The Stand Chapter 8 and Chapter 9

Chapter 8 describes the spread of Campion’s Disease Captain Tripp’s. It is a fairly short chapter, so we will be doing 2 chapter this post.

Chapter 8 starts out by showing how Joe Bob helped pass along the virus.  Joe Bob, if you recall, was the police man who was some relation to Vic Palfrey. He came to Hap’s Texaco to warn the men about the CDC’s interest in them.

I have very little sympathy for him. Look, I get wanting to warn your buddies, but did you have to go down in person for that? If you knew the CDC was interested, wouldn’t a phone call have been a better idea?

On June 18, 5 hours after he had talked to his cousin Bill Hapscomb, Joe Bob Brentwood pulled over a speeder by the name of Harry Trent.

After getting the speeding ticket, Trent tries to sell Joe Bob life insurance, but Joe Bob feels fine, so he declines the offer.

Dying was the last thing on his mind. Nevertheless, he was already a sick man. He had gotten more than gas at Bill Hapscomb’s Texaco. And he gave Harry Trent more than a speeding summons.

We are then told that Trent gave the sickness to a lot of people at work, and how many they then went on to infect is impossible to tell.

You might as well ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

I’ve never understood this. Do people in other religions think angels dance on pins? Because Adventists think Angels have better things to do with their lives.

King then goes on to use math, and my eyes glaze over.

A lot of people got infected by just one person, ok? That’s his point.

On June 19, Trent went out for a burger, but he was so sick he couldn’t eat much.

He left the sweet thang that waited on his table a dollar tip that was crawling with death.

I like this line.

A family with kids pulls up and asks Trent for directions.

Harry gave the New York fellow very clear directions on how to get to Highway 21. He also served him and his entire family their death warrants without even knowing it.

This chapter is full of really great one liners, though in the edited edition it just says, “the whole family would be dead by July 2.” Which, looking at a calendar, is about 3 weeks, give or take. And so I like the way this reads in the unedited edition better. “He served them their death warrants” just sounds a lot more ominous.

How fast does this virus kill, again? The people in the lab died in under 12 minutes. But its taken Harry Trent at least a day to even show symptoms, and it takes the Norris family roughly 3 weeks to all die.

You could argue that the virus would have evolved to survive longer, and that would make sense. But other times, the disease still seems to kill people quite quickly, sooooo?

We should play a drinking game: drink when the rate at which the disease kills people is flexible at the plot’s convenience.

We then get a description of some of the people the Norris family infects. And it takes them a while to show symptoms.

I give up on trying to make sense of this.

In any case, we now switch to the perspective of the New Yorker, Edward Norris, who happens to be a police detective. He and his family have just come back from what we are told is their first real vacation in 5 years. How fortunate for him that he took this vacation, and that it was such a good time. In fact, Norris had such a good time that he plans on bragging about it to Steve when he gets back. The whole “bragging about it to Steve” thing gets cut from the edited edition, and I’m torn on how I feel about it. It’s not really a big deal in the scheme of things. I can see why it was cut, but I’m not sorry it got put back in, either.

The first Norris to show symptoms of the illness is the baby, Hector. That makes sense. Babies and the elderly would be particularly vulnerable to…well, anything, really.

During their wait in [the Doctor’s] office they communicated the sickness which would soon be known across the disintegrating country as Captain Trips to more than 25 people.

Why? Why Captain Trip’s? Why haven’t they started calling it “Campion’s Disease,” or just “Campion?” As far as they know, Campion was patient zero. And don’t these things usually get named after the first patient who had them? Or the first doctor who diagnosed them? Actually, nothing has been announced officially, so this “Captain Trip’s” is only a nickname. Who picks a nickname with 3 syllables? Yea “Campion’s disease” isn’t much shorter, but it still makes more sense than “Captain Trip’s.” Who is Captain Trip? Exactly.

I can’t remember if we get told this in this novel or if I am remembering it from the Dark Tower series, but in some parts of the country the virus is called “Tube Neck,” because of how swollen the neck gets. Even that makes more sense than “Captain Trip’s.”

In any case, when Ed and Trish take Hector to the doctor, they infect everyone, including a woman who is just there to pay her bill. In the edited edition, the chapter ends with the woman passing the disease along to her bridge club and everyone in the bar afterward. In this edition, we get a bit more detail.

In fact, a lot of the detail in this chapter has been cut. And I can see why–it’s not really important in the overall scheme of things–but it would be nice if this could have been left in the original version.

Chapter 9

This chapter introduces us to one of the other main characters, Nick Andros.

We are first introduced to Nick as he’s getting beaten up by some guys from the bar.

We are not told, right away, that Nick is a deaf mute. We are given some clues: Nick fights without making a sound, he doesn’t even scream as they are beating him up, which causes the bullies to feel unnerved. It doesn’t make sense to me, either. Even a deaf mute can usually make sound. A lot of sound, actually, since they feel no need whatsoever to regulate their volume.

A car comes by, causing the thugs to scatter, while Nick almost gets run over.

He comes to in a jail cell, for reasons I don’t understand. Wouldn’t you put a person who had been badly beaten up and found unconscious in a hospital? Maybe this is one of those realistic details that make no sense to me because I think it’s ridiculous.

In any case, even though he’s in jail, he has been given stitches on his most severe wounds.

Just then, the sherriff walks in, telling him he looks terrible, and asks for his name.

We’ve gotten enough clues so far to be able to piece it together on our own, but this is where we find out for sure that Nick is a deaf-mute.

Nick put a finger to his swelled and lacerated lips and shook his head. He put a hand over his mouth, then cut the air with it in a soft diagonal hashmark and shook his head.

The sherriff isn’t sure about all this, but he gives Nick a pencil and a pad of paper. Nick writes down what happened. When the sheriff asks him if he’s old enough to drink, Nick replies that he is 22, and that he should be able to get some beers without getting beaten and robbed.

Baker reflected that teaching a deaf-mute kid to read and write was probably quite a trick, and this Nick Andros must have some pretty good equipment upstairs to have caught the hang of it.

We get little hints throughout the book like this that Nick is really really smart. I have no issue with Nick being smart. Though I’m not sure how realistic it is for him to be able to lip read like that. It takes years of training to learn how to lip read, and as we will see, Nick Andros is a bit lacking in the formal training department.

Even if one is really super smart, lip reading is still difficult because a lot of sounds and words look the same. Even someone who is good at lip reading is still going to struggle. I have been reading that, in order to lip read successfully, it’s necessary to have at least some level of hearing, even if it is very minor. Without any hearing at all, even a very smart person would have trouble understanding much of what anyone was saying.

I can kinda see why King wouldn’t want to get bogged down by that detail in the story. From a literary stand point it’s much easier if the other characters don’t have to use sign language or write things down.

Is that an excuse for not portraying Nick’s disability more realistically? Someone else will have to comment. I’m not sure I know the answer to that.

In any case, Nick tells Sheriff Baker that he’s been traveling, and that he did some work for a man in town named Rich, but that the men who beat him up got all the money he earned.

Baker tells Nick he can check on that, and asks Nick if he’s sure of the details. He calls up Rich, and upon finding that Nick’s story is true, he lets Nick out of jail.

So, Nick was only in jail in the first place because everyone thought he was jobless? Do police just lock up all the  jobless people and put them in jail? What a fucked up world we live in, if that’s the case.

Baker asks Nick more about the people who robbed him. When Nick gives the description, Baker swears.

“That’s my brother in law, Ray Booth…thanks, kid. Five in the morning and my day’s wrecked already… He’s  a bad actor, Janey knows it. He beat her up enough times when they was kids together. Still, they’re brother ‘n sister and I guess I can forget my lovin for this week.”

I like the sheriff. He’s a bit gruff, and you can tell he doesn’t want to upset his wife. But, even though he makes a lot of noise about not liking it, it’s clear he’s going to do the right thing.

Not a lot of small town sheriffs are like that.

Baker tells Nick that going after the men probably won’t do any good, because it’s his word against theirs, but that if Nick wants to press charges, Baker will try.

As the sheriff goes to get Nick some medicine the doctor left for him, he starts sneezing violently into his handkerchief.

This good man is already dead.

As he passed the pills and a glass of water to Nick, Baker rubbed gently under the angle of his jaw. There was a definite painful swelling there. Swollen glands, coughing, sneezing, a low fever, felt like. Yeah, it was shaping up to be a wonderful day.

 

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The Stand Chapter 7

I am excited about this chapter. In the original edited edition, a large portion of it simply isn’t there. I wish it had been included, because the parts of the book showing the spread of the disease are my favorite part. That right there is another reason I like this chapter. We finally get at least a little more information about the disease.

Chapter 7 opens on Vic Palfrey waking up briefly from the delirium. He’s not really awake enough to be completely lucid, just awake enough to realize that he is dying. It’s horrifying, and we are right there horrified along with him.

