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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Left Behind: Chapter 18, Part 2

Welcome back one and all to our regular feature on Left Behind, the book that makes baby Jesus cry. Last time we heard more about the angelic presence in Jerusalem and watched Rayford argue with Chloe about the best way to proselytize Hattie. What happens this week? Thinly veiled innuendo about a murder and a hint of impending nookie.

As always we have a comment of the week. This week that "honor" goes to scripto for saving me the trouble of noticing pedophilic undertones and then going on from there:

"Chloe observes that if she were Hattie she wouldn't come to see Rayford, Rayford responds that he's glad Chloe isn't Hattie."

Ewww. Me too. The whole subtext of this thing is creeping me out. What creeps me out even more is Rayford's unwarranted smug assertion that, even though he is border line retarded and not what you would call a deep thinker, he's privy to some sort of special knowlege that the rest of the smarty pants world can't fathom. I've met people like that. Fundamentalists, anti-vaxers, truthers, birthers, New Agers...

Indeed, leaving child abuse aside, there's a certain danger in assuming that your mentation is superior because you have access to some special and unverifiable knowledge that others lack. It's a bit too much like assuming that women can't possibly be as smart as men because you happen to be a man. Great work, Scripto, and keep at it folks! There's a lot more chapters to go, I'm sorry to say.

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 determined by the alignment of the stars...

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. Fast runner.

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.

Eric Miller: Reporter. Rival of Buck's. Able to climb stairs really fast, but not as fast a runner as Buck. Kinda a douche. Died by falling off of the Staten Island ferry.

Gerald Fitzhugh: President of the United States. Talks like a moron.

Stanton Bailey: Publisher of the Global Weekly.


Page 332- Line Hookah:

No quote, but we pick back up with Chloe and Rayford, who have been discussing how Rayford is to go about converting Hattie. Don't worry, though- we won't be with them for long.

Page 332- Line 2-5:
Bruce Barnes had told him [Rayford] that most people are blind and deaf to the truth until they find it; then it makes all the sense in the world. How could he argue? That's what had happened to him.

Indeed, yes. It's common for people to disbelieve crazy nonsense until they start believing crazy nonsense, and then they totally believe crazy nonsense. I know that was supposed to be sage advice or something, but damn. Regardless, we now switch back to Buck, who is in for an exciting night, though perhaps not quite as exciting as he had hoped.

Page 332- Line 6-9:
Hattie rushed up to Buck when he arrived at the club around eleven. His anticipation of any possibilities dissipated when the first thing out of her mouth was, "So, am I gonna get to meet Nicolae Carpathia?"

Oh, poor Buck! I guess she's not quite slutty enough to do you both, even though the authors have been spending pages and pages trying to convince us of what loose morals she has. Anyway, Buck calls Rosenzweig who asks Carpathia if he wants to meet a random stewardess that Buck knows. Carpathia is all like, "Sure, why the hell not" and Rosenzweig tells the happy couple to come on over. Along the way Buck seems to insult Hattie a bit by reminding her that Carpathia is a busy man, thereby leading to one of the funniest exchanges in the book.

Page 333- Line 11-13:
Hattie stared at him [Buck]. "I know how to treat VIPs, you know," she said. "I often serve them on flights."

"Of course you do."

I'm fairly sure the authors really wanted to write "service" rather than "serve" but, alas, their editor showed a rare moment of good sense. And in case you've forgotten by this point what a sexpot Hattie is, there's a random nameless character to remind you.

Page 333- Line 21-23:
In the hallway Hattie stopped by a mirror and checked her face. A bodyguard opened the door, nodded at Buck, and looked Hattie over from head to toe.

Now, you might argue that a competent bodyguard would look over all visitors "head to toe" but, given that this is the first time a bodyguard in Left Behind has exhibited this behavior, I think the authors really just want to remind us that Hattie is a hottie. In any case, Rosenzweig asks Buck if he would mind speaking to Carpathia privately first, and Buck agrees. When he enters he finds Carpathia watching a news report about the wacky angels in Jerusalem and the attempt to kill them.

