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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 3, Part 1

Welcome back, boys and girls, for another exciting episode of Left Behind, the book that puts the simple in simpleton. Last time, as you may recall, we continued flying around in an airplane and... well... that basically sums it up. This time we're going to really branch out, which is to say, we might make it into the airport. I know I'm excited!

As always, I have a comment of the week from last episode. This time around the winner is JLT who asked:

What happens to embryos and fetuses? Raptured or not?

Up until two weeks after implantation they don't even HAVE a blood pumping organ (not to mention a brain) Mini-Jesus could live in.

I chose JLT both because he started an interesting discussion on the afterlife, and because the image of a travel-size Jesus is just too funny not to love. Just remember: you can't carry more Jesus onboard than will fit in a three ounce container! Congratulations, JLT! I'd also like to honor runner-up Scripto for his observations to Hattie on the difference between watercraft and aircraft. Keep those comments coming, folks, as I'm fueled by your participation.

And now, on with the show. 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.

On with the show!


Dramatis Personae

In the customary order because I'm a customary guy...

Rayford Steele: Airline captain. Husband of Irene Steele. Possible former gay porn star. Ditherer.

Irene Steele: Wife of Rayford Steele. Born-again Christian. Not perfect, just forgiven.

Cameron "Buck" Williams: Reporter. Known for "bucking tradition and authority." Terrible Excellent writer. Spiritually attuned. Electronics wiz. Fast typist.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type.


Chapter Three: In which we arrive, grow emotional over the issue of babies/children, and indulge in what will become a familiar degree of absurd paranoia.

Page 41- Line 1-10:
Hattie Durham and what was left of her cabin crew encouraged passengers to study the safety cards in their seat pockets. Many feared they would be unable to jump and slide down the chutes, especially with their carry-on luggage. They were instructed to remove their shoes and to jump seatfirst onto the chute. Then crew members would toss their shoes and bags. They were advised not to wait in the terminal for their checked baggage. That, they were promised, would eventually be delivered to their homes. No guarantees when.

To start with the minor issue: "seatfirst"? Seriously, who talks narrates that way? Especially since it makes the whole scene more comical: I would think feetfirst would imply that they jump and slide down in an upright posture. "Seatfirst" makes it sound like they exit the plane ass-first which is, if nothing else, weird. On a larger note, I want you to really study that paragraph. Bask in its dullness. Revel in its unnecessary degree of specificity. Consider how it makes sure we know what happens to random hand luggage. This, in a nutshell, is the entire book: dull, dull, dull with an extra helping of boring.

Page 41- Line 14-16:
"You're with 'Global Weekly'?" She [Hattie] said. "I had no idea."

"And you were going to send me to my room for tampering with a phone." [Buck responded]

Am I the only one who is forced to observe that being a reporter is not the same thing as being an electrician, much less an MCSE? In any case, this is just another example of how it's a bad idea to give women authority over men; they try and stop random dudes from fiddling with equipment that they (the random dudes) are not even slightly qualified to work with.

Page 41-43- Line 42:30-43:3:
The buggy-whip centripetal force slammed his [Buck's] stockinged feet to the ground and brought his torso up and over in a somersault that barely missed planting his face on the concrete.

"Buggy-whip"? Seriously? That's the analogy the authors chose to make centripetal force MORE understandable to a general audience? A device for motivating horses that most of their audience have probably never seen in use? And what's with the "stockinged feet"? Given that Buck doesn't appear to be a cross-dresser, they seem to be referring to socks. Are the authors writing this book by channeling Charles Dickens' semi-literate cousin, or what? I should probably also note that during the lengthy description of Buck's trip down the evacuation slide, most of which I have omitted in order to safeguard your sanity, he managed to scrape/cut his scalp open. My scrawled comment in the margins simply reads, "Good lord, they are telling me everything."

Page 44- Line 16-19:
"Well, do me a favor and consider me [Hattie] part of your [Rayford's] crew, too. Just because I can't fly the thing [the 747] doesn't mean I don't feel some ownership. And don't treat me like a little woman."

And this is what the authors think "feminism" is. Leaving the girl power moment aside, however, I should mention that Chris, Rayford's co-pilot, surprised Rayford by demanding to ride to the terminal ahead of the passengers. Our heroic protagonist, on the other hand, insisted on walking since that's what his passengers have to do. Rayford thinks Chris is an asshole as a result of this contrast. Chris has his reasons, as we'll see before too long.

Page 45- Line 19-21:
O'Hare was like a massive prison with resources dwindling and gridlock growing.

As analogies go that one was... murky, at best. In any case, Rayford and Hattie have managed to walk their way to the airport terminal and are trying to figure out what to do next. Rayford, of course, wants to go see if his wife has been disapparated raptured. No idea about Hattie. Maybe she wants a cookie? In any case, Ray heads to the crew lounge, gets into a line for the phones, and starts watching a TV that's showing CNN. Which leads us to this next bit...

