Total Drek

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 5, Part 1

Come one, come all, for the next installment of our regular series on Left Behind, the book that stretches the very definition of the term "novel." Last time, as you may recall, Rayford broke down and cried because his wife was gone, his son was gone, and he had only a limited remaining supply of home baked cookies. What will happen this week? Well, I don't want to ruin it for you, but it includes a plethora of annoying names.

As always, we have a comment of the week. This time it goes to Mister Troll for finally realizing the full horror of this book:

For crying out loud, this is only page 68? Please tell me this book is under 100 pages long. (Page 74 plus "two dozen" = The End?)

I still think that this Roman (Romulan?) dude sounds more like he might be Santa Claus than the devil, but maybe that's just me.

And, um, Buck is going to go somewhere "slowly"? More slowly than that plane ride we were treated to?

Oh, my poor abused readers! This book has not yet begun to suck! Soon you will realize the full truth- that Left Behind advances its plot at a rate that rivals continental drift! Prepare yourselves with caffeine!

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.


Dramatis Personae

In ascending order by social security number...

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

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.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin.

Chris Smith: Airline co-pilot. Worked with Rayford Steele. Father of two. Husband. Killed himself.

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford.

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.

Nicolae Carpathia: Businessman. Romanian Senator. Romanian President. Antichrist. Favors arms reductions.

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


Chapter 5: In which we learn of global monetary cabals, discover a child left behind, nearly fix god's age of majority, and generally fart around.

Page 77- Line 1-5:
Buck Williams ducked into a stall in the Pan-Con Club men's room to double-check his inventory. Tucked in a special pouch inside his jeans, he carried thousands of dollars' worth of traveler's checks, redeemable in dollars, marks, or yen.

Wouldn't "double checking his inventory" be an awesome new euphemism? I think there's potential. I will also point out that my comment in the margins in regards to his traveler's checks was, "Please let them be for hookers." No such luck, sadly, as this is the continuation of Left Behind's penchant for trying to make Buck into a secret agent/journalist. Things get sillier and sillier as time goes by, so be prepared. I also find myself fascinated by these supposed traveler's checks. They're redeemable in any of the three currencies, but that sort of ignores the fact that they have to be denominated in one of them. Otherwise, how the hell would you tell what they're worth at a future time? Unless these are magic traveler's checks, I guess, which seems stupid until you remember what the rest of the book is like.

Page 77- Line 9-11:
He [Buck] had packed for a ten-day trip to Britain when he left New York three days before the apocalyptic disappearances.

"Apocalyptic disappearances," eh? Subtle! On an unrelated note: the above sounds like the lead-in for an Evangelical SAT question. "Buck is going to London but has been delayed due to a storm. He originally packed for ten days, but has been delayed in Chicago for three days. If he boards an eastbound flight today, leaving Chicago at 10:00 AM, how many days worth of clothes will he have left when God rains fire and plagues upon the unbelievers?"

Page 77- Line 11-14:
His [Buck's] practice overseas was to do his own laundry in the sink and let it dry a whole day while wearing one outfit and having one more in reserve.

Okay, here I really have to give the authors some credit. I often find when reading novels that I am just on the edge of my seat wondering how the characters manage to do laundry. I think it's just fantastic that in Left Behind, the authors aren't afraid to throw convention to the wind and describe minutiae that couldn't possibly matter to anyone ever. Bravo!

Page 78- Line Teal:

No quotation, we've just moved into a flashback conversation between Buck and Lucinda Washington, the Global Weekly's bureau chief for Chicago. Washington is described (Page 78- Line 2) as "a fiftyish black woman" which actually makes her the second best described character in the book after Hattie. In any case, she tries to come down all heavy on Buck for scooping her on a story, he acts like a cocky asshole, and I scribble "Ahoy there, awful dialog!" in the margin. The fun, however, comes near the end of page 79.

Page 79- Line 22-30:
"You creep," she [Lucinda] had said. "Anybody else I'd be throwing out of here on his can."

"But you love me. You can't help yourself." [Buck replied]

"That wasn't even Christian," she had said.

"Don't start with that again."

"Come on, Cameron. You know you got your mind right when you saw what God did for Israel." [Lucinda insisted]

"Granted, but don't start calling me a Christian. Deist is as much as I'll cop to."

Aaaaaand that chorus of agonized groans you just heard is from every person reading who actually knows what a "deist" is. See a deist is, generally speaking, someone who believes in god, but views said god as a sort of watchmaker or architect who set up the universe, but is presently allowing it to run without interference. Specifically, deists do not- as a general rule- place much stock in the notion of divine intervention. Yet, here we are with Buck referring to himself as this most rare of theological critters (rare, that is, unless you count many of the founding fathers. You know- the ones who weren't atheists or agnostics) when waaaaay back on page 14, line 23-25 we learned that Buck began to believe in god because he witnessed god intervene on Israel's behalf. So, in effect, he became a person who believes in a god that does NOT intervene in human affairs because he witnessed something he believed had to be divine intervention. Either Buck is an idiot or the authors are catastrophically ignorant. I'm betting the answer is "yes."

Page 80- Line 3-5:
"He's [God] already got me [Buck], Lucinda. But Jesus is another thing. The Israelis hate Jesus, but look what God did for them." [emphasis added]

Yes, you read that correctly: the authors actually wrote, "The Israelis hate Jesus." Feel free to be creeped out. Getting past the rather unsavory language and vague hints of anti-semitism, Buck is actually making a good point in an admittedly muddled way- just because he witnessed something he believes to be divine intervention, there's no reason to assume that the divine is named Jehovah, Yaweh, Jesus, Allah or even Ganesh. For all we know, it was Shiva warming up for the end of days. This is a logical fallacy known as a false dichotomy and is most often observed in the wild in its classic, "Evolution doesn't explain everything, therefore Jesus is LORD!" form. Thus, in this book it's like a tiny caterpillar of foolishness that, in time, will emerge into a lovely butterfly of stupid.

