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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

THE LOST SYMBOL READERS GUIDE, PART FIVE

Chapter 81

Reader, if you have followed along through parts one, two, three, and four, you will know that I have been a strong supporter of Mal’akh from the beginning. Mal’akh is the hardest working bad guy in literature, and he has an evil lair that rivals any James Bond villian’s. In Chapter 81, we get to see more of his crazy house. We learn that while his basement has all of the traditional storage capabilities, it’s also super weird. He’s got rooms and rooms down there full of strange, with blue lighting in the ceiling. Every one of these rooms has a specific, evil purpose.

The room he goes into now has everything in twelves. Twelve are the signs of the zodiac, he italics-thinks. Twelve are the hours of the day.* Twelve are the gates of heaven. This reminds me quite a lot of the Schoolhouse Rock song “Little Twelvetoes.” I was a huge fan of Schoolhouse Rock when I was a tiny mj, but “Little Twelvetoes” was a song I never really got. Watch this and judge for yourself.



Can you see how my little five year-old mind was slightly blown by the concept of “deck and el,” two entirely imaginary single digits between nine and twelve which take the place of ten and eleven? And then twelve is mysteriously renamed “doe.” Schoolhouse Rock got it right so often that I don’t want to belabor my criticism, but still, as a fully-grown mj, I sometimes think about this “deck, el, doe” problem and it stops me cold. I mean, that hillbilly kid seems to get it, so I don’t know why I can’t. And why does Little Twelvetoes’s head come off? I am asking too many questions. I have only analyzed two pages of The Lost Symbol so far. I cannot get off track like this.

Anyway, the room is full of twelves. And also sevens, but I’m not even going to get into that. And Mal’akh is running around in the bluish-purple light, “wearing only a silken loincloth around his buttocks and neutered sex organ.” Mal’akh is a villain who is not afraid to show his butt. A lot. Running up stairs, in the shower, under the heady lights . . . there is so much Mal’akh butt in this book. He’s also got a magic knife from eBay, and all kinds of other evil things.

Chapters 82-88

HSRL takes his bag o' pyramids to the Washington National Cathedral, where they meet the blind Reverend Colin Galloway who feels the pyramid and says, “I totally know what this says, but I’m not telling you.” He then proceeds to play “I know symbols too” games with HSRL for what appears to be about a half an hour, which annoys HSRL to no end. There is nothing worse than a symbol-off. Then he pushes a button, which makes the box open up.** Then there’s more translating of Latin phrases and realizing the previous interpretation was wrong, and more quotes, and more mysteries and numbers. I don’t want to imply that this is making me weary—I merely want to convey the DENSITY of the mysterious words/phrases/numbers/shapes/codes. You only need to weigh this book to know just how much ancient mystery you are getting. Anyone who says this isn’t the heaviest book of the year just doesn’t know his math.

Chapter 89

Continuing their tour of Washington landmarks, HSRL and Katherine go to the Cathedral College. Why? To use the kitchen, of course! They are going to boil the pyramid! Mmmmmm. Boiled pyramid.

Chapter 90-93

It turns out that all you really need to do to get to the bottom of some ancient mysteries is boil a pyramid. Well, not all, because there’s like, ANOTHER cryptic message revealed, bringing the count to about 16. Then the CIA catches them. It turns out Bellamy was working for Mal’akh! But he regrets it. Evil, gremlin-like Director Sato wants to know what they have been doing. They have been boiling a pyramid.

Sensing that the story is lagging, Mal’akh calls and says that he says to get over to his house fast or he’ll kill Peter! Everyone runs for their cars, except for HSRL, because of the loafer thing.

Chapter 94-99

Cautious loafer-runner HSRL doesn’t like how fast the CIA agent is driving. They arrive at Chez Mal’akh only to find pretty much one of every kind of car parked in front of the house with the lights on. HSRL names all of the cars, while Katherine decides that her time might be better spent running into the house. Except you know what? She totally trips and starts flying. Then Mal’akh kills the CIA guy with a screwdriver to the neck, tases the crap out of HSRL, and trusses Katherine up. He’s very efficient.

While recovering from the tasing, HSRL breaks down the origins of the word “sincere” in tedious detail. When he stirs, Mal’akh sits his naked self down on HSRL’s chest and bangs his head against the floor until he is knocked out again. Reader, can you blame him?

When HSRL wakes up, he is totally naked. Where are his loafers?

Also, he’s in a box!

Chapters 100-102

Meanwhile, Katherine is tied up to a chair. Mal’akh takes a moment to explain his evil plan to her. What’s the plan? He’s going to fill the box HSRL is in with liquid. It’s . . . diabolical!

Sure enough, the liquid starts flowing into the box. Mal’akh holds the pyramid up to a small window in the top (which I kind of picture being like the window on a magic eight ball) and tells him that he must solve what’s written there or DIE!

What’s written there is every single wingding and zapf dingbat in existence. (If you are a font person, the only thing that would make you crazier is a book of cat poetry written in Comic Sans, so be careful when reading these chapters.)

HSRL, panicking as the liquid rises, has no idea what all the wingdings mean until the very last moment! He tells Mal’akh what he wants to know, but Mal’akh just laughs and tells him to enjoy the afterlife.

Chapter 103

Did Robert Langdon just drown? It really seems like Robert Langdon just drowned.

