Let's Read The Overton Window pt. 5: Time for all-caps

After his madcap taxi caper, Noah decides to walk the rest of the way to Molly's freedom hoedown.

Eyes down, shields up, keep a brisk steady pace, and you can get almost anywhere on this island in a reasonable amount of time.

Shields up? What?

And why is the narration in second-person all of a sudden? Is this one of Noah's thoughts? If so, it should be italicized.

 And then as he forced himself to change the mental subject, he found there were some still darker things nagging at the back of his mind.

What had really happened in that meeting back at the office? And what might still be happening there now?

Jesus, finally. It only took him several hours and a long cab ride. 

What does he mean, "what had really happened?" It was perfectly clear. None of the people involved--including his own father--were at all oblique about their intentions. This would make sense if Noah had just glimpsed something through a partially-open door, but he was sitting right there the whole time, listening to everything.

these were world-spanning issues he [Arthur] exploited, whether real or manufactured, from global cooling in the 1970s to global warming today.

Three guesses whether Glenn Beck thinks global warming is a manufactured issue.

Arthur Gardner could burn through $30 million a week for the next twenty years before he even came close to clearing out those offshore accounts.

How much is this guy charging his clients? I'm looking through the Fortune 500 list, and I'm not seeing a lot of PR companies. I'm sure the big ones do make their executives wealthy, but 30 million a week for twenty years is over 30 billion dollars; that would make Arthur the 20th richest person in the world, and that's not even the full extent of his fortune.

This is just Beck getting carried away. Arthur was involved in all these famous events, and he can bend anyone to his will, and he has a bajillion million trillion dollars! He's the most evil bad guy ever!

Noah wanders too close to the curb and gets drenched by a passing bus.

As the bus rolled on he could see a bunch of kids in the back pressed to the windows, pointing and hooting, absolutely delighted to have played a part in his drenching.


As he walked he thought back to that meeting with the government reps at the office. Maybe he was overthinking it.

There is no way you could possibly be over-thinking this, there's nothing to over-think, what is wrong with you?

Besides, what was that old saying? Don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer.

There are no questions to ask, you already have the answers, how can you be this dense.

It was far easier to follow orders and cash the checks if you honestly had no idea what the consequences of those orders were.


I'm going to have an aneurysm, let's just move on.

Noah finally arrives at the meeting location, the description of which is so hilarious that there's nothing I can add to it:

According to the flier the location of tonight’s all-American shindig was the Stars ’n Stripes Saloon, a charming, rustic little dive down here in Tribeca. Noah had been there a few times before on downtown pub crawls with clients. The Stars ’n Stripes was known as something of a guilty pleasure, a little patch of down-home heartland kitsch complete with friendly, gorgeous waitresses, loud Southern rock on the jukebox, and cheap domestic beer on tap.

Sip this Pabst Blue Ribbon and take a seat by that fake cow's skull while I tell you who really controls this country.

After all, how many right-wing nutcases could possibly live in this enlightened city, and how many among them would knuckle-drag themselves out of their subbasement bunkers for a club meeting on a chilly, rainy Friday night?


The depressing answer to that question, he saw as he rounded the final turn, was absolutely all of them.

Okay, that's kind of funny.

Noah sees that the place is absolutely packed, with people spilling out onto the sidewalk. I'm curious why he thinks they're all there for the freedom meet-n-greet; what if this is just the bar's regular patrons, and Molly's group consists of five people huddled around a table in the back?

The diversity of the gathering was another surprise; there seemed to be no clear exclusions based on race, or class, or any of the other traditional media-fed American cultural divides.

How completely believable and realistic.

This music and the mood it was creating, it was a smart PR move if they could make it work. If their enemies were trying to paint them as a bunch of pasty-white NASCAR-watching, gun-toting, pickup-driving reactionaries with racist and violent tendencies, what better ploy could these people make than to subtly invoke the peace-loving spirits of Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi?

You're right, that is a pretty clever move. I wonder how Glenn Beck and his ghost writers came up with it?

(No, the book isn't clear on what exactly about the meeting is invoking King and Ghandi; this section comes right after a description of a folk musician playing the harmonica).

Noah runs into Molly Ross, who is even more beautiful now because she's put some thought on her appearance. And she suddenly has a southern accent.

“Well,” Molly said, allowing him only a conditional hint of a smile, “look what the cat dragged in.” For the first time he noticed a light Southern lilt in her words.

This is the way all southern American people speak. Next she's going to be like YEE HAW, SIT DOWN A SPELL I SAY AND AND LET'S HAVE US A MINT JULIP JUST LIKE MY GRAND-PAPPY USED TO MAKE.

(He had a full conversation with her back in the office, and he only noticed her accent now? Seriously?)

Molly goes to get Noah a dry shirt, and returns with a big beefy dude named Hollis.

“The pleasure’s all mine,” the big man said. Good etiquette had obviously been drilled into him from childhood; by his manner it seemed that shaking hands with a total stranger was an event to be treated with great respect.

How the hell could you possibly tell all of this just from shaking someone's hand.