Vic looks around, and discovers that not only has his bed been cranked up as high as it can go (to keep his lungs from drowning), he’s restrained with brass laundry pins. You’d think a hospital would have better restraint methods than this, especially with a delirious patient in a highly secured infectious diseases ward. You don’t exactly want to give the diseased and delirious person a sharp object with which he could penetrate your hazmat suit.

He knew he had been delirious, and would be again. He was sick and this was not a cure or the beginning of one, but only a brief respite.

How he knows this is anyone’s guess. Maybe he’s heard the doctors talking or something. It doesn’t really matter. Vic feels around, and discovers he’s hooked up to all kinds of tubes and wires. He tries to shout, but it comes out as more of a whisper.

As Vic thinks about his surroundings, he starts slipping back into delirium. It’s very well done, but it’s too long to quote.

The idea that he might die babbling inanities like a senile old man terrified him.

I like this line.

He was looking at the door, and thinking it was a damn funny door even for a hospital. It was round at the corners, outlined with pop-rivets, and the lower jamb was 6 inches or more up from the tile floor. Even a jackleg carpenter like Vic Palfrey could

(gimme the funnies Vic you had em long enough)

(Mamma he took my funnypages! Give em back!)

build better than that. It was (steel).

Part of the reason I highlighted this is to show exactly how King shows Palfrey slipping in and out of sanity. I do wonder why the door seems so shoddily designed. If this center is specifically for people who are sick, wouldn’t they have already had a room with a ready made steel door?

As the sun sets, Vic catches site of the doctors watching him from behind glass.

Then Vic remembers where he is: Atlanta, Georgia. He thinks about all the other people who were taken with him and wonders if they could all be sick with what Campion had.

….to get beyond the Arnette town limits they had had to pass a roadblock on US93, and men had been stringing bobwire…stringing bobwire right out into the desert….

(elipses are original to text)

A Man in a suit comes by and asks how Vic is feeling. But this was Vic’s last moment of lucidity. He’s already gone. The suited man turns to his colleague and says, “if this one doesn’t work, we’ll lose him by midnight.”

Later it is revealed that they are trying out different cures on the Arnette residents.

I wish they hadn’t cut this part out. But I can see why King did. It doesn’t advance character for a person we’re ever going to see again, and in general it has nothing to do with the rest of the novel. Even though *I* would like to see more about the spread of this disease, the disease itself is just a plot device used by King to kill off most of the world’s population so that the rest of the novel can take place.

There’s a section break, and we cut to Stu’s perspective. In the edited edition, this is where chapter 7 begins.

The chapter, er, section, opens with one of the nurses trying to take Stu’s blood pressure. He refuses, saying that he won’t cooperate until someone tells him what’s what around here. Good for him.

He had no objection to the tests themselves. What he objected to was being kept in the dark, kept scared. He wasn’t sick, at least not yet, but scared plenty….he wasn’t going to be a party to it anymore until somebody told him something about what had happened in Arnette and what that fellow Campion had to do with it. At least then he could base his fears on something solid.

I… think it’s pretty obvious that Campion had everything to do with it, and to his credit, Stu’s pretty much figured that out on his own.

They had come and got him on the afternoon of the 17th, 2 days ago. 4 army men and a doctor. Polite, but firm. There was no question of declining; all 4 of the army men had been wearing sidearms. That was when Stu Redman started being seriously scared.

Stu describes the ride to the hospital, which involves a car trip to the nearest airport and then they fly to Georgia. But hey, at least the army gives them good booze, probably to calm them down. One of the people, Lila Bruette, is crying hysterically. Can’t say I’d blame her, I’d probably be crying hysterically too.

One of the soldiers transporting the Arnette townsfolk suddenly started sneezing.

Wait a second…the higher ups in the army knew how contagious and deadly this disease was, and they didn’t tell their people to take precautions when they went to fetch the Arnettens? Do they want their soldiers to die, or are they just that goddamn incompetent?

Also, those poor townspeople. If they weren’t infected before, they definitely are after that plane ride. You just killed a bunch of people, thanks army. Granted they probably would have gotten the disease anyway, but still.

Hap makes the observation that the people transporting them are,

“A pretty funny bunch of ole boys…Ain’t one of ’em under 50, nor one with a weddin ring. Career boys, low rank.”

I’m not sure what the significance of that is. Does the army not care if the low rank people die from being exposed to these dangerously sick people? Knowing this, did they purposely pick older soldiers who weren’t married, under the mistaken assumption that unmarried soldiers have no family or anyone at home to care about? Because that does seem to be the assumption, at least from Stu’s perspective. No wives, no close relatives, etc.

This wasn’t incompetence, then. If the military purposely picked out a group of people they thought had nothing to lose, they had to have planned for their soldiers to come down with the Superflu.

Is that realistic? Because if it is, that’s horrifying.

Back in the present, Dr. Denninger comes in and asks Stu why he wouldn’t let the nurse, Patty, take his temperature. Stu tries not to let his fear show, but he tells the man he wants some answers, and then he’ll cooperate. Otherwise he’ll fight everyone every step of the way. Stu guesses, correctly, that the doctors are afraid of him, so he threatens to puncture one of their suits if they don’t give him some answers.

Denninger refuses to tell him anything.

“Your lack of cooperation may do your country a grave disservice. Do you understand me?”

Aaaaand you just lost the argument. This may have worked back in like, the 1940s when everyone was all patriotic and shit. Back then, they probably did tend to do things to help their country, no questions asked. But by the time this book was written, that was not the case. People were no longer content with blind patriotism. I’m certainly not.

And so when Stu responds that it is his country that is doing him the disservice, I nod along in agreement.

“Right now my country…has got me locked up in a hospital room…with a buttermouth little pissant doctor who doesn’t know shit from Shinola.”

Here’s how this reads in the edited version:

Right now my country…has got me locked up in a hospital room…with with a buttermouth little pissant doctor who doesn’t know enough to shit or go blind.

Speculation on why this got changed? Thoughts?

Deninger leaves, and Stu sits down to wait calmly. He tries not to let the fear and panic get ahold of him.

But it was 40 hours before they sent him a man who would talk.

Spoiler alert: And even when he does show up, he still doesn’t tell Stu much.

 

 

 

The Shack Chapter 9

TRIGGER WARNING: DISCUSSION OF SEXUAL ABUSE, DISCUSSION OF CHILD ABUSE, DISCUSSION OF SPOUSAL MURDER.

 

Chapter 9

A Long Time Ago, In a Garden Far, Far Away

I’m not sure why the Star Wars reference. Is this garden actually in the past? Does that mean Mack has time traveled to before the shack was, well, a shack?

In any case, Mack follows Sarayu to the garden, which is very large and also contains an orchard. Sarayu picks an herb and tells Mack to chew the leaves. They’ll stop him from getting diarrhea from the greens he overindulged in at breakfast this morning, apparently.

Thank God, because I really don’t want to have to read about Mack’s GI issues.

Sarayu picks a bouquet of flowers and herbs, then directs Mack to begin digging up a space so she can plant some things there tomorrow. Why God The Holy Spirit doesn’t just use her god powers to work the garden is not something that will ever be explained.

Mack asks Sarayu if she and her Godhead partners created everything. He’s specifically referring to mosquitoes and poisonous plants. Anyone who’s ever read anything about creation science already knows the answer to this question. But I don’t think this book is meant to be preaching to the choir, so we get it spelled out for us.

“We created everything that actually exists, including what you consider the bad stuff…but when I created it, it was only good, because that is just the way I am.”

How are mosquitoes possibly good? Surely something less bothersome could take their place in the ecosystem if it was being designed by anything halfway intelligent.

When Mack voices this, Sarayu shakes her head and tells him that humans aren’t just taking themselves to hell in handbaskets, they’re taking the rest of creation with them.

Indeed, creation scientists also talk about how different things supposedly were before the flood. Poisonous snakes, they argue, weren’t actually poisonous when God created them. But they became that way after the flood. After the flood there was a different amount of air pressure, the world was a lot cooler, and in general a much different place.

Also, sin has corrupted even the plants and animals.

Surprisingly, Sarayu doesn’t say any of that. She points to a poisonous plant and tells Mack that “bad plants” aren’t all bad. This plant, for example, would normally be harmful for Mack to even touch. However, it has some good healing properties.

Are there actual plants that can poison you just by touching a small part of them? Certainly if you had any open cuts on your hand, but I’m unaware of anything that powerful. Usually you’d have to at least ingest it in some form in order for negative affects to occur.

And here’s a thought, why not just make plants that can heal you without the harmful poisonous component?

Sarayu tells Mack that humans often declare a thing “good” or “bad” without understanding the thing. And I can track with that, that’s very true.

