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Friday, August 12, 2011

The Overton Window: Chapter 27

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that would make your high school English teacher froth at the mouth. Last time we had an intermission, because I'm a lazy git. The time before that, however, we had an extremely boring meeting with some absurdly dull terrorists and then went for a drive. What happens this week? Basically nothing, but there are strippers.

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Mister Troll for finding the silver lining:

"It's a long story." "It's a long drive."

Hey, the authors took pity on us by closing the chapter!

Imagine if they'd kept going: the long story told to us in detail by the narrator (because the authors certainly wouldn't bother using dialog). Shudder.

But would it be worse to have Left-Behind-esque narration of the long drive? "Stuart adjusted the lighting on the dashboard, then glanced at the speedometer. He eased off the gas slightly, then checked the rear-view mirror." etc etc

These people should have a mindless-drivel-off.

Ah, yes, a contest between these authors are those of Left Behind would no doubt result in the production of "literature" or such horrific boredom as to fracture spacetime. Then again, the Left Behind guys would probably win because, let's face it, they would write about a guy talking on the phone about someone else driving down a road. I mean, we wouldn't want to excite the audience too much, right? Well done, Mister Troll, and keep at it everyone. We're gradually whittling this nightmare down.

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. My footnotes use the traditional star system (e.g. *, **, etc) while references included in the Afterword to the book are noted with numbered parenthetical tags (e.g. (1), (2), etc.). Foom!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by the angry bird in my backyard.

Eli Churchill: Former janitor at a volcano lair. Fan of remote telephone booths. Shot in the head by parties unknown.

Beverly Emerson: Mysterious correspondent of Eli Churchill's. Molly's Mom.

Noah Gardener: 28 years old. Sets the dating bar "medium-high". Works Vice president at a PR firm. Went to NYU. Is "witty". Frequently forgets where he's going and why. Not good at talking to women. Not really inclined to help out cab drivers. Low tolerance for alcohol. Lost his mother when he was young. Fond of chicken and waffles. Rich as shit. Views himself as a sexual panther. Likes bacon. Considers himself to be good at word games.

Molly "Hottie McPretty" Ross: Dresses like a hippie, but not really. Looks like a free spirit. Perfectly captures the essence of womanhood. Auburn hair. Green eyes. Pale skin. Has a tattoo on her chest. Wears a silver cross around her neck. Lost her father when she was young. Impressed by fancy cars. Cocktease. Possibly suffering from bipolar disorder.

Arthur Gardner Noah's father. Owner of Doyle & Merchant. Megalomaniac. Surprisingly vigorous for a 74 year old man.

Khaled: Lebanese cab driver. Sold out by Noah Gardener.

Hollis: Friend of Molly Ross. Very polite. From the country. May be a Yeti.

Danny Bailey: Some kind of YouTube celebrity. Former lover of Molly Ross. Kind of a dickhead. Loves conspiracy theories and incoherent speeches. Sodomized by inmates following the rally. Once dressed up as Colonel Sanders to infiltrate the United Nations.

Charlie Nelan: Gardner family lawyer. Silver hair. Impeccably dressed. Looks awesome. Has some sort of weird relationship with GQ. May have the ability to sense when Noah's in trouble using some sort of clairvoyance. Possible kleptomaniac.

Stuart Kearns: FBI agent. Works on homeland security matters. Kinda old and wrinkly. Not particularly trusting. Lives in a double-wide trailer. Sixty-three years old.

Mr. Puddles: AKA Gray Death. AKA Ninja Cat. Stuart's cat. Large. Dangerous looking. Possibly plotting his demise.


Chapter 27: In which we get some uninspired narration, Danny visits a strip club, and Danny sends Molly a terse text message.

Recommended Mood Music:*

Page 187, Line 1-2:
Stuart Kearns, it turned out, had been in quite a different position a decade before.

You mean... the reverse cowgirl?

Page 187, Line 2-5:
He'd [Stu] worked in the top levels of counterterrorism with a man named John O'Neill (1), the agent who'd been one of the most persistent voices of concern over the grave danger posed by Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda throughout the 1990s.

Okay, that's all fine. We now know that Stuart was some sort of counterterrorist bigshot. The weird thing, however, is that while we're supposed to be hearing about Stu's history here- his "long story" from the last chapter- we instead spend the rest of the page hearing about O'Neill, how hard he worked, how often he tried to convince people to be afraid of terrorists, how he likes long walks on the beach and men with big hands, eventually ending with...

Page 187, Line 16-18:
That's when he'd [O'Neill] taken his new position as head of security at the World Trade Center in New York City. His first day on the job was about three weeks before the day he died a hero: September 11, 2001.

You know, competent authors could have made that bit work, but coming from these authors it sounds trite and cheap. So, hey, way to go, guys! You made a 9/11 victim sound like a b-movie protagonist. At this point the authors finally remember who's the featured character of this chapter and get back to the long story.

Page 188, Line 1-3:
Stuart Kearns' FBI career had likewise been derailed by his outspokenness and his association with O'Neill, but he'd stubbornly chosen to try to ride out the storm rather than quitting.

From there the authors use all of 4 more lines to explain that the bureau never did forgive Stu for... something... and that he was gradually shoved more and more out the door until the present day when he doesn't even know if anyone remembers him. So, Stuart's "long story" gets told by the narrator in about a paragraph. Even worse, it's told by analogy: "So, you know that guy O'Neill? Yeah, Stuart is like him, but dumber". The only way these authors excel is in sheer failure. Anyway, then we're back with Danny who suddenly tells Stu to take the current exit off the interstate. Forgetting, if only momentarily, who is supposed to be in charge of this little outing, Stu obeys.

