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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 5, Part 2

Welcome back, one and all, to another intallment of our regular series on Left Behind, one of the only books guaranteed to make you want to root for Satan. Last time, as you may recall, Buck spent a considerable time in a pleasant reverie about his friend Dirk and his paranoid rantings. What happens this week? Hard to say, but whatever it is, it ain't gonna be pretty.

As always, we have a comment of the week. This time it goes to Scripto for his observations on the writing/characterization:

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?

Indeed, who watches the watchers and who powers the... um... powerers? We don't know, and the authors seem disinclined to say in so many words but- and here's a hint- it's probably an anagram of "Santa." In any case, Scripto, I'm sorry to say that despite the alleged sinfulness of this fallen world it is depicted as being decidedly milquetoast. However, there will eventually be a romance of sorts, though it can only be described as asinine.

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 order of appearance except when it's not...

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. Graduated from Princeton.

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.

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

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy.

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal.

Marge Potter: Steve Planck's secretary. Matronly.


Page 87- Line Chartreuse:

No quote since I just want to set the stage. We begin this episode by returning to Rayford, who was sleeping with his face buried in his wife's vacated sleepwear. He's awakened by a call from Hattie Durham, who wants to see if he's okay.

Page 88- Line 6-7:
"Do you know anything for sure?" Hattie asked.

"I'm afraid I do," he [Rayford] said. "Their bedclothes are here."

Right. He doesn't say "pajamas" or "clothes" or just the universally applicable "things," he says "bedclothes." Between that and Buck's stockinged feet from a few chapters back, I feel like I'm in Oliver-friggin-Twist. This page also features a scrawled marginal comment, "God, this dialogue is atrocious," which explains why I'm not transcribing more of the conversation.

Page 89- Line 1-2:
"Let me [Hattie] know if you need me, Rayford. You know, just someone to talk to or be with."

Doubtless the authors want us to read this line and exclaim, "Oh, that SLUT!" Really, though, I thought it seemed pretty innocuous. Anyway, Rayford asks Hattie to keep him posted on what happens to her family, and then we rediscover once again why Rayford is an asshole...

Page 89- Line 5-11:
He almost wished he hadn't added that. Losing his wife and child made him realize what a vapid relationship he had been persuing with a twenty-seven-year-old woman. He hardly knew her, and he certainly didn't much care what happened to her family any more than he cared what he heard about a remote tragedy on the news.

Yeah, great guy. I'm also forced to wonder why he was persuing a vapid relationship with her instead of a deep and meaningful one. Is it intrinsically impossible to have a meaningful relationship with a hottie? Bad news for me and my wife, I guess. Anyway, this contiues for a bit with a marginal comment that reads, "This entire book is like evangelical porn. 'Oh yeah, Baby! Suffer good for daddy!'" In any case, by the end of the page we're back with Buck who is keeping himself entertained, at least...

Page 89- Line 23-26:
Buck Williams had gotten back in line and gained access to a pay phone. This time he wasn't trying to hook up his computer to it. He simply wanted to see how many personal calls he could make.

Try making it a game- see how many calls you can make in ten minutes, then try to break that record! Leaving Principal Skinner aside for a moment, Buck first calls Ken Ritz, a private pilot who is apparently flying people to various airports for exorbitant prices. His answering machine message is really polite, though, and Buck offers to pay him in his fancy travellers checks, figuring this guy might make a little margin on the exchange rate. So I guess the magic travellers checks are denominated in something after all. Then Buck calls his office voicemail and gets an exciting message from Marge Potter.

Page 91- Line 6-9:
"Buck, if you get this, call your father in Tucson. He and your brother are together, and I hate to tell you this, but they're having trouble reaching Jeff's wife and the kids."