Chapter 104

From outside the tank, Katherine Solomon watches HSRL sink to the bottom of the tank. Reader, why am I smiling?

Chapter 105

The CIA are still noodling around doing something with people.

Chapter 106

Having gotten his answer, Mal’akh does another excited naked run around the house, then goes off to his room to do the magic sudokus that will solve this puzzle once and for all!

Chapter 107

We get a flashback of Katherine in the pod. Guess what she was doing in there? She was weighing the human soul!

That won’t help her now, though, because Mal’akh comes back down and hooks her up to yet another one of his evil devices, a timing mechanism that slowly drains her blood into some kind of evil hourglass. Mal’akh has put a lot of work into his evil basement, and it is totally paying off. He also has Peter Solomon in a wheelchair. He’s shaved Peter Solomon’s whole body and dressed him in what sounds like a snuggie. I never said he wasn't freaky.

Chapter 108

Remember how I said DB was writing poetry? Well, if you doubted me, I now present Chapter 108 in its entirety.

Robert Langdon’s mind hovered in an endless abyss.
No light. No sound. No feeling.
Only an infinite and silent void.
Softness.
Weightlessness.
His body had released him. He was untethered.
The physical world had ceased to exist. Time had ceased to exist.
He was pure consciousness now . . . a fleshless sentience suspended in the emptiness of a vast universe.


Do you see what I see? I think you do. It’s an echo of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. Take section 22, for example:

You sea! I resign myself to you also - I guess what you mean, 

I behold from the beach your crooked fingers, 

I believe you refuse to go back without feeling of me, 

We must have a turn together, I undress, hurry me out of sight of 
the land, 

Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse,

Dash me with amorous wet, I can repay you.


That right there is a thesis topic if I ever saw one. You’re welcome!

Coming next: the final part of the reader’s guide!

END PART FIVE
PAGES COVERED: 301-399
PAGES LEFT TO GO: 109
CHAPTERS LEFT TO GO: 24






* Wait. That one is wrong!
** Okay, there’s a box too. There’s a pyramid, a tube, and a box, and possibly another pyramid. I can’t keep track. HSRL is carrying around a whole bag of shapes.

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19 Comments:

Blogger Merc said...

I will be deeply, deeply sad if Mal’akh doesn't win in the end.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

Thank you so much for saving me from reading this book myself. I feel I can adequately participate in discussions about it at my book club.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I actually slogged thru the book, and your version is SOOOO much better! Reading your version makes reading the DB version worth it, if only because I get all the jokes.

8:57 AM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

"When he stirs, Mal’akh sits his naked self down on HSRL’s chest and bangs his head against the floor until he is knocked out again. Reader, can you blame him?",

This is possibly the best sentance evar!
Also: Memo to self. Do not read MJ's Lost Symbol Guide while eating breakfast, as porrige is very hard to get off a keyboard.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Ms. E said...

I am sincerely disappointed that this book is not OVER YET!!!

7:08 PM  
Blogger RJS said...

Sincere? Really? I can't tell if you're kidding!

Re Ch 104 - I certainly would be.

This is the funniest thing since the Lord of the Rings "Secret Diaries." It may, in fact, be even funnier, I am undecided. In any case, thank you for turning this book into something worth reading.

11:26 PM  
Blogger Dee said...

Doesn't HSRL swim like, every single day? Shouldn't he know some tricks in order to survive longer while underwater? If he's not that good a swimmer, he should not boast about it in every book. Just Saying.

5:34 AM  
Blogger Brittany Ann said...

We should all be more like Mal'akh. Comfortable and confident in our own naked...neutered...tattooed skins.

Yup.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

You are SO RIGHT about Little Twelvetoes.

7:11 AM  
Blogger notemily said...

The sevens are probably hanging around because they want cake.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Ms. E said...

No, RJS, not kidding. Although I LOVE MJ's version, I just want the book to be over. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Maureen for saving me from purchasing and actually reading this book.

6:22 PM  
Blogger liznwyrk said...

Aren't deck, el and doe just there to show that the symbols we assign to the values are arbitrary?

7:09 PM  
Blogger a. said...

Okay, this Little Twelvetoes thing is really getting to me. I've been using a lot of number/math stuff in my art lately, & thought this could be something relevant... if I could wrap my head around it.
I went to sleep thinking about it, I woke up thinking about it.
It just. Doesn't. Compute.
This morning I googled dek el doh, and got the duodecimal system, not to be confused with the much more pleasant dewey decimal system.
Still a load of nonsense. So I'm wondering, did watching Little Twelvetoes help ANY children make sense of the base-12 system?

My super-secret word verification word is "siths."

7:26 PM  
Blogger Amethyst Princess said...

I guess I am going to have to go find myself a copy of the book...

6:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm deeply concerned for HSRL's loafers. If HSRL drowns, what will happen to the loafers?!

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Nora said...

I can't wait for the next installment!

8:42 PM  
Blogger S B Frank said...

You all crack me up! Very fun blog Maureen!

5:40 PM  
Blogger Pr. Lehmann said...

Never in the history of blogging has there been a more brilliant series of posts.

I am eternally in your debt. Reading this after finishing the book has been highly cathartic.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Sue said...

Is it wrong that I find myself rushing to finish a chapter so I can go see what mj said about it after? Pretty please with a capstone of sugar on top post the last installment soon!

9:07 PM  

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