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Friday, September 16, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 32

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that aspires almost to the stature of my daughter's incoherent vocalizations. Last time Noah had a lovely chat with his weirdo eugenicist father. What happens this week? We start part THREE and Noah goes to the bathroom. Yay?

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Jay for noting the hidden irony:

I love how this bit shows the beginning and the end of Gardner's new aristocracy all at once. The beginning, because Gardner is trying to seize power by virtue of his intellingence, drive, and ruthlessness (or so we're told). The end, because 74-year-old Gardner is trying to groom his incompetent, pampered son for leadership.


Yeah, it's a worthwhile point that before you launch a revolution that basically predicates the right to rule on biological heritage that you should secure an heir who isn't some kind of sub-human idiot. Although, frankly, a sub-human idiot would still be better than Noah Gardner. I'd also like to offer a special nod to Jonas for at least saying so. I forgive you, man, but my wife may be a different story. Nice work, everyone, and keep at it- we're in the home stretch now!

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.). Snicker-doodle!


***********************************
Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by a random seed.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games. Wants to bang his mom.

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. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder. Looks just like Noah's mom.

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.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations. May be afraid of cats.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

***********************************

Part THREE: In which we stumble to the moronic conclusion of a stupid book.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page Unmarked-but-would-be-213, Line 1-7:

"The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country."

-Edward Bernays, Author of Propaganda [emphasis original]


So, this is the quotation that really provides the page announcing Part THREE with its only raison d'etre. Unlike the last time the authors were foolish enough to offer a lengthy quote, there aren't gigantic bloody bits torn out of this one. On the other hand, if you continue with the quoted bit (which comes from the opening pages of the first damned chapter of the book) you may come to think that the meaning is a shade different. Specifically:

We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.

They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons- a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million- who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.


Bernays goes on at some length- it is a book after all- but the essential point of all this is that when you have a really big society with a big population, you pretty much have to accept some centralization. And Bernays is explicitly not saying, "Hey! There's a secret cabal running the world!" No, what he's saying is, "Hey! Rich people, and people who understand politics, set the agenda for the rest of us!" And that's not sinister, that's just realistic. But, alas, the authors would have us be chilled by a simple notion that nobody would really disagree with. And with that, we get on to...


Chapter 32: In which Noah takes time out to groom, vows revenge, and then visits the mailroom.

Recommended Mood Music:




Page 215, Line 1-6:
Noah had excused himself suddenly and then stumbled his way into the elegant stall in the corner of his father's private restroom. You know you're sick when you're still vomiting ten minutes after the last thing was expelled from your stomach. He was still hugging the porcelain bowl, drained and wretched, feeling like he'd just capped off a marathon with four hundred sit-ups.


Okay, first off, he was still hugging the porcelain bowl, feeling awful, when what? Maybe I'm just a traditionalist, but that particular sentence construction is usually followed by an explanation of what happened when the character was still doing something previously described. Did the authors just get bored in the middle of the sentence and decide to drop a period, or what? Second, purely out of curiosity, why does Arthur's no doubt private bathroom have a stall, elegant or otherwise? I mean, a "stall" is normally included in a bathroom so that someone else can come in and wash their hands, use a urinal, or whatever, while you take a dump in relative privacy. But if the whole bathroom is private, why is there a stall? And finally, no doubt the vomiting has to do with all the drugs he's packed with- both the relics of whatever Molly et al. juiced him with as well as whatever Dr. Feelgood gave him before the meeting- but the vomiting "after the last thing was expelled from your stomach" has a peculiar meaning here because Noah was drugged unconscious for several days. That means he didn't eat or drink anything for something like 48 hours. He should be crazy thirsty, really hungry, and very weak. He is none of these things, except maybe the weak part, and that's more Noah than anything else. Moreover, given this situation, the fact that he's vomiting should be a major concern for any doctor or father- they need to get fluids into Noah's sorry ass, not let him hurl them out with gut-wrenching force. But, alas, the authors don't want to deal with this issue, and so they don't. They do, however, describe how he washed his face and then put his shirt BACK on, which implies that his sudden lunge to the toilet wasn't so sudden he couldn't remove his shirt first.


Page 215, Line 14-15:
His skin was as pale as a Newark Bay oyster, but while he was certainly beat he wasn't quite out of commission yet.


As pale as a Newark Bay oyster, eh? Is that... you know... pale? I ask only because I don't usually ask oysters I plan on eating* where they're from, much less note how pale they are. This reminds me of how sci-fi authors occasionally give analogies like, "He was as angry as an Altairian Sand-wolf with a bad case of creepers." I mean, you kind of know what it means from context, but as an analogy it's an utter failure. Anyway, he thinks about how the doctor says that his symptoms will persist for a few days, pops some pills, tries to digest what his father just told him, and then he turns to other matters.