Then Sarayu tells Mack that she is referring to the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and she loses me completely. Instead of asking her to elucidate, Mack asks incredulously if the garden of Eden was real.

Nope, you just stretched the bounds of credibility too far. Mack hasn’t exactly been worshiping God, but he hasn’t been shown to be an atheist, or even a liberal Christian before. He’s been shown as just a lapsed Christian who still believes Genesis should be taken literally, but he can’t bring himself to care.

In any case, Mack says that a lot of people think that Eve eating the fruit from the tree was a myth. It is, and I’m told it’s not a very original one at that. I packed all the relevant books, so I won’t get into it now, but a lot of the Genesis stories were borrowed from other religions.

“Let me ask you a question. When something happens to you, how do you determine whether it is good or evil?”

By whether or not it could cause me some form of harm, that’s how. Duh. But the question stuns Mack into silence. He finally gives the exact answer I just gave, but then Sarayu tells him that that makes it all rather subjective.

Well, yeah. What’s good for me is not necessarily going to be good for person X, and vice versa. Sometimes the right thing to do in a given situation is subjective.

Sarayu interrupted. “Then it is you who determines good and evil. You become the judge. And to make things more confusing, that which you determine to be good will change over time and circumstance.”

Yes. And I’m grateful for that. Just a few short years ago, being gay was considered evil. I know it still is by a lot of people, but it’s much more accepted now. I’m glad that humans have the ability to grow and change as we learn to do better. (well. Some of us, at any rate.)

I think we’re supposed to read this as horrifying. That there has to be such a thing as absolute morality, otherwise the planet will descend into absolute chaos.

Actually, even though right and wrong varies across time and cultures, there are a few constants. But set that aside for now.

When Mack says that he can see the problem Sarayu snaps that there certainly is a problem.

“Indeed! The choice to eat from the tree tore the universe apart, divorcing the spiritual from the physical.”

Mack didn’t eat the fruit from the tree, why are you snapping at him?

Mack responds, kind of stoically, that he sees now that he spends too much time trying to acquire things he considers good while fearing that which he considers bad.

Um, yeah, and? I bet he also breathes oxygen and expels carbon dioxide. This guy is, after all, supposedly human. And I see nothing wrong with any of those things.

“You must give up your right to decide what is good and evil on your own terms.”

This is a huge red flag. If anybody says this to you, please do yourself a favor and run.

Sarayu goes on for a bit about how good she is, and then Mack says that giving up his right to independence isn’t going to be easy, because

Sarayu interrupted his sentence again. “That in one instance, the good may be the presence of cancer or the loss of income–or even a life.”

An editor. An editor looked at this and nodded his head and kept reading.

I don’t like Sarayu. She interrupts a lot. Also, what she is saying is kind of a little horrifying.

Mack points out that the people with cancer and dead daughters might be a little pissed off at what Sarayu is saying. *I* am a little pissed off at what Sarayu is saying, and I don’t have cancer. Or a dead daughter.

Sarayu says that she keeps those people in mind, and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to make of that.

Then we get this.

“But–” Mack could feel his control getting away as he drove his shovel in hard– “didn’t Missy have a right to be protected?”

“No, Mack. A child is protected because she is loved, not because she has a right to be protected.”

I keep typing out a response to this and then deleting it. How do you respond to something like this?

First of all, this is sadly a common sentiment among fundy Christians. They are opposed to child protection laws for reasons I don’t fully understand. They don’t seem to care about protecting children, and it’s horrifying to think that the reason is because they really don’t think children should have the right to be protected.

Imagine you are a child in an abusive home with Christian parents. You pick up a copy of this book, and then you read that you don’t have the right to be protected from what is happening to you. Imagine how horrible you feel at that moment.

Sometimes I hope there is a hell just so these people can be sent there.

Set all that aside for 10 seconds. So, does that mean that God let Missy die because he didn’t love her enough to protect her?

Anyone who doesn’t believe children have a right to be protected from being brutally murdered and possibly raped is a motherfucking asshole who doesn’t deserve to live.

Mack gropes wildly for some kind of right he can hold on to.

“But what about–”

“Rights are where survivors go, so that they won’t have to work out relationships,” [Sarayu] cut in.

At the end note in the back of this book, the author recommends distributing these books to shelters for battered women.

In light of this chapter, in light of this statement, let that sink in for a bit.

And no, I’m sorry, but a survivor of abuse should feel in no way obligated to work out a relationship with her or his abuser. The abuser has waived that right the minute he started the abuse. This is why people die. In fact, there has recently been a death in my family for this very reason. Abused women are told they are told they must go back and forgive their abuser rather than take their right to live free and unabused. Many of them pay for this mistake with their lives.

 

Mack was getting frustrated. He spoke louder. “But don’t I have the right to–”

“To complete a sentence without being interrupted? No, you don’t. Not in reality.  but as long as you think you do, you will surely get ticked off when someone cuts you off, even if it is God.”

Wow, Sarayu is a dick.

Also, one would think that God would have better manners than to go around interrupting his subjects. How does he like it when he’s interrupted?

Sarayu then goes on for another paragraph about Jesus and how he gave up his rights to “allow you to live free enough to give up your rights.”

I’ll be honest, this chapter wasn’t hard for me to write because I was busy with school. This chapter was hard to write because of the subject matter. This chapter was hard to read when I was a Christian, and it is hard to read now. As a Christian and as an Atheist, I weep for the women in battered womens’ shelters who read this. I weep for the abused child who reads this and her heart sinks as she starts to really believe that she doesn’t deserve to be protected from the abuse.

And I weep because this book got really popular, which means that there are a lot of people out there who agree that children don’t deserve to be protected from abuse.

You know what? Maybe the Trisolarans should come wipe us all out.

 

 

 

 

The Stand Chapter 6

Updates will now be sporadic. School has started.

We are back to Fran’s perspective, now. Fran, if you recall from a few weeks ago, had a fight with her boyfriend Jesse when she told him she was pregnant. She is now about to break the news to her father.

Interestingly, the miniseries doesn’t bring the pregnancy up at this time. The miniseries also doesn’t show her breakup with Jesse. My friend D says that Fran is pregnant in the miniseries, and I am interested to see how it comes up later. Will she not know for sure who the baby’s father is? That would definitely ramp up the tension a bit.

The other thing the mini series changes is that Fran’s mother is gone. I’m not entirely sure if she left or if she’s dead, but either way, the confrontation with Fran’s mother (that I am told is coming) is left out of both the mini series and the edited edition.

In any case, Fran’s dad is in the garden, weeding the peas. We get some background about Fran’s dad, who is about 64. Well, at least that’s a nice, long life. Peter Goldsmith talks while Fran nods.

I had to pull out the edited edition to double check, but a lot of the conversation between Fran and her father has been cut. Also a lot of background information about her father didn’t make it into the original. I think this is because, as Fran’s dad ultimately doesn’t survive, it’s not really necessary to give him so much backstory.

She loved it when her dad talked this way. It wasn’t a way he talked often, because the woman that was his wife and her mother would all but cut the tongue out of his head with the acid which could flow so quickly and freely from her own.

This paragraph is also not present in the edited edition.

There’s some talk about how hard work is necessary, and that Fran’s mother is a bit upset that

Changes had come for women, whether the women always liked them or not, and it was hard for Carla to get it through her head that Fran wasn’t down there at UNH husband-hunting.

All of which is left out of the edited edition.

In the edited edition, Fran and Mr. Goldsmith don’t really talk much until Fran reveals she’s pregnant.

Oh my god, they cut out a lot. Especially about Fran’s mother, who sounds like a real wet blanket.

Peter Goldsmith’s voice switched from topic to topic, mellow and soothing…she was lulled by it, as she always had been. She had come here to tell him something, but since earliest childhood she had often come to tell and stayed to listen.

Finally, Mr. Goldsmith asks his daughter what’s up. She tells him she’s pregnant.

Peter asks if this is a joke or a game, and if she’s really sure she’s pregnant. Fran begins to cry, and asks her father if he still likes her. He is puzzled by the question because of course he still likes his own daughter.

In the miniseries, the conversation they have in the garden is about her breakup with Jesse, and there’s no tears involved. If Fran is at all pregnant in the TV series, she does not mention it at this time.

Peter admits he’s not sure how to react, and asks if the baby is “that Jess’s.” Upon being informed that it is, and that Jess said he would either marry her or pay for an abortion, Fran’s father doesn’t seem too pleased.

“Marriage or abortion….he’s a regular 2 gun Sam.”

At least Fran’s father seems to believe that there are more than 2 options here.

Fran looked down at her hands…there was dirt in the small creases of her knuckles and dirt under the nails. A lady’s hands proclaim her habits, the mental mother spoke up. A pregnant daughter. I’ll have to resign my membership in the church. A lady’s hands–

Fuck the church, then, if they’re not going to be supportive.