And this is something of a theme in this book: for whatever reason women are more rapture prone than men. There are two obvious reasons the authors may have relied upon for this. First, women are just naturally more "spiritually attuned" than men. I find that somewhat doubtful since I'm pretty sure these authors subscribe to the notion that authority goes from god, to Jesus, to the man, to his wife. That does not sound like women are more spiritually attuned to me. Second, the authors think women are just a bit dumber than men, and hence more likely to be taken by Jesus out of pity. Sorta like how young kids are taken by default because they just don't know any better than to sin yet. I'll leave it to you to decide which option the authors had in mind, but either way after the rapture it's going to be a total sausage fest.

Page 91- Line 21-25:
Buck hung up and dialed his father. The line was busy, but it was not the same kind of a tone that tells you the lines are down or that the whole system is kaput. Neither was it the irritating recording he'd grown so used to.

Ah, yes. Left Behind: An exciting narrative of dial tones. Anyway, as he dials Buck thinks about how his brother, Jeff, and his wife, Sharon, had their problems and even been separated at one time. And then we get back into it...

Page 91-92- Line 91:30-92:2:
Jeff's wife had proven forgiving and conciliatory. Jeff himself admitted he was puzzled that she would take him back.

One wonders what he did that made him so surprised? Regardless, this is another place where the born again aren't better than anyone else... except they are. Good old Saint Sharon, willing to take Jeff back despite the nebulous very wrong things he apparently did. What a martyr for Jesus' heavenly ordained institution of marriage! Anyway, Buck then decides to make another call...

Page 92- Line 5-7:
Buck pulled out the number the beautiful blonde flight attendant had given him and chastised himself for not trying to reach her earlier.

In the margins at this point I scrawled, "Ah-HA! So she's blonde! Hattie is rapidly becoming the best described character in the book!" It's true, too. We know more about Hattie's age, weight, and appearance than any other single person in this entire wretched book. What that tells us about the authors, I prefer to leave to your fetid imaginations. Anyway, it becomes clear during his conversation with her that Buck's niece and nephew were under ten and both appear to have disappeared in the rapture. This is interesting to me because it helps fix the age at which kids are old enough to be damned. So, as of this moment, we'll assume than ten is the magic number. I should note, however, that my wife went to an evangelical school and they taught her that four years old was old enough. Because a four year old can make decisions with eternal ramifications, sure, makes perfect sense.

Page 93-94- Line 93:26-30 94:2:
"Miss Durham, it's OK. You have to admit, no one is thinking straight right now." [Buck said]

"You can call me Hattie."

That struck him as humorous under the circumstances. She had been apologizing for being inappropriate, yet she didn't want to be too formal. If he was Buck, she was Hattie.

Yes! HA! Very funny. Goddamn this book is dull. Following this desperate effort at levity, Hattie asks Buck if he wouldn't mind calling her again sometime, which provokes this odd reaction from the authors...

Page 94- Line 11-15:
He [Buck] couldn't argue with that understatement. Funny, her request had sounded like anything but a come-on. She seemed wholly sincere, and he was sure she was. A nice, scared, lonely woman whose world had been skewed, just like his and everyone's he knew.

Yes, you read that right: the authors felt the need to reassure us about Hattie's virtue just because she asked Buck to call her. So remember, ladies: according to Jesus, if you ask a man to call you, you're a total slut! Once we get beyond this, Buck talks to the counter lady at the Pan-Con Club who tells him about some guys who are trying to get car service restored to the airport.

Page 95- Line 1-3:
"I can imagine the wait." [Buck observed]

"Like standing in line for a rental car in Orlando," she [the counter woman] said.

I've gotta be honest, I've flown through Orlando International Airport more than once, and that place has its shit together. Seriously, I don't think these guys have any idea what they're talking about here but, then again, do they ever? Honestly, though, what makes this little passage is what follows...

Page 95- Line 4-5:
Buck had never done that, but he could imagine that, too.

Lovely. An analogy so compelling, even the characters don't get it. Just brilliant. Anyway, Buck then calls Lucinda Williams' house and gets her young son. Lucinda, however, has disappeared along with her husband and "everybody else."

