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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 15, Part 1

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that would make even Prometheus hope desperately for the distraction that only the eagle can provide. Last time Rayford and Chloe got robbed, narrowly avoiding a situation wherein we might actually be interested in the plot. What happens this week? Yeah. Um... Rayford has a phone conversation. And it ain't a good thing, either.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto who was, let's face it, the only one to comment:

"...and said she could come three nights later, on Thursday."

And only if she brought two vibrators - one for Rayford.

And if the notion of Rayford using a fleshlight doesn't scar you for life, you're a stronger person than I!

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 an order provided by a Wicca high priestess...

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

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. Expert in Romanian politics.

Hattie Durham: Flight attendant. Toucher. Hottie. Hysterical female type. Girl power devotee. Unhealthily thin. Twenty-seven years old. Blonde. Claims no moral or religious code.

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

Chloe Steele: Daughter of Rayford Steele. Student at Stanford. Religiously unaffiliated. Kinda stupid.

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. An inch or two over six feet tall. Broad shouldered. Thick chested. Trim. Athletic. Tanned. Blonde. Blue eyes. Thick eyebrows. Roman nose and jaw. Carries self with a sense of humility and purpose. Wears understated jewelry. Excellent memory.

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

Dirk Burton: English guy Buck knows. Graduated from Princeton. Kinda gullible. Killed himself Murdered. Left handed.

Joshua Todd-Cothran: English finance guy. May have the nickname "duck lips."

Jonathon Stonagal: American ultra-rich dude. Involved in international monetary cabal. Has ties to duck lips.

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.

Juan Ortiz: Global Weekly international events editor.

Jimmy Borland: Global Weekly religion editor.

Barbara Donahue: Global Weekly financial editor.

Nigel Leonard: Employee of the London exchange.

Alan Tompkins: Investigator at Scotland Yard. Friend of Buck. Kind of a chickenshit. Blown up by an evil conspiracy car bomb.

Bruce Barnes: Visitation Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes to be mysterious.

Vernon Billings: Pastor at New Hope Village Church. Likes video tape. Raptured.

Mwangati Ngumo: Secretary-General of the United Nations. Botswanan national.


Chapter 15: In which we learn more about the anti-christ's plan (it involves living in peace), have a truly horrifying caricature of a talk about a moral issue, and Rayford alienates Hattie who, as it turns out, had a crush on him.

Page 263- Line Hippopotomus:

No quote, because I f-ing hate this chapter, but we open with Buck in his apartment. He listens to his answering machine and finds a message from Hattie Durham, who basically just wants to get together for a drink or something sometime. Fortunately, it provides an opportunity for some witty conversation between Steve and Buck.

Page 263- Line 10-16:
"So who's that?" Steve called out as Buck hesitated near the bathroom door, wanting to hear all the messages before getting into the shower.

"Just a girl," he said.


"Better than nice. Gorgeous."

"Better call her back."

Ha! Yes! Because that's what men do: they chase women. God, this book is just a slice of life, you know? In any case, Buck keeps listening to the old answering machine and runs across a message from Scotland Yard. Then he gets another message from Interpol who also, it would seem, want to talk to him. My margin note reads, "Ah, Scotland Yard and Interpol now want to talk to Buck. But are they already tools of the anti-christ? Who cares?" Indeed, that is the problem, because the scene has all the dramatic tension of paint drying. Regardless, Buck's lightning-fast wit goes right to the core of matters.

Page 264- Line 28-30:
"These messages aren't binding, are they? I don't have to act on them just because I heard them, do I?" [Buck asked]

Um... no. Dude, seriously? You're a secret agent/journalist who can evade cops in foreign airports, manage physically impossible feats of engineering on a moving airplane, and have an encyclopedic knowledge of Romanian politics, but you're not even vaguely familiar with basic aspects of jurisprudence? Good lord. Regardless, Steve answers that he won't tell anyone and they share a brief flash of concern that someone might try to link Buck to the death of his buddy in London. Then the narrative jumps back to Rayford, thus once more demonstrating the authors' allergy to anything even resembling an interesting scene. As it turns out, Chloe decided to accompany Rayford to church that evening because she was afraid of being alone. Hard to blame her, but what a choice.

Page 265- Line 8-11:
He [Bruce Barnes] shook his head when he heard about the break-in. "It's becoming epidemic," he said. "It's as if the inner city has moved to the suburbs. We're no safer here anymore."