In the introduction to this extended edition, King mentioned something about a confrontation with Fran’s mother. I think all this is setting up for that scene. Some of the stuff in this section about Fran’s mother is kept in, but some of it is not. I think it would’ve made sense to take out more of the bits about her mother if he also took out a confrontation.

Fran tells her father she was on birth control when it happened. Fran’s dad tells her he won’t blame her, then. Or either one of them.

“64 has a way of forgetting what 21 was like. So we won’t talk about blame.”

I like this.

“Your mother will have plenty to say about blame,” he said, “and I won’t stop her, but I won’t be with her. Do you understand that?”

Fran understands this better than I do. I happen to think someone has to protect their kid from the unreasonable parent.

Her father never tried to oppose her mother anymore. Not out loud. There was that acid tongue of hers. When she was opposed, it sometimes got out of control. And when it was out of control, she just might take up a notion to cut anyone with it and think of sorry too late to do the wounded much good.

This is also in both editions.

Peter asks Fran if shes’ going to marry Jesse. Fran says no, that they broke up, but not because of the baby. She’s struggling to figure out why they broke up. She keeps thinking of the saying, “marry in haste, repent at leisure.” And I agree. I think that if Fran is having hesitations or doubts, getting married would be a terrible idea.The fact that she can’t figure out why she’s having these hesitations or doubts is entirely beside the point. Sometimes our subconscious figures this shit out before our conscious mind does.

Fortunately, Fran’s father is able to help her verbalize a little better. He asks if Fran really trusts Jesse, and Fran realizes that no, she doesn’t trust him.

Fran then tells her father a story that was absolutely left out of the original edition. She and Jesse went to a poetry reading and she got the giggles and had to leave. Jesse, we are told, was mad.

I’m with Jesse on this one. I’d probably be pissed as well. In any case, Fran realizes that she and Jesse just aren’t compatible with each other and wouldn’t be happy together.

“What do you think of me getting an abortion?” Fran asked after a while.”

Peter Goldsmith tells Fran about how he felt watching his son, Freddie, dying in the hospital after a drunk driver caused an accident. He says that all he can think of when he thinks of abortion is poor little 7 day old 13 year old Freddie.

Then Peter Goldsmith says what he actually thinks about abortion:

Here is the way the line appears in the original edition:

“I think abortion’s too clean a name for it,” Peter Goldsmith said. “I told you I was an old man.”

Here’s the way this appears in the unedited version.

“I think abortion’s too clean a name for it,” Peter Goldsmith said….”I think it’s infanticide, pure and simple.”

We can speculate about why this was left out of the 1970s edition. I have been told that, back then, Christians were less pro-forced birth than they are now. This book may not be “Christian,” nevertheless, I have a very hard time believing that Christians aren’t the target audience of this book. I’m going to hazard a guess that King didn’t want to piss them off, so in the edited edition, which came out in 1978, he smoothed over the abortion discussion. By the time he was able to put a lot of the edited stuff back in in the early 1990s, the majority of Christians were very anti-abortion, so it made sense to have Fran’s father tell her that abortion is totally the same as killing an actual infant.

Which, by the way, it’s totally not. There’s a world of difference between aborting a potential baby and killing an actual baby.

But Freddie wasn’t a baby when he died, so I’m a tad confused as to how they’re linked together in Mr. Goldsmith’s mind.

It was almost understandable when I thought Freddie was a small infant, but a teenager? Abortion is infanticide because you can’t separate the death of your 13 year old teenager from that of a clump of cells? I’m really not seeing the comparison here.

In the edited edition, Fran’s father comes off as almost too perfect. In this unabridged edition, he comes off as….well, a well rounded character who is a flawed human being and in my opinion quite a bit less likeable.

Fran’s dad then says, “Life is cheap. Abortion makes it cheaper.” This is included in both editions, and if King was going to include this then I’m not really sure why he edited the above sentence.

I think I’ve given up trying to figure this out. Someone else can start speculating.

In order to talk about abortion, I kind of skipped over some stuff about Fran’s mother. Apparently she used to be just like Fran, going to baseball games, drinking beer….and then Freddie died. After that, we are told, her views on things became set in stone. As Peter Goldsmith put it, “she stopped growing.” She became rigid in her mindset and stopped evaluating her world view whenever she got new information.

“Your mother has been using the old yardstick all her life, and she can’t change now….Fran, she’s too old to change, but you are getting old enough to understand that.”

That’s what we’re told, but I’m not 100% sure that that’s what we’re shown. In this chapter, sure, it fits, but in a few chapters Fran will have a confrontation with her mother, before which we will be shown flashbacks of Mrs. Fran’s mom, and in my opinion what we are shown of her kind of goes beyond “too old to change.” But we’ll get there when we get there.

Fran tells her father that she has her own reasons for not wanting an abortion. The baby is part of her.

Ok. There it is. Frannie doesn’t want an abortion, she shouldn’t get one. Problem solved.

Peter Goldsmith asks Fran what she does want to do, and Fran responds that she wants to keep the child.

Peter Goldsmith doesn’t respond to this, and Fran asks if he is thinking about her education. Peter tells her he wasn’t, but this comes across as not quite the truth. Of course he is thinking about her education. Of course he is thinking about how best to support his daughter.

Mr. Goldsmith tells Fran she doesn’t need to make a decision about the baby just yet, and then Fran’s mom pulls up.

“I have to tell her,” Frannie said.

“Yes. But give it a day or 2, Frannie.”

Sure. Let’s wait 2 whole days to tell your mother and see if she doesn’t get mad that you waited so long to tell her. Be sure to inform your mother that you told your father first and then waited a few days, that’ll totally not piss her right the fuck off.

The chapter ends there, and I think this chapter was actually stronger in the edited edition. Part of this is because Peter Goldsmith did a lot less talking before Frannie broke the news that she was pregnant. In this edition, Peter goes on and on about a lot of stuff before Fran springs the news. That was a good thing to have cut, because it contributed nothing to the overall plot, and only developed the character of a man who dies pretty early on. It was completely and utterly pointless, the novel was stronger without it.

And, in my opinion, it was stronger without the ridiculously strong “abortion is infanticide” comparison.

The Shack Chapter 8

Chapter 8

Breakfast of Champions

These chapter titles have very little to do with the actual content of the chapters.

I would also like to note that we are at the halfway point. Thank God. I have to say, I’m not enjoying this book as much as I thought I would. At least the last book we did (A Mountain to Climb) was readable and had a good sense of pacing. This book just has a lot of filler.

When he reached his room, Mack discovered that his clothes, which he had left back in the car, were either folded on top of the dresser or hung in the open closet.

So, God put Mack’s clothes away, but couldn’t be bothered to put the clothes in the actual drawers?

To his amusement, he also found a Gideon Bible in the nightstand.

That is actually kind of amusing.

He opened the window wide to let the outside night flow freely in, something that Nan never tolerated at home because of her fear of spiders and anything else crawly and creepy.

Has nobody told Nan about window screens?

Mack made it through only a couple of verses before the Bible somehow left his hand, the light somehow turned off, someone kissed him on the cheek, and he was lifting gently off the ground into a flying dream.

At no point has Mack shown that he is ok with touchy-feely. God should not be kissing him right now. Other than that, I like this. I like that Mack falls asleep while he tries to read his Bible, and God just tucks him in. God’s not offended that Mack’s too tired to read. It’s nice characterization.

and he was lifting gently off the ground into a flying dream. Those who have never flown this way might think those who believe they do rather daft,

Um, what? No. No I have literally never thought that, and I don’t know anyone who has. Dreams about flying are a thing, and if you get those, well, honestly the only reaction I’d have is jealousy. Which is actually the end of that sentence:

Those who have never flown this way might think those who believe they do rather daft, but secretly they are probably at least a little envious.

It’s like, for some reason, the author feels the need to defend “flying dreams” to his audience.

He hadn’t had a flying dream in years, not since The Great Sadness had descended, but tonight Mack flew high into the starlit night, the air clear and cool but not uncomfortable. He soared above lakes and rivers, crossing an ocean coast and a number of reef rimmed islets.

As odd as it sounds, Mack had learned inside his dreams to fly lie this: to lift off the ground supported by nothing–no wings, no aircraft of any sort, just himself. beginning flights were usually limited to a few inches, due mostly to fear or, more accurately, a dread of falling. Stretching his flights to a foot or two and eventually higher increased his confidence, as did his discovery that crashing wasn’t painful at all but only a slow motion bounce. In time, he learned to ascend into the clouds, cover vast distances, and land gently.

Is this kind of thing even possible? Well I mean, of course it’s possible, but is it possible without any sort of training? What Mack describes here sounds less like a “flying dream” and more like “lucid dreaming.” Which is ridiculously hard to accomplish.

