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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Left Behind: Chapter 7, Part 2

Hey everybody! I'm your host, Drek the Uninteresting, and I welcome you back to our exciting weekly series on Left Behind, the book whose strongest endorsement is the simple fact that it won't make it burn when you pee! Wow! Last time Rayford spent a whole lot of time looking at the bible and making it apparent that he's a raging moron. What will happen this time? Who knows, but with luck, it won't involve Rayford!

As always we have a comment of the week. This week the prize goes to JLT for giving us a window into Rayford's bible reading adventure:

-- Uh, red letters, that seems to be important. Thank God (haha), it’d take me weeks to read the whole page, I’ll just read the red bits. Nice short words in there, too. [mumbles, brows furrowed] "Let the one who is ... thi..thirs..ty come...". --

I couldn't agree more as I find it almost impossible in Chapter 7 to not yell, "C'mon, Rayford, use your phonics!" at the page. See, this is why people don't like to sit next to me on airplanes. Anyway, congratulations JLT and everyone else, stay tuned! Plenty more chances to win!

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

Because this is the order god wants...

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. Human alarm clock.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde.

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.

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.

Lucinda Washington: Fiftyish black woman. Raptured.

Ken Ritz: Pilot. Profiteering on the rapture. Actually quite polite. Fired for being too careful. Believes in aliens.


Page 126- Line Chihuahua:

No quote, but we're back with Buck. He and Ken are landing in Easton, Pennsylvania where Buck will take a car to "within a couple of miles of the subway." We're then treated to narration about how lots of train conductors and operators disappeared in the rapture, so there's mass chaos and disaster all over the place. And, of course, lots of casualties. Just another signature of a god that had to signal his people by killing the fuck out of us, instead of just using the old burning bush approach more liberally. I never really understood why god feels compelled to only communicate in a manner that's totally unverifiable, but maybe that's just me. Needless to say all this chaos doesn't phase Buck Williams, inaction hero!

Page 127- Line 4-7:
His [Buck's] driver had not even been a cabbie, nor the vehicle a cab. But it might as well have been. It was just as decrepit and unsafe.

Um... can someone tell me why the authors felt the need to take a swipe at cabbies all of a sudden? I mean, sure, I've been in unsafe cabs. I've also had asshole cabbies, including that one guy who expounded on how all a woman had to do to keep him happy was, "Keep my stomach full, and my balls empty." At the same time, however, I've met a lot of very nice, very interesting cabbies and, while I've never held a hack license myself, I'm kinda offended on their behalf. In any case, Buck manages to get on a train that takes him a ways into New York and then randomly stops. That is to say the train randomly stops and tells everyone to get the hell off. Oh no! What will Buck do? Well, he bitches and moans about not having transportation until something stupid happens.

Page 128- Line 12-18:
"Oh, God, help me," Buck breathed, more exasperated than praying. But if there was a God, he decided, God had a sense of humor. Leaning against a brick wall in an alley in plain sight was a yellow bicycle with a cardboard sign clipped to it. It read, "Borrow this bike. Take it where you like. Leave it for someone else in need. No charge."

Maybe this is intended as a subtle hint about the power of prayer but, really, it just serves to remind me that Buck really, really sucks at being a deist.

Page 128- Line 19-20:
Only in New York, he thought. Nobody steals something that's free.

I realize that as an atheist I am, in the eyes of the authors, intrinsically morally bankrupt, but I'm forced to wonder- as a definitional issue- whether it's even possible to steal something that's free. I mean, I'm just saying that it isn't usually worth remarking on the fact that people don't do something that's categorically impossible.

Page 128- Line 21-23:
He [Buck] thought about breathing a prayer of thanks, but somehow the world he was looking at didn't show any other evidence of a benevolent Creator.

First off, I love how they capitalize "Creator" even though, in context, it's not even close to being a proper noun. Second: No, the world does not seem to have been created by a benevolent dude. Nor, despite the equal utility of the arguments in its favor, does it seem to have been made by a hateful god. The universe appears to be massively indifferent to us. Yet, hey, behold the power of god! He permits cancer and AIDS, but provides yellow bicycles! Finally, Buck might be "breathing a prayer of thanks" but frankly this book makes me think more in terms of "snorting a line of coke". My snarkiness aside, however, Buck manages to peddle his fat airline-seat-shaped ass back to the Global weekly building where he warmly greets Steve Planck and Marge Potter before being welcomed into the loving fold of his fellow reporters.

Page 130- Line 9-14:
He [Buck] tried to wipe the tears away and compose himself, but when he looked up, forcing an embarrassed smile, he noticed everyone else was emotional too. "It's all right, Bucky," one said. "If this is your first cry, you'll discover it won't be your last. We're all just as scared and stunned and grief stricken as you are."

Bucky? Seriously? Oh, man, why the hell haven't we been calling him this from the beginning? Heh. Bucky. This whole scene is like a Hallmark channel epic, but not as well-written.

Page 130- Line 15-17:
"Yeah," another said, "but his personal account will no doubt be more compelling." Which made everyone laugh and cry all the more.

Ha! Right, yes, it's funny because Buck's such a great writer. Don't you remember that really innovative "Great Wall of China is long" analogy (Page 10- Line 10-12)? Heh. heh. God I hate these people. Regardless, this ends our time with Bucky until the next chapter. As this isn't the end of the chapter, however, it means we're back with Rayford, who has called Pan-Con in the hopes of turning up some information. The humor, however, is in what info he wants and the order in which he asks for it. He starts by asking what kind of work schedule he can expect, given that the globe is in chaos. They tell him he's scheduled to fly soon, but...