I'm not at all sure what to say to that except that there's still a very interesting class story going on in this book. All good, decent evangelicals appear to be white and/or middle class. It's mostly "and" too, since the scant handful of people of color in this book who have been evengalical have also- to the last one- been relatively well off. So much for Jesus' social ministry. Regardless, Rayford nearly bursts at the seams wanting to tell Bruce that it was Chloe who wanted to replace the crazy video tape. And then we get lost in Rayford's fevered dreams.

Page 265- Line 14-19:
He [Rayford] wanted to tell Bruce to keep praying, that she must still be thinking about things. Maybe the invasion of the house had made her feel vulnerable. Maybe she was getting the point that the world was much more dangerous now, that there were no guarantees, that her own time could be short.

And once again I'm forced to ask: why is this brand of religion always sold with fear? Seriously, throughout the entirety of this book, the pitch is always, "Believe in god or you'll be screwed for all eternity." That's it. I know people like to claim that atheism is a depressing, nihilistic philosophy but who are these folks to judge? I mean damn. Anyway, they wrap up with Bruce and head on home, with a stop along the way.

Page 265- Line 26-27:
While they [Rayford and Chloe] were out, Rayford bought items that needed to be replaced right away, including a TV...

Yeah, you read that right: they couldn't live without a TV for even a single night. In their defense, I'm fairly sure Rayford wanted a new TV immediately so that Chloe could watch the preachy video tape again... and again... and again... until her brain melts. Stay classy, Rayford.

Page 266- Line 2-3:
Most important, he [Rayford] armed the security system.

Yeah, uh, Rayford? I hate to break this to you but as per Page 255, Line 20-25 not only was your front door kicked in, the door frame was "obliterated." That's a direct quote, dude- the remains of said frame were lying "in pieces on the floor of the entry way." How, exactly, are you going to arm the security system for a house whose front door frame has been so completely destroyed? Alas, I have forgotten again that little details like this can't get in the way when the authors want to "advance" the "narrative." Never mind.*

Page 266- Line Glower:

No quote, folks, because we need to sit down and have us a little chat. Here's the thing- Rayford is about to receive a phone call from Hattie. He will, believe it or not, actually take that call and then we're going to witness a fairly extended conversation between these two. The thing is, this conversation is pretty much without question the most upsetting thing in the entire book. It is the most insidiously hate-filled, vomitous passage in the entire bloody volume, and when I read it the first time I actually literally threw said volume across the room. I'm not telling you not to keep reading, and I'm not telling you to keep reading, but I am telling you not to say that I didn't warn you. This conversation, more than anything else in the book, makes me want to scream at the authors. That is all. And here we go...

Page 266- Line 11-17:
"Things are getting so strange," she [Hattie] said. "You know I have a sister who works in a pregnancy clinic."

"Uh-huh," Rayford said. "You've mentioned it."

"They do family planning and counseling and referrals for terminating pregnancies."


"And they're set up to do abortions there."

My margin comment here reads, "Oh man. Are we seriously doing this shit?" Indeed, if by this point in the conversation you don't already feel uneasy about the direction of things, you just aren't paying attention.

Page 266- Line 18-29:
Hattie seemed to be waiting for some signal of affirmation or acknowledgment that he was listening. Rayford grew impatient and remained silent.

"Anyway," she said, "I won't keep you. But my sister told me they have zero business."

"Well, that would make sense, given the disappearances of unborn babies." [Rayford replied]

"My sister didn't sound too happy about that."

"Hattie, I imagine everyone's horrified by that. Parents are grieving all over the world."

"But the women my sister and her people were counseling wanted abortions." [emphasis original]

Yeah, this is starting to get very, very creepy. And don't worry, it just keeps getting "better." On a related note: wow is Rayford an asshole. He thinks he has the right to force his kooky religious views on Hattie, but he won't even show her common decency in a phone conversation? Damn.

Page 266-267- Line 266: 30- 267:1-13:
Rayford groped for a pertinent response. "Yes, so maybe those women are grateful they didn't have to go through with the abortion itself."

"Maybe, but my sister and her bosses and the rest of the staff are out of work now until people start getting pregnant again."

"I get it. It's a money thing."

"They have to work. They have expenses and families."

"And aside from abortion counseling and abortions, they have nothing to do?"

"Nothing. Isn't that awful? I mean, whatever happened put my sister and a lot of people like her out of business, and nobody really knows yet whether anyone will be able to get pregnant again."