Either way, this all could have been cut. All that was necessary was to tell us that, “Mack dreamed he was flying.” We don’t need the dream described and we don’t need another paragraph after that about how Mack is a lucid dreamer.

Especially since the dream is about to turn into a nightmare, wherein Missy calls out for Mack to come save her, but he can’t. So that makes 3 paragraphs about this dream and it’s not really all that important. Mack wakes up with his heart racing, and an overwhelming feeling of despair and sadness.

Then he also spends 5 seconds wondering where he is. He’s not in his house, so where is he?

Then he remembered. He was still at the shack with those 3 interesting characters, all of whom thought they were God.

I’m not sure if the author is showing Mack having a normal human reaction, or if he is going for the “atheists know that God is god, they just won’t admit it” approach. Mack isn’t an atheist, but in this moment he is having doubts. Which would be a very normal reaction –if this was happening when he first met them. If, when he first met them, he asked them something that only God would know, to prove to himself that yes, this was really God, I would buy that. But this delayed reaction doesn’t really make sense.

Also, a few chapters ago these God people literally turned winter into spring. Or transported Mack to a parallel universe, or took him back in time. Or something. At the very least, something is going on here. If I am to buy that Mack is having doubts, his doubts would also have to take into account this information. If Mack doesn’t believe these 3 are God, I have to see him forming theories about what else they could possibly be. Mack could believe that these “Gods” are actually aliens. He could believe they’re time traveling humans from the future where technology has advanced. But you can’t just spring “these people who thought they were God” on the reader without Mack wondering how they on earth one pretends to be God while actually doing shit that at least looks like it could have a supernatural explanation.

Because in real life, people aren’t actually that daft.

“This can’t really be happening,” mack grunted…he thought back to the previous day and again entertained the fear that he was going crazy. As he had never been much of a touchy-feely person, Papa–whoever she was–made him nervous, and he had no idea what to make of Sarayu.

Then we get this. Papa is clearly making Mack uncomfortable with her physical affection. She needs to stop hugging/kissing Mack until and unless he shows he consents to it. And no, she’s not doing it because it’s what Mack needs. Some people don’t need physical affection, and it doesn’t mean something’s wrong with them. Some people may want physical affection but not be ready to accept it from you personally. In either case, you should hold off on giving out hugs until the person consents to it. But here God is just walking all over Mack’s boundaries, and Mack’s right to be wary of that.

This, of course, will never be acknowledged in any way by the text.

Mack wonders why he’s having nightmares if God is in the Shack. It’s a good question, and it brings to mind another: did God give him the nightmare, under the guise of bringing his pain to the surface so he could work it out? Because that’s kinda creepy.

Mack showers, shaves, and dresses, and we are told that he took his sweet time about doing it.

He took his time in the warmth of the water [in the shower], took his time shaving, and, back in the bedroom, took his time dressing.

Jesus looked at his watch. “Good God,” he said, turning to God. “How long does this man take in the shower? He’s going to use up all the hot water. Our water bill is going to be through the roof.”

Sarayu looked at the clock on the wall. “He takes longer to dress than a girl. It’s like he’s a princess or something. I mean, he’s in there deciding which tie to put on.”

Just kidding, those last 2 paragraphs didn’t actually happen. The one above them, though, did.

What was going on here? Who were they really and what did they want from him? Whatever it was, he was sure he didn’t have it to give.

Again, if Mack is going to wonder who these 3 really are, I need to hear some theories and I need Mack to go trying to prove or disprove these theories.

Notice, also, that when Mack begins to suspect the Godhead wants something, he doesn’t feel afraid of what they might want. He’s just worried he won’t have what they want, as if it’s just a given that he’ll give it to them without complaint.

Pretty sure that’s not how humans work.

In any case, this morning the Godhead are listening to Bruce Cockburn, who we are told is one of Mack’s favorite singers. It turns out that this is a real singer, and he sings “folk” and “jazz influenced rock,” whatever that means. God tells Mack that she is especially fond of Bruce.

I love that God listens to a wide range of music styles, Especially music that most Christians think God would outright send them to hell over. Whether or not the author succeeds is up for debate, but I do like that he is at least trying to break some stereotypes people have about God.

“So, honey,” Papa said, continuing busily with whatever she was doing, “how were your dreams last night? Dreams are sometimes important, you know. They can be a way of openin’ up the window and lettin’ the bad air out.”

Busily with whatever she was doing? You can’t like, describe what she’s doing? It wouldn’t need to be complicated, just something like: “As she cracked eggs into a pan.”

Set that aside, because what I really highlighted this paragraph for was that last sentence. Yes, sometimes dreams are important. It is true that sometimes dreams can be a way for our unconscious mind to tell our conscious mind something. A way of telling ourselves what we already know.

But I’ve never heard of dreams being a way of “letting the bad out.” Usually nightmares leave people feeling more anxious,  not less. I’m even going to go out on a limb here and assume that having nightmares about your child being brutally murdered is a completely normal and human reaction to your child being brutally murdered.

Mack tells God that he slept just fine, thanks. Then, to change the subject, Mack asks God if Bruce is her favorite. God says she has no favorites, just that she is especially fond of him.

“You seem to be especially fond of a lot of people,” Mack observed with a suspicious look. “Are there any you are not especially fond of?”

I like this. I like that our main character voices at least some of his concerns and questions.

God thinks for a moment, then decides that nope, she can’t come up with any people she’s not especially fond of.

Also, I have noticed that God’s accent seems to be really strong at times, and completely absent at others.

Consistency, it is a thing.

Mack asks God if she ever gets mad at anyone, and God says of course she does. All parents do, don’t they?

Then we come to something I wish would get explained more thoroughly.

“But–What about your wrath? It seems to me that if you’re going to pretend to be God Almighty, you need to be a lot angrier.”

“Do I now?”

“That’s what I think. Weren’t you always running around killing people in the Bible? You just don’t seem to fit the bill.”

Yes, she was. In case anyone has forgotten, God killed a lot of people. I mean, we’re talking mass genocide here. If the author is going to bring this up, the author needs to have his main character explain why a God of love is also a genocidal maniac.

Instead of responding to the mass genocides she’s committed, God chooses to respond, instead, to Mack’s accusation of pretending to be God.

Which, hang on. If you thought that this person was pretending to be God, maybe you should also think about the fact that this person has powers that you don’t understand (turning winter into summer, for example) and that maybe it’s not a good idea to piss off the being with the superpowers?

“I understand how disorienting this must be for you, Mack. But the only one pretending here is you. I am what I am. I’m not trying to fit anyone’s bill….I’m not asking you to believe anything, but I will tell you that you’re going to find this day a lot easier if you simply accept what is, instead of trying to fit it into your preconceived notions.”

Did God seriously just to tell Mack to stop using his critical thinking skills? Yes, she did. And also, “fitting things into preconceived notions” is kind of how humans explore our reality. Yes we have to adjust sometimes when we find reality different from our preconceived notions, but we have these “preconceived notions” for a reason.

In any case, Mack next asks God about hell. Note that he does not ask how God can justify sentencing people to eternal torment, he just asks if God enjoys it. Which indicates that he has never read his Bible.

Ezekiel 33:11

Say unto them: ‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked….

Although to be fair, Ezekiel is talking about death rather than eternal torment. We will not get into an argument, here, about whether the concept of hell is actually Biblical. In this book, within this universe, hell is real, and so we will be working with that assumption until we are told otherwise.

Instead of telling Mack this, God looks Mack dead in the eye and says:

“I’m not who you think I am, Mackenzie. I don’t need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It’s not my purpose to punish it; it’s my joy to cure it.”

THEN WHY DOES HELL EXIST! Seriously, hell isn’t going to cure anybody of anything.

Setting that aside, this still doesn’t make sense. On the surface, it seems to. When I do something wrong, I actually feel horrible inside. I have done stuff that causes me horrible guilt and shame, to the point of being physically painful. So on one hand, I could agree with God: sin is it’s own punishment.

On the other hand, no, I don’t agree with God. Because people exist who feel absolutely no shame or guilt for anything they’ve done, either because they’ve managed to convince themselves that what they did wasn’t so bad, they’ve managed to delude themselves into thinking they didn’t do it, or because they are sociopaths who just don’t care.

Instead of saying all this, Mack just says he doesn’t understand. What is there not to understand, Mack?

Just then, Jesus and Sarayu come to breakfast. I guess I was wrong about them being in the room the entire time. My bad.

Jesus was dressed much as he had the day before, just jeans and a light blue button down shirt that made his dark brown eyes stand out.

Now see, if the author wanted to really break some stereotypes, Jesus would be wearing skinny jeans or leggings with high heels and some serious bling.

Sarayu, on the other hand, was clothed in something so fine and lacy that it fairly flowed at the slightest breeze or spoken word. Rainbow patterns shimmered and reshaped with her every gesture. Mack wondered if she ever completely stopped moving. He rather doubted it.