Page 334- Line 22-25:
"The attackers are dead of heart attacks." [Carpathia said]

"I hadn't heard that." [Buck replied]

"Yes. And the Uzi did not jam. It is in perfect working order."

My margin note here reads, "Yes, why does god have to be so damned subtle?" And I think it's a valid question- we were told that men who attacked the angels would be "devoured." I was expecting bears or some shit like that, but no. And did we get an instant transformation into a pillar of salt? A rain of fire from the sky? A pillar of flame? Shit, even a bolt of lightning? No. We got two heart attacks and a guy who couldn't figure out how to pull a trigger. Granted, these things are unlikely, but just as clearly god is trying to get our attention in a really, really roundabout kind of way here. They go on to talk about Steve Plank's new job as Carpathia's press secretary and Buck complains that Carpathia has weakened the Global Weekly, although between you and me I don't know that a magazine where Buck is considered the hotshot writer could get any weaker.

Page 335- Line 9-10:
"Ah! I have strengthened it. What better way to have the person I want at the top?" [Carpathia cackled menacingly]

Oooooh. Drama! Carpathia is maneuvering Buck to do his bidding! He's so evil. EEEEEVVVVVVIIIIIILLLLLLL!!!!! Changing subjects, Buck mentions to Carpathia that Eric Miller drowned, but doesn't really go anywhere with it. So... yeah, I guess the authors wanted to remind the readers more than anything. Then Buck apologizes to Carpathia for bringing Hattie, a nobody, to meet him.

Page 335- Line 27-28:
"Nobody is just anything," he [Carpathia] said, taking Buck's arm. "Everyone is of equal value, regardless of their station."

And given that it's the antichrist saying this, I'm guessing the authors and, by extension, the authors' god, doesn't agree. And that's a shame, really, because it makes it even more clear that the social ministry of Jesus- his well-known concern for the poor and the powerless- is really being lost. Anyway, as they go out to meet Hattie, Rosenzweig tells Buck that he has a phone call. It happens to be Marge, who thought to try Nicolae's suite because... um... yeah. No clue why, but she did.

Page 336- Line 7-9:
"You [Buck] just got a call from Carolyn Miller, Eric's wife. She's pretty shook up and really wants to talk to you." [Marge said]

Well, that sounds ominous. It also sounds like another f-ing character that should really go into the dramatis personae. Bloody hell. Anyway, Buck promises to call her and then he and Hattie are ushered out of the room.

Page 336- Line 21-29:
"He [Carpathia] gave me [Hattie] his number!" she said, nearly squealing.

"His number?"

Hattie showed Buck the business card Nicolae had handed her. It showed his title as president of the Republic of Romania, but his address was not Bucharest as one would expect. It was the Plaza Hotel, his suite number, phone number, and all. Buck was speechless. Carpathia had also penciled in another phone number, not at the Plaza, but also in New York. Buck memorized it.

Okay, so, to sum up: Carpathia hits on Hattie, Hattie is excited, Buck is jealous, and Buck uses his newly-introduced powers of eidetic recall to steal Carpathia's private phone number. This is like an episode of "Gossip Girl," but without the tight writing. Whatever. Buck gets Hattie to wait for a few minutes and steps into a phone booth to call Carolyn Miller back.

Page 337- Line 25-30:
"He [Eric] told me a crazy story about how you two had a wrestling match or something over an interview with this Romanian guy who spoke at-" [Carolyn Miller said]

"Also true. It wasn't anything serious, ma'am. Just a disagreement. No hard feelings." [Buck replied, interrupting the griving widow]

"That's how I took it."