And, believe it or not, we're not even to the most offensive part yet. This is, of course, despite the fact that Hattie just indicated that she's only worried about the potential for species-wide infertility because it might hurt her sister's career opportunities. And don't even get me started on that "and aside from abortions they have nothing to do" crap. On the very last page she indicated that her sister works at a clinic that does "family planning and counseling" (Page 266- Line 14) which, in the real universe, means a whole constellation of things other than abortion. Contraceptive education, for example, or counseling about STDs. Hell, given the reality of STDs, even if we were looking at species-wide infertility, people would still need counseling about condoms and whatnot. Never mind that what Hattie is describing sounds a lot like Planned Parenthood, which is quite a bit more than an abortion mill. Nevertheless, the bullshit keeps coming.

Page 267- Line 14- 26:
Rayford had to admit he had never found Hattie guilty of brilliance, but now he wished he could look into her eyes. "Hattie, um, I don't know how to ask this. But are you saying your sister is hoping women can get pregnant again so they'll need abortions and she can keep working?"

"Well, sure. What is she going to do otherwise? Counseling jobs in other fields are pretty hard to come by, you know."

He nodded, feeling stupid, knowing she couldn't see him. What kind of lunacy was this? He shouldn't waste his energy arguing with someone who clearly didn't have a clue, but he couldn't help himself.

So, in the preceding we have Rayford calling Hattie stupid, Rayford (quite rightly) feeling stupid, and a general disaster of an argument. And I don't even know what to do with the notion that counseling jobs would be hard to find given that the authors are so fond of commenting that the rapture was the worst trauma in the world's history. Seems like a trauma that big would create a lot of job openings for trained counselors, you know? Frankly, right at the moment Rayford reminds me of nobody so much as Andrew Schlafly, and I do not mean that as a compliment. But, amazingly, this still isn't the worst part of the conversation. That's what we get to next.

Page 267-268- Line 267: 27- 268: 1-3:
"I [Rayford] guess I always thought clinics like the one where your sister works considered these unwanted pregnancies a nuisance. Shouldn't they be glad if such problems disappear, and even happier- except for the small complication that the human race will eventually cease to exist- if pregnancies never happen again?"

The irony was lost on her. [emphasis added]

So, WOW! Just... wow. The authors are basically saying that people who work in abortion clinics and, presumably, who support a woman's right to choose, hate babies. Yes. Of course. Surely that must be the case! If all pregnancies ceased all us pro-choice folks would just go dance in the streets. It's just so unbelievably despicable, I hardly know how to deal with it. And "the irony was lost on her"? Are you kidding? It's lost on her because it wasn't even the least bit ironic. It's like that bloody Alanis Morissette song! And on top of it all, and as my margin notes add: "Good lord. The authors think this is witty don't they?" I just don't know what to say.

Page 269- Line 8-12:
"They need unwanted pregnancies because that's their business." [Hattie added]

"Sort of like doctors wanting people to be sick or injured so they have something to do?"

"Now you've got it, Rayford."

Those horrible people! Abortion clinics MUST want people to have unprotected sex so that they'll need abortions! And doctors MUST go around hoping for multi-car accidents to they don't get bored in the ER! And soldiers MUST hope for wars so that they can justify their jobs! And evangelists MUST want people to be terrified of things that don't exist so that they'll have worshippers! It all makes so much sense! The entire world is a conspiracy! Burn the world! Burn this f-ing world! It's all so POINTLESS! OH, GOD, make it STOP! I can't handle this nihilism! Wait... wait... no, sorry false alarm. What I meant was, I can't handle the hateful, venomous stoopid. But, I said I would blog this book, so along we go. Cheerio, then!

Alas, while this is not the end of the chapter- or even halfway through this chapter- I think that the preceding insanity is more than you had any right to expect from me. And so, I bid you a fond farwell until next time, when we return to Buck, Steve, and the anti-christ.

So, yeah, it's gonna be boring.

* Not to harp on the subject but, given the sheer number and size of the plot holes in this book, perhaps I should be less baffled by biblical literalism. I mean, hell, if the authors can't see the inconsistencies in writing that is this elementary, how the hell would they see it in something as flowery and metaphorical as the bible?



Blogger Ken Houghton said...

Sorry I missed the last section. Even sorrier you had to type it up, though.

For this one, I have realized the world in which the authors live: it is a world in which Hattie's only two options for sex are named Rayford and Buck, but it's not a porn movie.

Saturday, February 20, 2010 5:01:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

So... the authors want non-believers to suffer in hell for eternity just so that they can make some scratch by inflicting this piece of crap on the world?

Saturday, February 20, 2010 6:48:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

"Rayford had to admit he had never found Hattie guilty of brilliance, but now he wished he could look into her eyes."

Hey, Rafe, my eyes are up here!

(sorry, it's all I got. I've been sick but I had to play)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010 9:32:00 AM  

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