I rather like this characterization of the Holy Spirit.

God promises to answer Mack’s questions, but says that they should eat now.

“Thank you for breakfast,” he told Papa while Jesus and Sarayu were taking their seats.

“What?” She said in mock horror. “You aren’t even going to bow your head and close your eyes?” She began walking toward the kitchen, grumbling as she went. “Tsk Tsk, what is the world coming to? You’re welcome, honey,” she said as she waved over her shoulder.”

I’m divided. On the one hand, God is clearly playing. On the other hand, earlier you looked at him funny when he tried to bow his head and close his eyes when you thanked him for the food. It sounds like poor Mack is getting mixed messages.

Mack tells God he loves the greens, and she warns him not to eat too much. Apparently eating too many greens can give you diarrhea. A quick google search confirms this to be accurate.

Mack then tells Jesus that he loves to watch the members of the godhead interact, because it’s very different from how he expected. He was expecting Papa to be the boss, and Jesus being obedient. Which isn’t totally off base, I mean, doesn’t the Bible say something about Jesus being obedient to his father?

“I have always thought of God the Father as sort of being the boss and Jesus as the one following orders, you know, being obedient. I’m not sure how Holy Spirit fits in exactly….sort of a free spirit, but still under the direction of the father. Does that make sense?”

Yes, yes it does. It may not be an accurate description, but it does make sense.

Jesus looked over at Papa. “Does that make sense to you, Abba? Frankly, I haven’t a clue what this man is on about.”

Sigh.

“Nope,” [said Papa], “I have been trying to make head or tail out of it, but sorry, he’s got me lost.”

Understandably, Mack gets frustrated. He asks if someone is in charge, if there’s a chain of command. After some more laughing about there being no chains involved, Sarayu tells Mack that there is no authority in the godhead, only unity.

We are in a circle of relationship, not a chain of command….what you’re seeing here is relationship without any overlay of power. We don’t need power over the other because we are always looking out for the best. Hierarchy would make no sense among us. Actually, this is your problem, not ours.”

Before we get too far into this, I want to interject and say that I like this. Far too often, fundy Christians will insist that someone has to be in charge of a relationship. Just like Jesus submits to the authority of his heavenly father, so women are to submit themselves to the authority of their husbands.

I like that the author doesn’t subscribe to this idea and I like even more that the God of this book doesn’t, either. It definitely breaks some expectations for sure.

It’s the rest of the conversation I’m not sure what to think of.

God tells Mack that, because of our sinful condition, it boggles our tiny little minds that there could ever be harmony without authority.

“But every human institution that I can think of, from political to business, even down to marriage, is governed by this kind of thinking. It is the web of our social fabric,” Mack asserted.

Yes, and that’s a problem. Fortunately, the idea of there needing to be an authority figure in a marriage is going the way of the dodo bird, but not completely.

Apart from marriage, however, I don’t see a problem with there being an authority figure. Maybe it’s my sinful human nature, but I think that a country without a leader would just descend into chaos. Please, spare me the comments about how our current leader is actually causing more chaos. That is completely and entirely beside the point.

Jesus tells Mack that this is one of the reasons it’s hard for humans to have true relationships.

“Once you have a hierarchy, you need rules to protect and administer it, and then you need law and enforcement of the rules, and you end up with some kind of…system of order that destroys relationship rather than promotes it. You rarely see or experience relationship apart from power. Hierarchy imposes laws and rules and you end up missing the wonder of relationship that we intended for you.”

If this was just talking about the context of friendships and marriage, I would agree. However, Jesus is including business relationships and government in this. Also, consider who this is coming from. Do you know how many rules are in the Bible? Doesn’t God demand perfect obedience from his children? Who is God to be talking about how authority figures ruin relationships when he presents himself as the ultimate authority?

Mack asks for more greens. Papa seems reluctant to give them to him, but doesn’t say anything.

Sarayu continued. “When you chose independence over relationship, you became a danger to one another. Others became objects to be manipulated or managed for your own happiness.”

when did Mack choose independence over relationship? Is this referring to the human race in general? Adam and Eve?

In any case, I still don’t see how it’s a choice between independence and a relationship? Why can’t I be independent and have a relationship? How is someone who chooses not to be in a relationship a danger to others? I’m currently single, and I don’t see other people as objects to be manipulated.

Sarayu then says that authority is an excuse to make other, weaker people conform to what the stronger people want.

Make points out that, without authority, there would be mass chaos and planetwide panic.

Sarayu says that authority can be used to inflict great harm.

Which, yes, it can. But that is only a valid argument where there is no authority needed in the first place, like in a marriage. In a business relationship, someone has to be in charge, or nothing would ever get done. Someone has to tell us all to stop playing candy crush on our cell phones and do some actual work.

If my boss does try to abuse his current position, there are channels I can go through to resolve the issue.

“But don’t you use [authority] to restrain evil?”

Ideally, that is generally what authority is supposed to do. Sarayu gives this long winded answer that doesn’t really explain anything.

“In your world the value of the individual is constantly weighed against the survival of the system, whether political, economic, social, or religious–any system, actually. First one person, and then a few, and finally even many are easily sacrificed for the good and ongoing existence of that system. In one form or another this lies behind every struggle for power, every prejudice, every war, and every abuse of relationship. The “will to power and independence” has become so ubiquitous that it is now considered normal.”

I’m honestly not sure what to think about this. Yes, the main goal in any society is balancing out the needs and freedoms of the individual against the needs and freedoms of society as a whole.

And some systems are worse than others.

It is the matrix, a diabolical scheme in which you are hopelessly trapped even while completely unaware of its existence.

Is…..this author/god seriously advocating for there not being any authority or system of government at all? And this coming out of the mouth of a character who is more or less a dictator. Because “obey me or go to hell” isn’t all that much different from “obey me or die.” In fact, one could argue that it’s much worse.

Sarayu says that the reason Mack and I don’t feel like this makes any sense whatsoever is because we are damaged by sin.

We need to move on, so I’ll let this go. For now.

God tells Mack that he was created in order to be loved by God, and that everything that has happened so far has happened for this purpose.

“How can you say that with all the pain in this world, all the wars and disasters that destroy thousands?…and what is the value in a little girl being murdered by some twisted deviant? You may not cause those things, but you certainly don’t stop them.”

No, no Mack’s got a point. Even when I still believed in God, I hated him, and this was one of the reasons. I mean, reading the Bible, God just sounds like a real asshole.

God replies thusly:

“There are millions of reasons to allow pain and hurt and suffering rather than to eradicate them, but most of those reasons can only be understood within each person’s story. I am not evil.”

Ok, so elucidate on the reasons that wouldn’t be an invasion of someone else’s privacy.

There’s some stuff about free will, and God says that their ultimate purpose will be accomplished “without the violation of one human will.”

What about Missy’s will not to be murdered? I mean, it seems like God only picks certain people who’s freewill he cares about, and screw the rest of us.

“But the cost!” [Mack said], “Look at the cost, all the pain, all the suffering, everything that is so terrible and evil…and look what it has cost you. Is  it worth it?”

“Yes!” came the unanimous, joyful response.

If this was just in response to “look what this has cost you,” that would be one thing. But this is in response to “look what it has cost you and everyone else.” To have the godhead happily respond that, yes, it has been worth the lives of trillions of people throughout the ages, is to make the godhead seem horrifying.

I’m sorry, but I don’t think much of God’s concept of freewill. If someone decides to murder me, you better darn bet I want to violate their free will.

Understandably, Mack is more than a little horrified. He asks God if the billions of lives lost matter to her, and says that the end doesn’t always justify the means.

It’s a pity Mack doesn’t manage to hold on to this logical line of thinking.

God tells Mack that his views of reality are limited, and that he doesn’t think she is good. Well uh, no shit….

If you knew I was good and that everything…is all covered by my goodness, then while you might not always understand what I am doing, you would trust me, but you don’t.”

Instead of responding the way I expect Mack to–by saying that of course he doesn’t trust God because she hasn’t earned it–Mack just sounds baffled at the idea that he, gasp, might not trust God.

Then Sarayu says that Mack can’t produce trust in God on his own. It has to develop naturally as their relationship progresses.

Why would he want to have a relationship with the being who allowed his daughter to get killed, even though said being could have prevented it?

Instead of defending herself, God just says, “I’m not a bully.”

Because I totally believe everyone who’s ever said that to me.

Sarayu asks Mack to meet her in the garden after breakfast, and before Mack excuses himself, he tells God that he can’t think of anything that would justify the brutal murder of his own daughter.

“We are not justifying it. We are redeeming it.”

I don’t even know what that means, but it doesn’t sound any less horrifying. When even *I* have better morality than your omnibenevolent being, you need to rethink your theologies.

