Total Drek

Or, the thoughts of several frustrated intellectuals on Sociology, Gaming, Science, Politics, Science Fiction, Religion, and whatever the hell else strikes their fancy. There is absolutely no reason why you should read this blog. None. Seriously. Go hit your back button. It's up in the upper left-hand corner of your browser... it says "Back." Don't say we didn't warn you.

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Overton Window: Epilogue

Welcome back one and all to our ongoing series on The Overton Window, the book that makes doves cry. Last time Noah had the shit shocked out of him by vaguely-described torturers and his dad. What happens this week? We discover how it all comes out, and when I say "comes out" I mean it as in, "like poop from a butt".

As I mentioned I am once again selecting a comment of the week, and this week that "honor" goes to Ken for an appropriate, if very disturbing, reference to Atlas Shrugged:

"But, sucky or not, that's actually the end of the last chapter."

Maybe there is a G-d...

"So does this mean we're done? Fuck no! Because now we have a frigging Epilogue to deal with, followed by an afterword."

Then again...

In the Epilogue, Noah, Molly, and their three children (Eli, Beverly, and Khaled) are standing at a train station, when Noah looks up and feels (for the first time since Khaled was conceived) his dick getting hard. He grabs Molly, points down the platform, and says, "That's her! It's the legendary Dagny Taggart!!"

At which point Molly pushes him onto the tracks just as the train comes in.

Soundtrack: The final verse of Steve Goodman's "You Never Even Called Me By My Name."

I actually think that might have been a better epilogue than what we get. Scratch that, I know it would have been. Alas, that's not what actually happens, but it's good to dream. Nicely done, Ken, and keep it up, folks! Time is running out.

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.). Waffle frolic!

Dramatis Personae: In an order determined by my fevered imagination.

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. Injected with weed killer by parties unknown blisteringly obvious to everyone.

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. Wants to bang his mom. Some kind of moronic double-agent.

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. Looks just like Noah's mom. Also looks just like Natalie Portman. Almost certainly dead from a nuclear blast.

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. May be afraid of cats. Fast draw, terrible shot. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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. Died pointlessly in a nuclear detonation.

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

Tiffany: A stripper at the Pussycat Ranch. Thinks Danny is awesome.

Ellen Davenport: Old friend of Noah's. Second-year neurology resident at Mt. Sinai. Doesn't appear to need sleep or have good taste in her associates.


Epilogue: In which a much more interesting book almost begins, but doesn't.

Recommended Mood Music:

Page 285, Line 1-7:
A month to the day had passed since Noah had arrived in his new quarters.

The days in this place had started to meld into one another, so he'd resorted to noting each sunrise with a mark on one of the painted bricks in the wall near his bed. While actual calendars were available for residents of his moderate status, these private etchings seemd to be a more fitting method to keep a tally of his time inside.

Oh, just... man. How do we even untangle that? He's in some sort of confinement, but the authors are still obsessed with noting how Noah has more status than everyone around him. Before it was fancy apartments and cars, now it's calendars. And about those calendars- he can get one to keep track of days, but instead he chooses to act like an inmate in some sort of prison movie. So, basically, the characterization is telling us that Noah is the biggest, most immature poser imaginable. Lovely.

Page 285, Line 11-13:
Noah was familiar with the atmosphere of a dormitory, though he'd never actually had to live in one while in college. That was the style of accommodations this place most resembled.

Right, yes, we get it- Noah is from a rich family. So rich he never lived in a dorm. Whatever. Can we all just get past this, already? Alternatively, based on the business with the calendar, guys like Noah must be why schools have to do so much refurbishing from year to year- spoiled morons always etching calendars into their walls like they're in The Shawshank Redemption or something. Anyway, he blathers on for a while about how his facility has a sort of floor warden who is a guard without being called such and how he's been stuck out in this Montana facility while he's rehabilitated to help with his father's wacko cause. And as with everything else in his life, he sucks at that, too.

Page 286, Line 22-25:
Noah's original accomodations had actually been much nicer; a private suite on one of the upper floors- but his unsatisfactory performance in his first real work assignment had resulted in his lodgings being downgraded a notch.

Well, at least he's rising to the level of his incompetence, as it were. Apparently his job was to write an in-depth news piece detailing the evil conspiracy to nuke Las Vegas from the perspective of an "unwilling insider."

Page 286-287, Line 286: 31, 287: 1-5:
His first draft was rejected immediately; there'd been a consistent undertone in the text that seemed to paint the ringleaders, the Founders' Keepers, in a subtly but unacceptably positive light. His second try wasn't an improvement, it was even worse. The strange thing was, if only out of self-preservation, Noah had been trying hard to write what they wanted, but the stubborn truths just kept elbowing their way in.