Page 188, Line 11-13:
At the top of the off-ramp there was little indication of anything of interest beyond advertisements for nearby food, gas, and lodging. Oh, and an eye-catching billboard for the Pussycat Ranch. [emphasis added]

I actually really love that last sentence. It's not because it's witty- it is, in fact, horrendously bad writing- but because it makes it sound like even the narrator is so bored he's** having a hard time paying attention. It is as though the narrator is reading a different, more interesting book*** and only just barely manages to remember to slip in important details over here in this one. And in case you're curious, yeah, it exists. Anyway, Stuart protests, Danny states that he wants a beer, Stu comments that he has beer in his trailer, and Danny responds with some brilliant rhetoric.

Page 188, Line 17-22:
"A beer in a can in a house trailer with another dude and a beer in a Nevada brothel are two totally different things, and right now I need the second one."

Surprisingly enough, Kearns didn't put up a fight. He followed the signs along the circuitous route to the place without complaining, and pulled up into a parking spot near the end of the lot in front.

So, just to recap, the tough, hard-as-nails FBI agent is taking his coerced helper to a strip joint on what amounts to a whim. Sounds perfectly normal to me. And Danny does have a point, although I'd probably argue that one of the two options he presents is probably not going to give you herpes or leave you feeling dirty the next morning.

Page 188, Line 24-26:
"Aren't you coming in?" [Danny asked]

"No, I don't think so. Fake or not, I'm not going to leave an atomic bomb unattended in the parking lot of a roadhouse."

What... the... fuck? Did I just read that right? Stuart is going to stay in the van to guard the fake bomb while he lets his real very untrustworthy coerced helper go into an unsecured, dark location alone? Is this a goddamn joke? Good god. Did Stuart sleep his way to the top side, or what? Believe it or not, Danny asks Stu to spot him a $100. You might expect Stu to refuse and, as it happens, you'd be right, but only because Stu in actuality only spots him a $20 bill. Christ Jesus does this book suck. Speaking of sucking, however, Danny then proceeds into the brothel and takes a seat at the bar. Soon one of the "...more fetching young ladies of the evening..." (Page 189, Line 9) approaches.

Page 189, Line 11-14:
"What can I do for you?" she asked.

"That's a loaded question in a place like this, isn't it?"

She frowned a bit and looked at him a little closer. "Do I know you, mister?"

I'll readily admit I've never patronized a brothel. That said, it seems to me that the women who work at one have probably heard every variation on, "Hyuk, hyuk! You're a whore, ain't ya'? Hyuk, hyuk!" that can possibly exist. I don't think she would have frowned and looked closer, probably more like, rolled her eyes and walked away. If nothing else, though, this really shows us what a cockbite Danny is.

Page 189, Line 18-20:
"What's your name?" he asked.

"My name's Tiffany." Her eyes lit up suddenly. "You're that guy," she whispered, "on the Internet, in that video."

I know the authors, and Danny, think she means one of Danny Bailey's hit YouTube videos decrying the government, but I think it's quite likely that Tiffany means some other video. Anyway, Danny asks her for a favor, not realizing that's a loaded request in a place like this. Fortunately, Tiffany doesn't seem to realize either.

Page 189, Line 23-24:
In her room in back he gave his new friend an autograph and his last ten dollars, and that bought him five minutes alone with her cell phone.

Weirdest. Fetish. Ever.

Page 189, Line 25-26:
As he composed the text message to Molly Ross he began to realize how little intelligence he actually had to pass along.

Yeah, better keep it all for yourself, Danny- I suspect you'll need whatever intelligence you can muster to survive the next 16 or so chapters.

Page 189, Line 26-30:
He knew the code name of this operation he'd become involved in; he'd seen it on the paperwork they'd made him sign upon his release from jail. He knew when it was going down, and where. And he knew something was going wrong, and that the downward slide might be just beginning.

And you know? The thing I find most interesting about all of this is until this passage I'd almost forgotten that Danny and Molly knew each other. Ah, well. He finally sends his damn message, which the authors helpfully supply for us.

Page 190, Line 7-12:
spread the word --- stay away from las vegas monday
FBI sting op --> *exigent*
be safe

Well, how exciting is that? If you answered, "Not exciting at all," you're absolutely right! Again, I'm forced to wonder: when does the thrilling start? I was promised thrilling and have not been thrilled yet. At all. Sadly, the short answer is, "not in this chapter," because we've reached the end.

So where are we? Well, stuck in a bordello in Nevada for one, but for another I'm forced to wonder if Danny is getting set up. I'd like to think so, since there's no other way to account for the absurd sequence of events we've just witnessed but, sadly, I don't think that's exactly the case. This book really is as dumb as it appears. And with that ringing endorsement, come back next time when we finally return to Noah Gardner who, to our mutual disappointment, isn't dead.

Because that would have been too easy.

* Or, if you prefer, the Christopher Walken version.

** I have no particular reason to assume the narrator is male, but when I read narration the voice in my head is male. Make of that what you will.

*** Like stereo instructions, for example.



Anonymous Jay said...

When I saw that "some other video" link, I was expecting a Rickroll. Now I can't stop imagining that "Danny Bailey" is a cover identity of Rick Astley.

I'm seeing Vanilla Ice as "Stuart", Debbie Gibson as "Molly", Dolly Parton as "Mrs. Ross", and for "Noah", a young Kasey Kasem.

Could Jimi have faked his death to become "Hollis"?

Friday, August 12, 2011 11:28:00 AM  

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