While we're on the subject, I hate it in fiction--or real life--when someone assumes some trait or attribute of a person is due to their experiences in childhood. People actually, like, change as they get older; someone could have been a rude little shit when they were a kid but become polite and well-mannered in adulthood, or vice versa. It's both lazy writing and a shallow way of looking at the world to assume everyone's development crystallizes the moment they hit eighteen.

Noah asks if there's anywhere he can change, and Molly tells him to just do it right there.

“I doubt you’ve got anything under there me and Hollis haven’t seen before.”

This got me thinking, I wonder if Beck is going to include any LGBT people in this all-American rainbow coalition? How will he square that with the right wing audience that he's definitely not courting with this book?

Despite the invitation, Noah goes to a private room to change.

There was a definite scent of weed smoke in the air. He’d already seen a few hardcore, single-issue hemp-heads in the crowd. Maybe they were here to attach their cause to the larger group’s ambitions.

"Hemp-heads" makes Noah read like a middle-aged man.

Incidentally, Glenn Beck was 46 when this book came out. 

Noah emerges from his shame-closet and sees Molly talking and laughing with a man she is clearly having intimate relations with. Hollis moseys over and startles Noah before he can creep on them for too long.

“Nice girl. Smart one, too. Quick as a whip.” Now that he’d said a few more words his regional accent was coming through loud and clear. This guy wasn’t just from Appalachia; he looked and sounded like he might’ve eaten one of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Is it a wee bit telling that this diverse group of all creeds, colours and regions is being represented by two white people, one of whom is a southern gal and the other an Appalachian dude?

“That boy with her there, his name’s Danny Bailey. Molly tells me they was tight with one another some time ago, but beyond that I didn’t pry no further.”


Hollis says he doesn't know much about Danny, but that "he scares me some." How vague and mysterious. If someone said this to me, I would definitely have some follow-up questions (are we talking scary as in "intimidatingly confident and good-looking" or scary as in "might be a serial killer" would be the first one) but Noah, who is a plastic mannequin being subtly manipulated by natural forces in a way that makes the people around him imagine that he's speaking to them, just goes over to the table to meet Mr. Scary himself.

He had the air of someone who was accustomed to being seen from a stage or on camera and had put his look together accordingly. He was handsome enough, but up close you could see all the things the footlights would obscure: too many cross-hatched wrinkles for a man so young, desperately spiky hair with too-careful highlights, face a bit too thin, eyes a little sunken and dry. It was a picture of a guy on the wrong side of thirty trying hard to remember twenty-one. 

"Thirty year old former goth" doesn't exactly seem frightening to me.

The following dialogue establishes that Danny a) made that viral Youtube video mentioned in an earlier chapter and b) is an arrogant jackass. He is also clearly a romantic rival being set up for Noah to easily defeat.

“Overthrow, man, the video. It’s gonna bring on the total downfall of the whole frickin’ evil empire, thirty-five million views on YouTube. That’s me. I’m shocked, you really haven’t seen it? There’s e-mails about me flying around all over the Internet.”

Our freedom fighters: a plain, homespun woman from...Texas or somewhere, a rugged Appalachian dude who's more Appalachian than the Appalachian mountains themselves, and an internet-savvy cosmopolitan guy who talks like a stereotypical hippy.

Hmmm. One of these characters is not like the other.

“Well,” Noah said, “I guess I’ve got a really good spam filter.”

For a long moment the legendary Danny Bailey looked like he’d just been double-smacked across his face with the ceremonial dueling gloves.

That was not a sick burn. Stop making this too easy for Noah.

He doesn’t have much of a BS-filter, and he gets people fired up about the wrong things, when there are plenty of real things to fight against.

I have a feeling Danny's presentation is going to be the rosetta stone that cracks this book wide open. We're on the case, folks! 

She nodded. “I’m happy you came. Now”—she scooted a few inches closer—“tell me something about yourself that I don’t already know.”

"My dad is planning to overthrow the US government. And I like Thai food."

“I have an almost supernatural ability to tell when a person is hiding something.”

“No, you don’t.”

“I do. While the other kids went to Cub Scouts I was sitting behind one-way glass eating M&Ms and watching about a million focus groups.

Yeah that's not weird at all. 

She asks him to prove it, so he does the Sherlock Holmes thing and says that a dude sitting at the bar is an infiltrator trying to spy on the group. The thing is, we never find out how he knows that; the fun of the Sherlock scan is that afterwards, the audience gets to see what clues the detective or whoever used to come up with their deduction, so we can marvel at their genius.

Also, this doesn't prove anything. Molly has no way of knowing if Noah is right, so he could have just been bluffing. But for some reason she trusts him, and shouts at the guy to get out.

From the malevolent look on the guy’s face, getting publicly busted was one of his least favorite things to do on a Friday night.

Maybe he left because he was upset that a random weirdo started yelling at him in public.

Molly sat back down, with a sweet, vocal sigh.

“Something about myself … let me see.” She leaned forward, closer to Noah, as though about to share a secret nobody knew. “I can sometimes be a little impulsive,” she whispered.

Eh. That was kind of cute. At least one of the ghost writers has some decent wit and the chops to write a fun romance. Let's hope they get the chance.