Page 46- Line 27-30:
Most shocking to Rayford was a woman in labor, about to go into the delivery room, who was suddenly barren. Doctors delivered the placenta. Her husband had caught the disappearance of the fetus on tape.

My comment in the margin just about says it all: "That is fucked up." Given later descriptions of her stomach going from very pregnant to "nearly flat," I'm forced to assume that god took most of the amniotic fluid, too. So here's a question: what would a fetus even do in heaven? Be a baby forever? Yay?

Page 47- Line 26-28:
A funeral home in Australia reported that nearly every mourner disappeared from one memorial service, including the corpse...

So... yeah. Including the corpse. Heaven is apparently populated by naked people, fetuses, and corpses. Sounds fun, really. Like a party at Jeff Dahmer's place. In any case, Rayford continues watching and hears about a soccer game being played at a "Christian high school" where all the players but one suddenly disappeared. Keep this in mind when you read the following...

Page 48- Line 10-17:
The CNN reporter announced that, in his remorse, the surviving player took his own life.

But it was more than remorse, Rayford knew. Of all people, that player, a student at a Christian school, would have known the truth immediately. The Rapture had taken place. Jesus Christ had returned for his people, and that boy was not one of them.

Okay, first, I agree that the right term isn't remorse, but only when applied to the CNN anchor. See, remorse means "Deep regret or guilt for a wrong committed," which is fine for Rayford to use, but for the CNN anchor, "surprise" or "shock" are more likely since, really, what the fuck does he think the kid has to feel remorseful about? Survivor guilt doesn't usually set in instantaneously. The second issue is that, really, my understanding is that according to most Christian denominations, god doesn't like suicide all that much. So, if you suddenly realize that god was too pissed with you to save you from tribulation, why exactly would you go and piss him off more by committing suicide? Is this a subtle message from the authors that even they think evangelicals make weird decisions? I'm going with "no." I think this is just another part of their general disdain for humanity. Anyway, Rayford eventually gets to the phone and calls his answering machine at home, where he hears a message from his daughter, Chloe. Note, of course, that this means that Chloe was not taken in the rapture.

Page 48- Line 29-30:
We've lost at least ten students and two profs, and all the married students' kids disappeared. [Chloe said]

This bit puzzles me. So far, all children have disappeared regardless of their parentage. Now, Chloe is being all specific about the "married students' kids" disappearing. Does this mean bastard children don't go to heaven? I have to admit, I find that implication more than a bit shallow. Likewise, I find the authors' decision to ignore the possibility of unmarried student parents irritating. I teach college students, I have taught unmarried student parents of many ages (e.g. single-mothers, divorcees who are returning to school), and I think the authors can at least acknowledge their existence, even if they're going to judge them at the same time.

Page 49- Line 10-11:
Rayford nodded and quickly dialed his daughter's dorm room at Stanford.

Notice two points here: first, Chloe is apparently smart because she goes out-of-state to Stanford. Treasure this moment, as it is the first and last time you will ever regard Chloe as smart. Second, I love the subtle lesson: send your kids to obtain a higher education at a secular university and they are totally going to hell. Remember, folks: ignorance is strength!

Page 49- Line 13-17:
Rayford gathered his belongings and checked his mail slot. Besides a pile of the usual junk, he found a padded manila envelope from his home address. Irene had taken to mailing him little surprises lately, the result of a marriage book she had been urging him to read.

Believe me when I tell you that the contents of the envelope, which will be revealed in a chapter or two, are not as exciting as the above might lead you to believe. Not even close.

Page 50- Line Any:

So, I'm not going to transcribe this but Rayford manages to find a helicopter that is leaving to take people to his part of Chicago and he asks it to wait so he can find Hattie. She eventually gets back to him and they go running for the chopper. She attempts to commiserate about Chris, the co-pilot, but Rayford starts to get annoyed... but that's a story for next week!

This brings us more or less to the halfway point for Chapter 3. What comes up next? Eh. Rayford has a bit of a sudden series of changes of heart and we return to following Buck who is, as always, bland.

I'll see you then!



Blogger scripto said...

"The buggy-whip centripetal force slammed his [Buck's] stockinged feet to the ground and brought his torso up and over in a somersault that barely missed planting his face on the concrete."

Wow. I write like I'm retarded but even I couldn't improve upon the disjointed incoherence of this sentence. Well, maybe I would use "...feet, stockingedly clad, to the ground... instead. But it isn't even clear if his torso is still attached to his face during all these acrobatics. Beautiful.

Thursday, August 27, 2009 10:22:00 AM  

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