Monday, February 21, 2011

Chapter Thirty-Six

I've said more than once that a particular chapter was the worst one of this whole fart of a novel. But this time I mean it. The next two, in fact. Thirty-six and –seven are unbearably, insultingly, aggressively stupid. To the point of offence.

Here is Noah's grand plan to sneak Molly out of NYC. They have to get to Vegas (so they can see the nuclear explosion up close?) and driving just won't do! I guess taking a train is out. And Noah, rich, powerful scion of America's Number 1 P.R. Genius does not have access to a private jet, nor the means to charter even a Cessna. (Also, there are no hot air balloons in New York. Look it up.) So, to the airport they must go.

For as much time as Beck spends dropping faction into everything, name-checking chicken-and-waffle shops, bringing authenticity by placing every bit of action in some real location, the airport is not actually named. Maybe Beck just didn't want to mention JFK, a popular Democrat. Ah, but I am getting ahead of myself. Those crazy kids haven't made it to the runway yet.

"Okay, we're all ready."

"What do you mean, we're all ready? You made one call and shut down security at an international airport?"

"I did better than that."

He did better than that! I guess when you're the rich, powerful scion of America's Number 1 P.R. Genius, you can pull all kinds of strings. Especially completely ridiculous and made-up strings! For example:

"Have you ever wondered how celebrities and public figures avoid all the hassle the rest of us have to go through when they need to suck it up and fly commercial?"

"I've never thought about it."

"They make a call like I just made. All the major airlines have a VIP liaison in the big cities, and there's a service company we've used from the office, KTL, that's going to grease the way even more. They'll meet us at the curb and walk us right to the plane..."

Ummm... Okay. Celebrities get to cut in line at the airport. Because of KTL? I guess. But, Molly points out the flaw in the plan: They're not celebrities! Or are they?? No, they're not. But!

Noah smiled. "I'm now dating Natalie Portman."

She looked at him as though his head had just turned into a pumpkin.

"Wait, what?"

Wait, what? Yeah, it turns out Molly is a dead ringer for Natalie Portman. Close enough, anyway. Besides, "she's done mostly art-house films, so the average Joe probably couldn't pick her out of a lineup." Oh. Okay. Good for Natalie. Even better for Molly. That's some plan, Noah.

Molly came back from the bathroom after ten minutes in there with her kit and a few instructions from Noah. She was in her Vanderbilt sweatshirt, her hair was up in a casual bun at the nape of her neck, and she'd done just enough to her lips and brows and lashes to suggest a layman's conception of a movie star who was wearing no makeup at all. The great advantage of this whole thing was that when celebrities are out in public trying to avoid a mob of fans and paparazzi, the last thing they want to resemble is who they really are.

She "came back from the bathroom after ten minutes in there"? Really, that is terrible writing. And certainly, one can blame that one Beck's ghostwriter, sure. But the good folks at Simon & Schuster certainly have a few editors on staff, no? Where were they with their red pens? I suppose it is easy to image that by this point they too quit caring one way or the other. It's a shame really, what with all their (presumed) love of personal responsibility, it seems such a cop out. They should have stayed the course, but no. I almost can't blame them. Almost.

"Perfect," he said. "Absolutely perfect. Oh, wait." He took her makeup kit and searched through its contents until he'd found a small dark pencil with a dull tip. "Lean your face over here." Molly did, and he carefully and gently went to work. "Natalie has got two little tiny beauty marks, one here ... and one ... over here." He leaned back, squinted, and studied his masterpiece. "That's it."

I guess this means Noah isn't the average Joe. He hardly seems the average Noah, either. But what do I know? I've never cut in line at the airport, so I'm just a layman.

On the short ride to the airport he told her the backstory he'd given to Kyle, the executive service agent from KTL: Noah and young Ms. Portman had spent a wild weekend together painting the town, and things had gotten a little out of hand toward the end. She'd had her purse stolen, she wasn't feeling well at all, and some nasty aggressive photographers had begun to bird-dog them. Now the mission was to spirit her out of the city while keeping her off Page Six of the New York Post.

Yeah. Okay. That's a great plan. By which I mean not at all. It reads like a childish fantasy. What someone without much in the way of critical thinking skills might imagine the world works. Secret rooms and velvet ropes and the rich and famous and powerful slinking through hidden doorways behind every oak bookcase. Of course, "someone without much in the way of critical thinking skills" does describe the average Beck fan.

"Now remember," Noah said, "the whole idea is that you don't have to deal with anybody. You don't have to talk to anyone and you don't have to make eye contact with anyone, which is good because your eyes are the wrong color. I told them you've lost your ID so no one's going to expect you to show it. You're in the big club now, you're a hotshot movie star who's had a few rough days of partying, and you're in no mood for any inconvenience. That's what we're paying all this money to avoid. But just keep thinking all that in your head; our guy and I will do all the talking."

I guess, really, what Beck is saying here is that the rich and famous are kind of assholes who think the rules don't apply to them. Whew! Good thing Beck isn't rich and famous! I'm not sure why he chose to include Natalie Portman in this mess. What did she ever do to him? She's from Israel for Christ's sake! Beck should love her. Maybe he does. Maybe this is his way of guaranteeing her a role in the inevitable big screen adaptation of The Overton Window.

Kyle from KTL, "in his dapper suit" meets them at the curb "and with a practiced sweep of his manicured hand" he whisks them away to the airport's underground.