Page 216, Line 2-3:
...there was also a score he needed to settle before a certain young woman's trail became too cold to follow.


Oh, man. Seriously? Noah Gardner is going to try to get even with Molly? Buddy, she's part of some kind of crazy terrorist cell- that's trouble that you, of all people, are not equipped to deal with.


Page 216, Line 4-5:
As Noah hurried down the stairwell toward the mailroom he lost his shaky footing and nearly tumbled down the last half flight.


Okay, so, Arthur is just done, then? Because this chapter opened with Noah suddenly bolting for Arthur's bathroom and now we're going down the stairs so... what? He just crossed Arthur's office and left? Huh? Arthur just let him go then? I mean, we get a description of Noah putting his shirt back on but we can't get a mention of how Arthur reacted to Noah's sudden nausea/will to revenge? Regardless, it goes without saying that Noah does, in fact, reach the mailroom.


Page 216, Line 13-18:
"Frank!" Noah called.

The department manager popped his head out from behind the sorting shelves. "Yes, sir."

"Have you heard from Molly today?"

"No, sir. She was on the schedule but she ain't been in. I called her agency about an hour ago and they haven't got back to me yet."


I would have expected "Frank" to be a bit more confused about why a V.P. is suddenly in his mailroom asking about a random temp. Admittedly, Frank does show a tiny morsel of curiosity about this in a couple of lines when Noah asks for her emergency contact numbers, but that's to be expected. Somehow I doubt that this is the first time that Noah has come looking for information on attractive female temps, you know?


Page 216, Line 24-31:
"You're talking about that temp girl, Molly?" Another of the mailroom staff had apparently overheard the conversation, and he came nearer. "Someone called here for her over the weekend. I picked up the voice mail when I opened up this morning."

"Do you have that message?" Noah asked. "It's important."

"I deleted it, and I didn't write anything down, since it was a personal thing. The fellow who called must have just tried all the numbers he had for her. He said her mama was in the hospital."


What a shockingly convenient, albeit dumb, development! Thank you random extra! More seriously, though, go back over what you just read: the dude listened to the voicemail closely enough to know that someone he works with- even if only on a temporary basis- has a mother in the hospital and may not know, and his response is to delete the message and not write anything down. What the fuck is wrong with these people?


Page 217, Line 1-6:
As it gripped him there he remembered what Warren Landers had said, up in his father's office. It had passed in one ear and straight out his other, because, as usual, he was immersed in his own significance, as though the only bad things that existed were the ones that had happened to him.

We'll make them sorry. That's how Mr. Landers had put it. [emphasis original]


First of all: as it gripped him where? Moving along, on the one hand it is nice to see Noah realize that he's a self-absorbed dickhead. On the other hand, in this instance- having just been rescued from kidnappers who kept him under sedation for several days- I think a bit of self-absorption is only to be expected. That said, the odd thing is that even in Noah's unbidden recollections he's a moron. See, what he's keying on is Landers future-tense statement that Noah's kidnappers would pay. What he should have keyed on was his father's statement (Page 203, Line 29-30) that there had already been (past-tense) repercussions. In other words, whatever happened to Molly's mom had already happened by the time Noah was having his little chat with daddy. Ah, well. Whatever. Noah asks which hospital, the nameless extra tells him, and we hit the end of the chapter.

So, come back next time when Noah drives around and then has a warm visit with Molly's mom. Inexplicably warm, in fact, given that he apparently wants revenge on her daughter but, hey, who am I to judge?

See you then!


* As a general rule, I don't actually eat oysters in the first place, but my point stands.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"As pale as a Newark Bay oyster, eh? Is that... you know... pale? I ask only because I don't usually ask oysters I plan on eating* where they're from, much less note how pale they are."

I had assumed that's NewArk Bay (DE), not Newark (NJ) Bay. But a Google search suggests I'm wrong.

I do know, however, that I've never heard of them being available at The Oyster Bar. And they're not on the current daily menu (PDF). And no one I know who speaks of little necks and cherrystones and bluepoints has ever said "Newark (either pronunciation) Bay." So either someone is trying for Product Placement (and failing miserably) or it's just bad writing.

Then again, that--"It's just bad writing"--is a good rule for this whole cf of a book, and I feel sorry for your daughter that this is the first thing she is seeing you do for, er, leisure.

Friday, September 16, 2011 9:19:00 AM  
OpenID sassafrasjunction said...

"It is the book that never ends,
Yes it goes on and on, my friends!
Some people started reading it,
Not knowing what shit it was,
And they'll continue reading it forever,
JUST BECAUSE... [repeat mindlessly while completing final chapters]"

It's horrifying when a Lambchop song is more fun than a book.

Friday, September 16, 2011 4:40:00 PM  

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