Right, so, he's an advertising executive whose job it is to lie for a living who is, apparently, a bad liar. It is really a good thing for Noah that he's the boss' son, eh? Don't even get me started on that "stubborn truths" bit. It's true that Molly's group didn't plan the nuking. But, that said, they're still an extremist group that used manipulation, assault, and drugging to get what they wanted. They are, in fact, crazy. Even if you agree with their motives, they're still crazy.

Page 287, Line 6-11:
After an informal inquiry, this first glitch was chalked up to the lingering effects of the Stockholm syndrome, that passing mental condition through which hostages sometimes develop an odd sympathy for the cause of their captors. For the time being it was determined that, until he was better, Noah would be given less-demanding duties and an additional editor to watch over his work.

Look I, of all people, am forced to agree that giving Noah less-demanding duties is always a good idea. No matter how undemanding his duties, he's probably still in over his head. That said, given the course of events in this book, I think it's pretty likely that if they just got this moron laid- preferably by someone who resembles his mother- he'd be back to normal in a jiffy. Just sayin' is all. Anyway, he remembers how he was given the job of coming up with a name for the treasury bureau that would administer the next wave of bailouts for private industry. Needless to say, he fucks that up, too.

Page 287, Line 21-25:
This was the work of only a few seconds; Noah called it the Federal Resource Allocation & Underwriting Division. Nearly a truckload of boxes of letterhead and business cards had been printed before someone in production noticed a problem: The five-letter acronym for this new government bureau would be FRAUD. [emphasis original]

Ha! That wacky Noah Gardner, always screwing things up. Amazingly, his captors still don't believe that this was intentional- or maybe not so amazingly given the unbroken string of dumb that characterizes Noah's decisions- but they do decide to move him to less palatial quarters. So how does Noah explain these repeated lapses?

Page 287, Line 29-31:
Once you know the truth, Molly had said, then you've got to live it. What she'd apparently neglected to add was that you'll also tend to randomly tell it, whether it gets you into trouble or not. [emphasis original]

Right. So, in addition to stupid, Noah is also ridiculously undisciplined. Glad we straightened all that out. Whatever. Noah rolls around on his cot for a while, goes to the bathroom, and then goes back to sleep. Wait, sorry, I should mention that the authors specifically state that Noah left the bathroom "cleaner than he found it". So, apparently he took a dump and then stopped to tidy things up a bit. I don't know why this bit of information was at all relevant to us but, hey, there you go. It's a shared bathroom, so maybe the authors want us to know that Noah's companions in the dorm of dumb are messy? I have no idea why we would care, but, maybe. And then we get something that, frankly, is just horrific.

Page 289, Line 8-17:
There was no hard transition between consciousness and the beginning of his now-familiar dream.

Noah opened his eyes and looked around. He was in the small, warm family room of a rustic little cabin. Surrounding him were simple furnishings, hand-made quilts, and corner shelves of keepsakes and photographs. Unlike the mass-produced, impersonal flash of the world he'd left behind, the things here had been built and woven and carved and finished but skilled, loving hands, things made or given by friends and family, made to mean something, to be passed on, and to last through generations.

Okay, so he's dreaming about an episode of Grizzly Adams. Goodie?

Page 289, Line 18-24:
Snow fluttered down outside the wide windows, big flakes sticking and blowing past the frosted panes, an idyllic woodland scene framed in pleated curtains and knotty pine. He was sitting in front of a stone hearth. A pair of boots were drying there, with a space for another, smaller pair beside. A fire was burning low, a black dutch oven suspended above the coals, the smell of some wonderful meal cooking inside. Two plates and silver settings were arranged on a nearby dining table.

We all know where we are now, and how we're supposed to feel about it. It's amazingly, agonizingly hokey, but we get it. That said, I personally think that the whole scene is much funnier if we assume that the little and big pairs of boots belong to Noah and Hollis, respectively. Hey, I didn't create that subtext, people, it's right there in the book!

Page 289, Line 25-31:
A simple evening lay ahead. Though it might seem nearly identical to a hundred other nights he'd spent with her, he also knew it would be unlike any other, before or after. It always was; being with Molly, talking with her, listening to her, enjoying the quiet with her, feeling her close to him, thinking of the future with her. Every night was like a perfect first date, and every morning like the first exciting day of a whole new life together.

I'd make some comment about feeling this way about my wife, but it wouldn't really be accurate. We have a lot of wonderful, amazing times together, but we also get sick, and tired, and moody, and frustrated, and angry, and fight, and all the other things that real human beings feel and do. But loving someone and committing to them means that you forge a life together both when things are easy and every night is like a first date, but also when things are very hard. It's the hardship and pain that makes the joy so beautiful and I do not think we could be us without it. But, hey, whatever- Noah wants easy and fluffy. Anyway, Noah wakes suddenly to find a dude looking in through the window in his door. As it turns out, it's a guy named Nathan delivering dinner- which coincidentally means Noah was sleeping in the middle of the afternoon- who asks to come in. Once inside he fondles the television a bit and then turns the radio on, bumping the volume up enough to drown out noise from inside the room.