Most people know there's a whole hidden part of Disney World the tourists never get to see. Underneath the sidewalks and behind the scenes, in a vast complex every bit as big as the park itself, this insider network of tunnels, workshops, machinery, and control rooms is where the magic really happens. Likewise, a major airport has its own sublevel of secrets, and our man Kyle held all the skeleton keys to this particular enchanted kingdom.

Snort. Heh. Yes, excellent writing. Very good. Quality stuff. I want the same ghostwriter on my next novel. (Instead of Natalie Portman, I'm having Joseph Gordon-Levitt guest star in mine.)

Halfway into the terminal Kyle stopped along the wall, looked furtively both ways, and then keyed open a featureless gray door. Like some portal from rural Kansas into the Land of Oz, inside this door was a large VIP room with elegant furnishings and sitting areas, a bar and some bistro tables, and down the center, a privately staffed setup for dignified, one-on-one security screenings.

Hahahahahahahahahaha!!! Seriously? Oh, okay. Awesome. Totally awesome. The VIP screening room. For celebrities. Perfect. With a bar. And elegant furnishings. I wonder if it's as quiet as Darthur's office. And I bet you can even smoke there. Because, you know, celebrities.

As perfect and expensive as Noah's plan is, it does have one flaw: "That's a Star Wars geek if I ever saw one," Noah quips in regard to the VIP X-ray tech.

Beck spends the next couple paragraphs badmouthing Star Wars fans. Pitiable losers, social pariahs, bowl haircuts, blah blah blah, hitting all the usual marks. I don't know what purpose this serves. I guess there's no crossover between Star Wars fans and Beck fans. Referring snidely to Star Wars shows how far out of touch Beck really is. Star Wars has come a long way in terms of respectability. Besides, Reagan loved him some Star Wars, and he's infallible, right?

Now, why someone so objectionable as this "Star Wars geek" would be stationed in the Elegantly Furnished VIP Waiting Room For Celebrities instead of, say, a supermodel or whatever, is beyond me. Well, no, it's not really. This guy is there just to create some tension. And like all moments of tension in this novel, it's pretty clunky and not very tense. Noah and Molly quickly huddle to discuss the prequels. Noah wants to bolt. Yeah, wow, he's just the guy to look after Molly, obviously. She, however, votes to bluff her way through security. That Molly! What a firebrand! (I am pretty sure that's not the proper use of firebrand, but what can I say, Beck has me inspired.)

Noah walks through the metal detector without a problem. The geek eyes him suspiciously nonetheless and considers having a go at him with the wand. Fortunately "Kyle cleared his throat meaningfully from where he was standing." Whew! Good thing he didn't clear his throat from where he wasn't standing. That would have been soooooo awkward.

This subtle, perfectly pitched intervention was sent to remind the room that this trip had already been preapproved from positions much higher than their own, and these two very important people weren't to be unnecessarily troubled by the rigors of the standard inquisition.

Now, some chapters back, way in the beginning of the novel, wasn't Beck lamenting how tough it was getting on an airplane these days? Did he forget all that? Because all it takes, from the looks of things, is a bit of cash. I know, I know, up until now this novel has been pretty consistent, so I guess we'll cut the authors some slack.

Noah puts his belt on and breathes a sigh of relief. Looks like they'll make it on to the plane afterall. Whoops! Maybe not! Molly sets of the metal detector! Oh noes!

End of chapter. Because, duh, that's tension: ending a chapter right when something happens.

Except, you know what? She doesn't have a gun. She doesn't have a knife. She doesn't have fillings. Nope! But she does have a crucifix around her neck. Whoops! So much for being from Israel!

5 comments:

  1. Did I read you right in a previous post that this book is nearly over? How is that possible? I mean, NOTHING has happened! Seriously.

    I guess the target audience of this, the Left Behind series, and other such crap just doesn't care about bad writing, or -- somewhat more chilling -- to them, this sort of thing *is* good writing.

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  2. yeah. total of forty-seven chapters, i think. less than 75 pages to go. maybe something will happen between now and then.

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  3. I began to think during reading this post, "Well, maybe now the story will actually start to get going," because up til this point it kinda felt a little like a Steven King or Tom Clancy novel in the beginning stages where the characters are still being introduced, the action that will define the plot is being set up, and whatever kind of journey or conflict or whatever that forms the meat of the story begins. It felt like the trip to vegas will be a long, harrowing adventure where Our Hero defeats the bad guys, reveals the conspiracy to everyone, wins the heart of the fair lady, etc.

    In short, in such a novel, it would feel like nothing is happening because we'd be still barely at the beginning of the rising action part of the story. However, if indeed less than a quarter of the book remains, that means that we should be at or nearly at the climax of the book now.

    This kind of nonsense is what The Beckwit and his ghostwriter think the climax of a political thriller is supposed to look like?!!? O_o

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  4. I mean... Natalie Portman? Seriously?

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  5. how did I don't know where did man what?

    So now that we have some idea of what Beck's white-male-power-fantasy dream boink looks like -- Hey, don't look at me like that! You KNOW that Beck is having this written with that in mind! For what it's worth, I feel sorry for Natalie Portman. Does she know? Does she have an opinion about being shoved into this faction as Beck's self-insert's girlfriend? Anyway, yeah. On to the next chapter where Beck assumes that a Star Wars geek knows everything there is to know about every actress in the franchise.

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