Page 130-131- Line 130:26-27, 131:1-7:
"There's a chance I'll get called off before I leave home?" [Rayford asked]

"More than a chance, but that's your assignment for now." [the scheduler replied]

"What's the route?"

"ORD to BOS to JFK." [the scheduler answered, using the airport codes Rayford should know by heart]

"Hmm. Chicago, Boston, New York. Home when?" [Rayford responded, making sure to translate for the reader]

"Saturday night."


Okay, so, great: Rayford might have to work part of the weekend. Not a big deal I guess and there are worse places to go than Boston and New York. I mean, given that Rayford lives in Chicago it seems like they could have omitted the first departure city, but whatever. Still, I feel like we're forgetting something...

Page 131- Line 21-28:
"Can you check on something for me?" [Rayford asked]

"If it's in my power, Captain." [the scheduler answered]

"My daughter is trying to get back this way from California."


"I know, but she's on her way. Trying anyway. She'll more than likely try to fly Pan. Can you check and see if she's on any of the manifests coming east?"

Yes folks, that's right: Rayford calls up his airline, where he is a respected Captain, and makes sure to get the intricacies of his planned work schedule nailed down before he asks whether or not they have the foggiest notion where the hell his only remaining child is! Seriously, we've been waiting for her to show up for two chapters! When will this guy start to get even slightly interested? Honestly, I've gotten to the point with Rayford that I kinda hope he dies in a fire. In any case, amazingly, the dude on the phone manages to find Chloe on an airline manifest, so apparently she wasn't hitching with truckers after all!

Page 132- Line 12-21:
"She checked in at Palo Alto. Pan put her on a bus to some outlying strip. Flew her to Salt Lake City on Air California. First time out of the state for that plane, I'll bet. She got on a Pan-Con plane, oh, an oldie, and they took her to, um, oh brother. Enid, Oklahoma." [the scheduler said]

"Enid? That's never been on our routes." [Rayford replied]

"No kidding. They were overrun with Dallas's spillover, too. Anyway, she's flying Ozark to Springfield, Illinois."

"Ozark!" [Rayford exclaimed]

Yes, Ozark! And believe it or not, the final revelation that her travel plans include Ozark is officially the only part of that entire mass of shit that will ever become even slightly important to the plot. Sort of. I guess I'm glad we know what's become of Chloe, then?

Page 133- Line 4-12:
"Well, I'm sorry for what you're going through, sir, but you can be grateful your daughter didn't get on Pan-Con directly out of Palo Alto. The last one out of there went down last night. No survivors."

"And this was after the disappearances?" [Rayford asked]

"Just last night. Totally unrelated."

"Wouldn't that have been a kick in the teeth?" Rayford said.


Leaving aside that we apparently don't care about a planeload of people dying... of course it was after the disappearances you moron! He said 'last night' and, besides, given that Chloe only started to try to get home after the disappearances... yeah. Rayford is just an f-ing moron. Strike that: an f-ing moron who apparently only slightly cares about his kids. You're welcome to speculate on whether or not the authors are suggesting that this is characteristic of non-Christian fathers, I choose not to go down that road out of a desire to keep my blood pressure manageable.

And with that, dear readers, we come to the end of the chapter. You may be feeling like this was a short episode and, indeed, you'd be right. In my defense, this is because I'm trying to find logical cut-points for the mid-chapter breaks, which sometimes requires that I go slightly over half-way through the chapter. Also, however, this gives a sense of how the book really feels. In Left Behind chapters don't reach a conclusion, they just sort of stop wherever they are. Almost as if they got tired. So, hey, you're really getting the full experience, only with less insipid writing (I hope) and more snark.

Anyway, come back next time when we start chapter eight, Buck takes us into major tinfoil hat territory, and Rayford fills us in on more of his backstory. I, for one, can absolutely wait.



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Wow. As the Gorn promised on TOS, that was "merciful and quick."

Not quick enough, in either sense of the word, but that's due to the source material, which is starting to make me long for the Battlefield Earth decalogy.

Making your religious beliefs seem more absurd and undesirable than the Scientologists is not usually A Good Sign.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 9:41:00 AM  
Blogger scripto said...

"It's all right, Bucky," one said..."

Buckaroo? Buckaroni? Buckarooster?

"If this is your first cry, you'll discover it won't be your last. We're all just as scared and stunned and grief stricken as you are."

I know how they feel. Every Thursday the leaden weight of Left Behind descends upon my soul. I'm not sure how much more of this I can take, at least not without medication.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger JLT said...

"But if there was a God, he decided, God had a sense of humor. Leaning against a brick wall in an alley in plain sight was a yellow bicycle with a cardboard sign clipped to it."

Humour, indeed. He provides Bucky with a bike but the people on the plane that "went down last night" and probably didn't just exasperatedly breathed their "God help me" could go to hell. Literally, in the LB universe. Unless they came up with the correct magic formula before touch down, of course.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 4:01:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

I wanted to start using "Ozark!" as an expletive, but I haven't managed to find an appropriate moment yet.

Saturday, October 31, 2009 3:58:00 AM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

You know, I'd also never heard of Ozark, MO before. The Ozarks, yes, Ozark-singular, no. So that would be the second thing I've learned from this series of edifying posts.

Out of curiosity, I looked it up. Whaddya know, it's located in "Christian County". Population 10,000. That's why I haven't heard of it. Seems like a pleasant place.

Rayford, being a cosmopolitan chap, of course *has* heard of Ozark. I tried figuring out if there are any commercial airports in the area, but my google-fu is too weak.

Of course, the problems with the "plot" are so ludicrous that I really shouldn't worry about minor details...

Saturday, October 31, 2009 4:09:00 AM  

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