Page 291, Line 4-6:
"What is this-?" Noah began, and before he could finish that question he found himself pushed hard against the wall with a forearm pressed against his neck and the other man's face close to his.

You know, I really hadn't expected this book to contain any prison rape when I started. I wouldn't say I was sorry about that, but if it has to be here, it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy. Sadly, though, that's not what's about to happen.

Page 291, Line 7-14:
"You want to know what this is?" Nathan hissed. "It's a wake-up call. You're in a valuable position, my friend, and we need for you to snap out of it and start doing the work we need done." He adjusted his grip on Noah's collar, and continued. "Now, listen closely. Tomorrow, at your job, you sign into your computer right before you leave for the day, but you don't sign out. Here's a key." Noah felt something shoved roughly into his pocket. "You're going to leave it under the mouse pad on the desk two places down from yours, to your left. Got all that?"

Oh, man, seriously? After all that shit that Molly did to him, her "organization" thinks it can call on his loyalty?

Page 291, Line 15:
Noah nodded, as best he could.

Apparently, yes, it can. Whelp, there you have it! Anyway, Nathan leaves, telling Noah that he'll enjoy his desert, and Noah hastily cuts into the desert to look for a file or something. And indeed he finds something.

Page 292, Line 1-4:
It was Molly's silver bracelet.

He held it close to his eyes; maybe the words engraved there were a little more worn than they'd been before, but he would have remembered them even if they'd been gone completely.

That sounds cute until you realize that the words are more worn because whoever recovered this bracelet basically had to sand Molly's melted flash off of it. You know, since she was blown the fuck up by a nuclear weapon.

Page 292, Line 5-7:
She was alive. Whatever other message he'd been hoping for, whatever guidance he'd been seeking, this was better. Not just a plan, because a plan can be defeated. This was a foundation.

No, it's a bracelet. I thought we went over this already? And Molly is most certainly not alive. Or she shouldn't be but, alas, he then finds a note written in Molly's own handwriting.

Page 292, Line 12-13:
"We've everywhere. Stay with us; I'll see you soon. The fight starts tomorrow."

Honestly the only reason this line doesn't make me sick is because it also happens to be the last line of the damned narrative. Yes, folks, that's right: we have reached The End! And that end is basically foreshadowing for another book that might actually be somewhat entertaining. But, you know, probably not.

So where to from here? Well, next week we'll cover the authors' afterword, which leads into the endnotes that I've been adding in this whole time. After that, the following week we'll take stock of what we've learned and then the week after that will be an index for the series. And on that last day, we'll learn who won the "Best Comment" contest for this book and they can pick their fabulous prize, including but not limited to the option of receiving my very own annotated copy of The Overton Window in the mail! Yay!

So come back for another few weeks and help me put this fucker to bed.

See ya!



Anonymous Jay said...

Actually, the lettering on the bracelet was probably dulled when the EMP inductively heated it to several hundred degrees. If Molly was wearing it, she probably lost the hand.

But now they have Noah as an inside man. Now, he's not good at sneaking. When he needed to minimize his profile, he had Molly impersonate a movie star. When he knows they'll kill him if he isn't loyal, he can't play loyal. My guess is his email password is Tr@itor. The worst thing they could do is try to use him as a spy. The best thing they could do is nothing; Arthur's getting old, and there's no way Noah will be able to fill his shoes.

Friday, January 20, 2012 6:23:00 PM  
Blogger Drek said...

This is posted on behalf of Sassafras, who apparently was defeated by a malfunction in the comment system:

"Am I the only one who thought the cabin dream was going to involve Hollis? Alas, no. We're cheated of both prison rape AND Noah's secret homosexual fantasies.

Instead, he's going to join up with his cyborg psycho "girlfriend" at some point (she'd have to be a cyborg at this point, given her ability to survive a nuclear blast... or perhaps she found a handy iron-lined fridge, a la the worst Indiana Jones movie of all time?) and let her continue to abuse him. That glossy screenshot of the cabin? Are you fucking kidding? Has he MET Molly?! She'd burn the thing down in a fit or rage over some minor disagreement over a Founding Father's birthday or something before disemboweling him and feeding his innards to Hollis, their pet Yeti.

Finally, how hilarious is it that he just NOW mentions Stockholm Syndrome? Really?! That's the entire and only basis for your relationship with Mrs. Molly Gardner-Portman. GAH."

Thursday, January 26, 2012 11:53:00 AM  

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