coffee? And she found a dude who goes out to bars on Friday nights in farm coveralls? Is this scene the beginning of some kind of weird logic puzzle? "Molly had two cups of coffee, three shirts, and a sasquatch in a crowded bar. She needs to get all three of these items to the other side but can only carry one at a time. If she leaves the coffee with the sasquatch, he'll drink it. If she leaves the shirts with the sasquatch, he'll tear them up to make bandanas. How many trips will she have to make to get the shirts, coffee, and sasquatch all the way to the other side of the bar?"** Just, what the f-ing crap is going on here?
Page 53, Line 2-3:
The clothes she'd apparently foraged from the luggage of some out-of-towners in attendance.
Thus changing the question from "why did people bring extra shirts to the bar" to "why did people bring their freaking luggage to the bar"? So, really, it's the same question. I'm just going to ignore the implication that people are coming in from out of town for this meeting and hope it goes away.
Page 53, Line 3-4:
It wasn't clear where she'd picked up the big guy, but he looked like he might have hiked here straight from a hayride.
Yep. Shattering stereotypes, we are. Mostly, though, I'm wondering if Molly has some sort of weird three-way planned. The sasquatch asks if Noah is Molly's boyfriend, Molly reacts very negatively, and then covers the introductions.
Page 53, Line 9-10:
"This is Noah Gardner, from where I [Molly] work, and Noah, this is my friend Hollis."
Right. Hollis. Of course. Anyway, they shake hands, Noah notes how polite Hollis is, and also notes that Hollis is freaking enormous. Molly presents Noah with three options including a Kent State sweatshirt, a hoodie, and what sounds like a T-shirt, and Noah chooses the sweatshirt.
"Thanks," Noah said, looking around. "Where can I go put this on?"
"For heaven's sake, it's just your shirt. Go ahead and change right here if you want to." She leaned forward, resting her elbows on the table and her chin in her palms, with a bewitching innocence on her face that was not quite as pure as the driven snow. "I doubt you've got anything under there me and Hollis haven't seen before."
"Aha. So you admit that I'm human."
Ha! And Ozark spelled backwards is Krazo!*** Goddamn, this is stupid.
Page 54, Line 1-5:
She seemed to study him deeply, as if the piece to a stubborn blank in a jigsaw puzzle might be hiding somewhere within his gaze. It must have been only a second or two, but it felt so much longer than any other mere moment he could remember.
"We'll see," she said.
But, as it turns, not right now because this chapter is at an end. And just when we were "getting into" the story!
So, come back next time when we will continue with the ballad of Noah, Molly, Hollis, two cups of coffee, and three shirts. I'm sure someone will end up going home with someone, but I doubt it will work out quite as you expect.
* Yes, I realize that isn't actually the Village People, but all the clips with the actual village people had embedding disabled.
** Feel free to leave your solutions in the comments.
*** If you don't get it, you obviously didn't read the series on Left Behind.
Labels: The Overton Window