 

 

The Stand-Dark Tower Interlude

SPOILERS FOR THE DARK TOWER SERIES

I learned that, in one of Stephen King’s books in The Dark Tower series, the main characters visit the world of The Stand. The protagonists–Roland, Eddie, Susannah and Jake–have just taken a train that took them out of their world and into the world of The Stand. (I can’t remember if it is outright stated, or simply implied, that this is a parallel universe) They are surprised to find themselves in our world, and even more surprised at the lack of people.

I wish this newspaper article had been included in The Stand, but I can understand why it was not. It was not needed there because we knew what was happening. The newspaper article is absolutely needed here in order to set the context. Personally, I read The Dark Tower series before I read The Stand, so all of this totally went over my head at the time. In fact, I was kind of skimming over this part because it did not seem important at all. I did not understand why it was included. Now I know.

When Jake and Roland see some corpses in the train station, Jake finds a news stand and reads a newspaper article. I am going to post it here.

The date on the article, mentioned at the end, is June 24, 1986.

So, the Newspaper article is presumably from the original edited edition. I’m not honestly sure if this book came out before the revised unedited edition of The Stand, or if King just wanted to stick with the original date because plot reasons. It’s not really relevant to our discussion here, so we will set the matter aside.

The following is quoted from The Dark Tower Book 4: Wizard and Glass. Chapter 4:

“Captain Trips”

Superflu Rages Unchecked

Govt Leaders May Have Fled Country Topeka Hospitals Jammed with sick, Dying

Millions Pray for a Cure

 

There’s a picture on the cover showing

A lakeside city with its skyline in flames. CLEVELAND FIRES BURN UNCHECKED the caption read.

Didn’t Trashcan Man set fires in Cleveland? I’m too lazy to look this up, but I’m pretty sure this is the case.

America’s greatest crisis–and the world’s, perhaps–deepened overnight as the so-called superflu, known as Tube-Neck in the Midwest and Captain Trips in California continues to spread.

Although the death toll can only be estimated, medical experts say the total at this point is horrible beyond comprehension: twenty to thirty million dead in the continental US alone is the estimate given by Dr. Morris Hackford of Topeka’s St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center. Bodies are being burned from Los Angeles, California, to Boston, Massachusetts, in crematoria, factory furnaces, and at landfill sites.

Here in Topeka, the bereaved who are still well enough and strong enough to do so are urged to take their dead to one of 3 sites: the disposal plant north of Oakland Billard Park; the pit area at Heartland Park Race Track, the landfill on Southeast 61st street, east of Forbes Field. Landfill users should approach by Berryton Road; California has been blocked by car wrecks and at least one downed Air Force transport plane, sources tell us.

Dr. April Montoya of the Stormont Vail Regional Medical Center points out that the death-toll, horrifying as it is, constitutes only part of this terrible story. “For every person who has died so far as a result of this new flu strain,” Montoys said, “There are another 6 who are lying ill in their homes, perhaps as many as a dozen. And, so far as we have been able to determine, the recovery rate is zero.”

Coughing, she then told this reporter: “Speaking personally, I’m not making any plans for the weekend.”

In other local developments:

All commercial flights out of Forbes and Phillip Billard have been cancelled. All Amtrak rail travel has been suspended, not just in Topeka but across all of Kansas. The Gage Boulevard Amtrak station has been closed until further notice.

All Topeka schools have also been closed until further notice. This includes Districts 437, 345, 450, (Shawnee Heights), 372, and 501 (Metro Topeka.) Topeka Lutheran and Topeka Technical College are also closed, as is KU at Lawrence.

Topekans must expect brownouts and perhaps blackouts in the days and weeks ahead. Kansas Power and Light has announced a “slow shutdown” of the Kaw River Nuclear Plant in Wamego. Although no one in KawNuke’s Office of Public Relations answered this newspaper’s calls, a recorded announcement cautions that there is no plant emergency, that this is a safety measure only. KawNuke will return to on-line status, the announcement concludes, “when the current crisis is past.” Any comfort afforded by this statement is in large part negated by the recorded statement’s final words, which are not “goodbye,” or even, “Thank you for calling,” but “God will help us through our time of trial.”

There were more pictures: a burned out panel truck overturned on the steps of the Kansas Museum of Natural History; traffic on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge  stalled bumper to bumper; piles of corpses in Times Square. One body has been hung on a lamp post.

In National Developments, conviction continues to grow that, after denying the superflu’s existence during its early days when quarantine measures might still have had some effect,

I wonder how true that is.  By the time they caught up with Campion, it already seemed too late. But yes, they should have at least told people it was contagious. They might have had some hope of saving at least a good portion of the human race if they had.

national leaders have fled to underground retreats which were created as brain trust shelters in case of nuclear war. Vice-president Bush and key members of the Reagan cabinet have not been seen during the last 48 hours. Reagan himself has not been seen since Sunday morning, when he attended prayer services at Green Valley Methodist Church in San Simeon.

“They have gone to the bunkers like Hitler and the rest of the Nazi sewer rats at the end of World War 2,” said Rep Steve Sloan.

Well, no shit. I mean, yeah it’s cowardly (and I have no love for Reagan or Bush (Senior? Dubya?) but I kinda can’t blame them for doing what they have to to survive.

When asked if he had any objection to being quoted by name, Kansas’ first term representative, a Republican, laughed and said, “Why should I? I’ve got a real fine case myself. I’ll be so much dust in the wind come this time next week.”

Fires, mostly likely set, continue to ravage Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Terre Haute.

Hello there, Trashcan man.

A gigantic explosion centered near Cincinnati’s river front stadium was apparently not nuclear in nature, as was first feared, but occurred as the result of a natural gas buildup caused by unsupervised…

And with that, Jake decides to drop the newspaper and stop reading. It blows away in the wind.

 

 

 

The Shack Chapter 7: God On the Dock

God On The Dock

The chapter opens with Mack in the bathroom. Don’t get excited, he’s just staring at his reflection.

He was searching for some sign of insanity in those eyes staring back at him. Was this real? Of course not, it was impossible. But then…He reached out his hand and slowly touched the mirror. Maybe this was a hallucination being brought on by all his grief and despair. Maybe it was a dream, and he was asleep somewhere, maybe in the shack freezing to death?

I like this. This is good. This is a normal human reaction, and that last bit is a good question. What if he is actually in the shack slowly freezing to death? That seems like something you’d really want to check up on. But I guess he was contemplating suicide a little earlier, so maybe he doesn’t care too much.

In any case, Jesus drops some kind of dish–we don’t know what, we are just told that it made a “gooey mess” on the floor. Instead of the Godhead getting mad, everyone just laughs, and they all find it hilarious. Mack marvels at how different this scene is from the way things happen at home. I guess he gets mad at his kids for dropping dinner?

The author is not big on food descriptions. Not only is the stuff Jesus dropped described as a “gooey mess,” the meal itself is described as being “roast bird of some kind.” Would it really have been hard to come up with something more specific?

The only awkward part was at the very beginning when Mack, out of habit, bowed his head before he remembered where he was. He looked up to find all 3 of them grinning at him. So, as nonchalantly as he could, he said, “Um, thank you all….Could I have a bit of that rice there?”

I like this. I like this a lot, actually. It’s a very realistic detail and ok, it is kinda funny.

So dinner starts and there’s conversation…or at least, Mack is talking. There’s no indication the Godhead is talking back, except for Sarayu, who seems very interested in Nan for some reason.

Finally, Mack blurted out something that had been bothering him throughout the discussion.

“Now here I am telling you about my kids and my friends and about Nan, but you already know everything I am telling you, don’t you? You’re acting like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.

I like this, too. For all I’ve criticized Mack for being a murderous sociopath, (he murdered his father and he doesn’t seem to have very many human reactions to anything) I like that our main character is irreverent enough to just blurt this out in casual conversation. Though he’s a bit slow to do so, frankly, I would have said that first before telling the Godhead jack shit. The movie will probably smooth this over, I’m guessing, partly because movies have to edit a lot of stuff out of books for the sake of time.*

And I actually like the Godhead’s response. It’s something Christian!Abby had kinda worked out on her own.** Sarayu is speaking:

“We have limited ourselves out of respect for you. We are not bringing to mind, as it were, our knowledge of your children. As we are listening to you, it is as if this is the first time we have known about them, and we take great delight in seeing them through your eyes.”

Mack says that he likes this explanation, and I have to give the author credit, this isn’t bad. Of course I cut out all the parts where the characters explained it rather poorly, this is just the end of a 3 paragraph explanation, but hey, at least the author is trying.

After the meal, God decides that they are all having devotions.