Page 81- Line Banana:

I'm not going to quote it because it's so stupid, but Buck is now remembering a phone conversation with former Princeton classmate Dirk Burton,* who insists that there's a huge secret group that sets global monetary policy. And he knows this because he heard it from a friend of his who is related to a girl who works for the secretary of the British member of the group. That's not a joke, that's what it actually says in the text (Page 81- Line 26-28). He goes on to explain that this cabal wants to switch to a single global currency. The reason is a little... odd.

Page 82- Line 3-6:
You know half our time is spent on exchange rates and all that. Takes computers forever to constantly readjust every day, based on the whims of the markets. [Dirk said]

Well, maybe so, but it's important to keep in mind that to a computer, "forever" means "one second." This is not, to put it mildly, a good reason. Let's not forget as well that the world only has three currencies now, which you'd think would make calculating exchange rates less of an ordeal overall. Anyway, Buck rejects the whole notion, calls a single world currency "impractical" and observes that the metric system was only ever really necessary for world trade. Right. Science didn't find the metric system useful in the slightest. And we babble on incoherently about this conspiracy for a while and then get into "man behind the curtain" time.

Page 84- Line 14-15:
I'm [Dirk] also going to tell you [Buck] that the real power behind the power is an American.

The "power behind the power"? Just... wow. That's some excellent writing, that is.

Page 84- Line 16:
What do you mean, the power behind the power? [Buck asked]

And see? Buck found that a little confusing, too. On second thought, I must be off of my game if Buck and I are both confused at the same time. He's not that bright, you know.

Page 84- Line 20-22:
He's [powerful mystery man] the one who shot down sterling as one of the currencies and has dollars in mind for the one world commodity in the end.

This may just be a copy editing failure, but I feel compelled to point out that a currency is not the same thing as a commodity. I'm just sayin' is all. In any case, the mystery man in question is identified as "Jonathon Stonagal," which aside from being an absurdly annoying name, is supposedly one of the richest men evar. In any case, Buck spends some more time pumping Dirk, and then eventually asks how many people are in this alleged secret cabal.

Page 85- Line 16-18:
"That's easy," Dirk had said, "There are at least ten, though more than that sometimes come to the meetings, including some heads of state."

And this is supposed to be crucial because "ten" is an important number in revelations. What it means really depends on the interpreter since revelations may as well include references to yellow submarines for all the sense it makes, but that's not the point. Good to see the authors thinking ahead, I guess.

Page 85- Line 28-30:
Our guy in the group, Joshua Todd-Cothran, may just not be quite as buttoned down as the rest. [Dirk said]

Yikes! First we get "Rayford," then "Raymie," now "Joshua Todd-Cothran"? Do the authors have a fetish for awkward names, or what?

Page 86- Line 5-8:
"Plus, who ever heard of a Brit who was not buttoned-down?" [Buck asked]

"It happens." [Dirk replied]

"Good night, Dirk."

Just for the record: I think that was supposed to be a joke. Clearly, the authors are unfamiliar with what we humans know as "humor." Sadly, they do not seem to figure it out by the end of the book. Damn if they don't "try" though.

Page 87- Line 8-12:
Call Ken Ritz, charter pilot

Call Dad and Jeff

Call Hattie Durham with news of family

Call Lucinda Washington about local hotel

Call Dirk Burton

Okay, so, you know in some novels how a character's diary entry or note will sometimes be represented by a cursive typeface? Well, the above is included in Left Behind in exactly that font. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's right: the authors included Buck's f-ing to-do list verbatim right there in the text. My scrawled comment in the margin reads, "Oh, c'mon! Do I need to read his damn to-do list? Fuck, fuck, fuck." There is simply nothing to add to that.

And with that, dear readers, we come to the end of part one. Come back next week when we venture deeper into Left Behind, among other things catching back up with Rayford and all of his... um... doings. I, for one, can hardly wait.

* FYI: For some reason I keep wanting to call "Dirk" by the name "Dick" instead. This urge is so powerful I keep typing "Dick" by mistake and have been correcting it after the fact during a read-through. In the event I miss an instance, however, I wanted you to know what's going on. Not sure why I'm having this issue, but can only speculate it's because on some level I think Buck and Dirk had a gay encounter in college that neither one has ever completely gotten over. Maybe that's what Buck was thinking about when he had to go "double check his inventory"?



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"Page 84- Line 20-22:
He's [powerful mystery man] the one who shot down sterling as one of the currencies and has dollars in mind for the one world commodity in the end."

I believe this is a reference to the repudiation of John Maynard Keynes in 1947 when they were setting up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (nee IBRD, now The World Bank).

Which would mean that the rapture happened several years before you, I, and most of the other readers of this blog were born, and you can stop reading now, because it is clearly the Devil's work.

Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:58:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"What do you mean, the power behind the power? [Buck asked]"

Yeah, and how about the power behind the power behind the power? What about that?

Considering that all the people left on this sorry planet are sinners, where is all the orgiastic sexual activity? Does anybody get laid? Ever?

Friday, September 25, 2009 7:26:00 AM  
Blogger JLT said...

Buck carries around several thousand dollars for a ten-day trip but he washes his clothes in the sink? Why? I'm pretty sure that even British hotels do have a laundry service.
My impression of Buck is now that of a cheap sleazy guy in crumbled greyish clothes who's supposedly an investigative journalist but needs help to book a hotel room.
And he needs to remind himself to call his dad?

Sunday, September 27, 2009 4:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Tuesday, September 29, 2009 6:53:00 PM  

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