Page 96- Line 17-18:
"My uncle's here. And a guy from our church. Probably the only one who's still around." [Lucinda's spawn observed]

Well, evangelicals, we have a high opinion of ourselves, don't we? All those sex and embezzling scandals, and yet only one or two of you are left per congregation? That's quite the success rate!

And, as it happens, that's the end of the chapter. As such, let's use this as an opportunity to take stock. At this point we've finished 5 chapters out of the total 25. In terms of pages, we've done 96 out of 470. So, we've done a gnat's whisker over 20% of the total book. What do we have to show for it? Well, basically nothing. Our main characters started on a jet liner. One of them hasn't even escaped from the airport while the other has barely managed to drag his carcass home. In 1/5 of the book, we've finished a flight and managed to almost leave the airport. Fortunately for us the "action" will begin to speed up soon but, really, the book has begun at a damn near incomprehensibly slow pace. Because it just isn't worship if it isn't boring as all fuck.

Welp, that's it for today. Tune back in next week when Rayford starts preaching at us. A lot. Toodles!



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

"Buck offers to pay him in his fancy travellers checks, figuring this guy might make a little margin on the exchange rate."

Let's try and guess. Iirc, the checks are redeemable in USD, EUR, or JPY. (Most TCs are redeemable in any currency, at the appropriate exchange rate; these really are special.)

In a Raptured World, cash is king. (Well, barter first, but you get the idea.) The more intermediaries, the less value the security.

I'll grant you that most Fin Svcs people will still be Left Behind. (After all, we're all J*ws in RaptureWorld.) But we're already seeing many—far too many—rapturites in the US.

Europe has All Those Cathedrals/Churches, and a very strong Jesus-loving (well, Catholic, but it's almost the same thing) culture. So they're probably problematic at best.

Japan, otoh, gave us the Walkman, children sleeping with parents, and bukkake. So the only hope is that Buck thinks his buddy will settle in Japan. Which means he's gonna need a lot of airplane fuel.

No wonder Buck doesn't think Hattie's trying to, er, connect with him: he's Really Stupid. Probably even joined the wrong Eating Club.

(We're going to find out that the only reason some congregants weren't Raptured is because they're Ivy—or at least "Eastern"—educated, aren't we?

Thursday, October 01, 2009 1:58:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

"This entire book is like evangelical porn. 'Oh yeah, Baby! Suffer good for daddy!'"

You may be on to something. That may be a market that hasn't been, umm, tapped. How about:

Left In the Behind, Part One - The Titillation

Friday, October 02, 2009 1:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just noticed that "Hattie" is a scant letter away from "hottie". Coincidence? I think not.


Friday, October 02, 2009 6:47:00 PM  
Blogger Warbler said...

If this is evangelical porn, it's the worst porn of all time.

Here's the analog to regular porn: The "pizza delivery guy" (Dick Dickerson) is driving back to Dominos from the house of "woman home alone" (Penny Hooker) and realizes he forgot to collect the 14 bucks. He wonders if it would have been wrong if he'd asked for it. He changes the radio to a classic rock channel: WROQ - Springfield's Best Rock. The news was on. There had been an accident on the interstate. Near 3rd and Jackson, by the Hardees. He would have to drive home taking the cross town tunnel and catch Hwy 4 by Brandt Park, where they had just repaved the tennis courts. He phones his boss, Weed Potter, but nobody answers. "Hm. That's funny" Dick thinks to himself. "Probably out 'toking grass.' I guess I'll pay for the pizza. Maybe I'll masturbate when I get home. I hope I don't have an STD!"...


Saturday, October 03, 2009 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Four hundred seventy pages? Oh my suffering stars.

(I have to vote for Warbler's comment. *shudder*)

Monday, October 05, 2009 6:56:00 PM  

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