Mack had to suppress a snicker at the thought of God having devotions. Images of family devotions from his childhood came spilling into his mind…often, it was a tedious and boring exercise in coming up with the right answers, or, rather, the same old answers to the same old Bible story questions, and then trying to stay awake during his father’s excruciatingly long prayers…..he half expected Jesus to pull out a huge old King James Bible.

Because the original word of God was written in 1611 King James English.

That aside, this is spot on. This is what family worship was like, especially since my family had children who were so far apart from each other in age. We had a 3 year old and a 16 year old in the same family, and my parents usually bounced back and forth as to what age group they catered to. I sat through some seriously boring devotional stories that were really not appropriate for my age level.

Oh, and I skipped over this earlier, but it’s been stated that if Mack has a conversation with member of the Godhead, the other 2 members all know about it, because they are the same person.

Instead, Jesus reached across the table and took Papa’s hands in his…”Papa, I loved watching you today as you made yourself fully available to take Mack’s pain into yourself and then gave him space to choose his own timing. You honored him, and you honored me. To listen to you whisper love and calm into his heart was truly incredible. What a joy to watch! I love being your Son.”

So, for God, devotions are basically just….ego stroking?

Actually, that kinda fits.

Mack feels like he’s intruding, but at the same time he enjoys this. He feels that this is not only love, but holiness. For God, ego stroking is holiness? That seems like exactly the opposite of what religion teaches.

So, is God going to now stroke Jesus’ ego? What about the Holy Spirit’s? Nope, now Jesus and Sarayu are going to do the dishes. I guess devotions just consists of Jesus ego stroking Papa?

After doing the dishes, Jesus invites Mack to go stargazing.

“Incredible!” Whispered Jesus, his head near Mack’s in the darkness. “I never get tired of this.”

“Even though you created it?” Mack asked.

“I created it as the Word, before the Word became flesh. So even though I created this, I see it now as a human. And I must say, it is impressive.”

This here is a reference to the gospel of John chapter 1, wherein John goes on for a good few verses about the Word, who he then reveals is Jesus Christ.

And I actually don’t mind this. I like the idea that Jesus saw things differently when he was God than he does now. That’s actually a decent bit of characterization. It also kinda gives you a sense of what Jesus lost when he became human as well.

There’s more talk about the stars, and I’m kind of surprised Mack doesn’t ask about the distant starlight problem. Every creationist would be shitting themselves over the opportunity to ask the creator himself about this, but Mack just lets it slide. The author didn’t want to tackle it, I guess. Can’t say I’d blame him. We’ll just move on.

Eventually, Mack tells Jesus that he feels more comfortable around him than Papa or Sarayu.

“You seem different than the other 2…more real, or tangible. I Don’t know….it’s like I’ve always known you. But Papa isn’t at all what I expected from God, and Sarayu, she’s way out there.”

This is probably meant to be commentary on how we usually feel closer to Jesus than we do to God or the Holy Spirit. It is speculated why this is so, and I have a few ideas myself. But it is a thing that mainstream Christianity recognizes, and a frequent topic in Sabbath School classes is how to love God the father and God the Holy Spirit as well as Jesus.***

Nobody that I know ever prays to the Holy Spirit. When was the last time you heard someone start a prayer with, “Dear Holy Spirit?” Try it sometime and tell me what happens.

Jesus points out to Mack that, since he’s human, of course it’s easier for humans to relate to him. Mack is still confused, for reasons I don’t understand.

Jesus elucidates. Sort of.

“I am the best way any human can relate to Papa or Sarayu. To see me is to see them. The love you sense from me is no different from how they love you. And believe me, Papa and Sarayu are just as real as I am, though, as you’ve seen, in far different ways.”

Mack asks if Sarayu is the Holy Spirit. To his credit, Jesus doesn’t say, “no shit Sherlock.”

Seriously, in the prologue Willie went on and on about how smart Mack was. Yet it takes Mack all fucking day to realize that maybe this 3rd being who is also part of the Godhead, who kinda flickers in and out of visual existence, is the Holy Spirit?”

Willie is absolutely the unreliable narrator.

Jesus then tells Mack what I told you guys a few posts ago: that the word “Sarayu,” means “wind.” Apparently the Holy Spirit loves that name! Because she’s like wind, get it? No? Sigh. Ok.

So, I can’t remember if this is a Biblical thing of an Ellen White thing, but there’s this idea that the Holy Spirit is like wind. You can’t see where the wind is coming from, or where it’s going, but you know that it is there, you can feel it. Just like the Holy Spirit!****

Mack then asks about the name Papa mentioned, Elousia. I had wondered about that myself. When I googled it, I only got results for this book. Here’s Jesus’ explanation:

“Elousia….that is a wonderful name. El is my name as Creator God, but ousia is  “being” or “that which is truly real. So the name means “the Creator God who is truly real and the ground of all being. Now that is also a beautiful name!”

As opposed to all those other gods out there, who are fake.

All that aside, I actually don’t mind this.

They sit in silence for a while, and then Mack tentatively brings up the topic of Jesus’ looks. Apparently, Jesus isn’t very handsome.

I don’t mind that our protagonist was bold enough to ask. In fact, I rather like it. What I do take issue with, and this is probably nitpicky, is the idea that Jesus isn’t handsome. Beauty, you see, is in the eye of the beholder. Our concept of beauty is influenced by our culture, but even within that, it’s individualistic. I can look at the someone and think they’re butt ugly, but another person can look at the same person I just declared “butt ugly” and think he’s the most handsomest guy on the face of the planet.

Beauty is incredibly subjective.

“Somehow I thought you’d be the ideal man, you know, athletic and overwhelmingly good looking.” [Said Mack.]

“It’s my nose, isn’t it?”

What?

Jesus laughed. “I a Jewish, you know. My grandfather on my mother’s side had a big nose, In fact, most of the men on my mom’s side had big noses.”

Notice, here, that the author is careful to say that this is on Jesus’ mom’s side. He avoids talking about Joseph’s relatives because Jesus shares no DNA with them.

Setting that aside….. I’m not Jewish, so I want to tread carefully here….but I feel like this is a stereotype. Are we seriously going to for “most Jews have big noses” trope? Really?

“I just thought you’d be better looking,” [said Mack.]

“By who’s standards?”

Sassy Jesus! I like it!

“Anyway, once you really get to know me, it won’t matter to you.”

I do tend to find that people I consider “ugly” tend to look beautiful after I get to know them and see that they are truly wonderful people. I’m not sure if that’s what Jesus is talking about here, but it is a thing.

In any case, Mack realizes that he doesn’t know Jesus that well at all. Jesus goes on for a bit about beauty not mattering, but it’s nothing I haven’t already said.

Mack tells Jesus that getting to know him would be a lot easier if they could always talk like this. With Jesus physically present, I mean. And I agree, it would be far easier to talk to Jesus if he wasn’t silent and invisible all the time.

“Admittedly, Mack, this is special. You were really stuck and we wanted to help you crawl out of your pain.”

Yes, I have been wondering: Why did you pick Mack, of all people? Lots of people are “stuck,” why not help one of them? Screw the rest of those people, I guess?

And then Jesus gives the pat christian answer of “just because we can’t always talk physically like this doesn’t mean we can’t have a relationship.”

Because talking with a silent invisible person is just the same as actually being able to have a conversation with someone.

They talk for a bit about boring stuff, then Jesus says they should silently look at the stars. When Mack says he has a lot of questions, Jesus tells him that they have the rest of Mack’s lifetime to get through them.

So, what, about 40-60 years, then? That’s not really very long, especially since Jesus is going to be silent and invisible for a good portion of that.

Mack eventually feels The Great Sadness begin to descend upon him.

“Jesus?” He whispered as his voice choked. “I feel so lost.”

Number of human reactions the main character has had: 4.

Jesus basically tells Mack, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not true.”

Which, sure. I personally think “I’m sorry you feel that way” is very dismissive, but it’s meant to come across as comforting, so we’ll take it.

Then Jesus tells Mack he should go to bed.

Mack was suddenly exhausted.

I don’t think the author meant for this to mean anything. But when you have a character who is all-powerful, and you say something like, “as soon as all powerful character told Mack he should sleep, Mack felt exhausted,” I’m going to wonder if your all powerful character is the one putting our main character to sleep. This book is certainly putting me to sleep, so I guess that’s fair.

 

 

 

 

*Yes, I will eventually be seeing the movie, but not till it’s out of theaters, because there is no way to take notes in there.

**Christian!Abby thought a lot about this because, before this book came out, she kept trying to write a story wherein her protagonist met God, but every single time she tried, she ended up with characters who were either codependent or downright abusive, so she gave up. She is jealous that someone did it and got famous before she did.

***I even had trouble loving Jesus like I was supposed to.

****When I was a really little kid, I thought trees created the wind as they moved back and forth. 4 year old me didn’t understand the point of this particular Sabbath school lesson, because to her it was obvious that the wind came from trees. Duh.