Maybe I'm ignorant, but is it common for reporters to settle questions of precedence via wrestling matches? Because Carolyn Miller does not seem to be as intrigued by this sequence of events as I think she should be. Perhaps Buck and Eric wrestled... a lot? Hmmmmm.... Anyway, she goes on about how Eric's death by falling off a ferry and drowning seems suspicious, since it was too cold to be outside and, in any case, Eric was a strong swimmer. Nobody asks whether or not the wrestling might have injured him, but never mind that. The point is that we're supposed to come to the conclusion that Eric Miller was murdered. For absolutely no f-ing reason at all that I can discern. And this is all embedded in some of the worst writing of the book. Yikes. Buck hangs up on the widow and calls a friend at the phone company named "Alex." The authors don't even bother to give a last name, so maybe I'll just call him Alex Phonecompany. Anyway, Buck asks him what Carpathia's new super-secret private number points to.

Page 339- Line 1-6:
Buck recited the number he had memorized from the card Carpathia had given Hattie. Alex was back to him in seconds, reading off the information as it scrolled onto his computer screen. "New York, U.N., administrative offices, secretary-general's office, unlisted private line, bypasses switchboard, bypasses secretary. OK?"

What? Carpathia is giving Hattie to the secretary-general! What kind of a girl does he think she is? He thinks she'll just screw whoever he sends her to? Why I oughta... OH! Sorry. The authors are trying to imply that Carpathia is about to become the secretary-general. Never mind.

Page 339- Line 8:
Buck was lost. He couldn't make any of this compute.

Dude, I know how you feel. Buck decides to combat his confusion by calling Steve Plank- because that always works- and confronts him with the revelation about the U.N. Plank admits that Carpathia will be taking over as of the next day, and the reason why the current Sec-Gen is sitting down is awesome.

Page 340- Line 15-18:
"The Kalahari Desert makes up much of Botswana where Secretary-General Ngumo is from. He returns there tomorrow a hero, having become the first leader to gain access to the Israeli fertilizer formula."

Ah. Right. The bad writing informs us that Carpathia bribed Ngumo with the chance to feed his people. Or at least that's the implication, ignoring that Botswana has been doing pretty well for itself through judicious governance and substantial mineral wealth. In any case, Buck tells Steve that he's going to take Steve's old job, and then pleads for one last piece of information for old time's sake.

Page 341- Line 5-9:
"What did Eric Miller get too close to? What lead was he tracking?" [Buck asked dramatically]

Steve's voice became hollow, his tone flat. "All I know about Eric Miller," he said, "is that he got too close to the railing on the Staten Island Ferry."

Oh, so ominous! So random. So pointless! And so the end of the chapter, as it happens.

So, come back next time when Rayford develops a new resolve to... do the same shit he's been trying to do for several chapters now and Buck discovers more sinister stuff. Well, allegedly sinister. Mostly, though, it's just stupid. Much like the rest of the book.

Until then.



Blogger scripto said...

"Maybe I'm ignorant, but is it common for reporters to settle questions of precedence via wrestling matches?"

Yep. It's how Katie Couric beat out Diane Sawyer for the Palin interview. Awesome. It was on Pay per View.

I thought Hattie was Rayford's intended squeeze. I must have slept through the part where she met Buck. So the implication is that all the good girls got raptured and only the hot ones are left? Not a great argument for living the straight and narrow.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

I must have slept through the part where she met Buck.

Yeah, I was wondering if anyone would have this problem. So far as I can tell the last time the authors mentioned that Buck and Hattie are acquainted was in chapter five (page 92-page 95). Basically, Buck was on Rayford and Hattie's flight at the start of the book, talked Hattie into letting him damage airline property (page 32-page 34) with a godlike level of electronics skill in exchange for him getting her information about her family, and then revealed his true identity to her (page 41). So, yes, they know each other, and have known each other for pretty much the whole book, but the authors just didn't want to do anything with them until now.

Lucky us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger scripto said...

Thanks - it's all coming back to me now - like a repressed memory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010 1:58:00 PM  
Blogger Mister Troll said...

Holy crow, you're footnoting your comments? That's way too intense.

I don't know how scripto can think up witty things every dang time. My brain seizes every time I read these posts.

(Seriously, when I get to work and check the desk calendar, I cringe whenever I realize it's Thursday. And yet, I keep coming back for more...)

Thursday, April 15, 2010 4:55:00 PM  

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