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Tuesday, September 22, 2009


In today’s reading of The Lost Symbol, I’ve realized that I have to go a lot faster, or we are NEVER going to get through this. So here are the next 75 pages, taking us up to page 100, all read and commented on in real time. You can read part one of my guide here.

Chapter six

I have some issues with chapter six.

It starts off well enough. At the top of chapter six, HSRL’s car pulls up to the curb. HSRL’s main concern at this point is that he must run 400 yards, in the rain, in loafers. Never before or since has an action hero ever been so distraught about his casual footwear! My loafers! he despairs. My loafers!

Still, our beloafered hero manages to run the whole 400 yards to the Capitol Vistor’s Center. We are reminded that HSRL does not like enclosed spaces because he was once trapped down in a well. We are also reminded that HSRL always wears a Mickey Mouse watch given to him by his parents, because, as he helpfully tells the guy at security, “I wear it to remind me to slow down and take life less seriously.”

All to the good, right?

But then . . . he has a flashback, one that lasts pretty much the entire chapter. And this is where I start to get agitated. As RL looks around, he remembers a generalized classroom experience he had at Harvard. It forces me to come to one of two conclusions:

1. Harvard is not nearly as hard as people make it out to be. In which case, I totally could have gone there. Where did I go? The University of Delaware, home of the Fighting Blue Hens. I mean, it was fine, but it doesn’t have the same ring as Harvard.

2. There are two Harvards. One is for the people you typically think go to Harvard, like Bill Gates and my friend Robin Wasserman, and the other is Stupid Harvard. Stupid Harvard PAYS for real Harvard. This, I suspect, is what puts the H in HSRL’s name. The students in RL’s classes, as he remembers them, are the kind of people who have to use the plastic scissors. They annoy him by drawing all over their maps. They don’t know the meaning of any useful words. Witness this scene, as RL meets his new class and shows them a slide:

“How many of you recognize the building in this picture?”

“U.S. Capitol!” dozens of voices called out in unison. “Washington, D.C.!”

“Yes. There are nine million pounds of ironwork in that dome. An unparalleled feat of architectural ingenuity for the 1850s.”

“Awesome!” someone shouted.

Langdon rolled his eyes, wishing someone would ban that word.

He hates these idiots, even when they follow his lectures with a cult-like devotion:

“If you’re curious, you should take my mysticism course. Frankly, I don’t think you guys are emotionally prepared to hear the answer.”

“What?” the person shouted. “Try us!”

Langdon made a show of considering it and then shook his head, toying with them. “Sorry, I can’t do that. Some of you are only freshmen. I’m afraid it might blow your minds.”

“Tell us!” everyone shouted.

Oh, how he despises these awful, dimwitted creatures. How glad he is to be rid of them! Now he is in this fine, fine building full of fine things. He runs to the hall where he has to speak. Run, loafer man, run! And then he gets there . . . and . . .

Wait. Something is wrong!

Chapter seven

If you have ever wanted an entire book of people going into buildings, look no further, because this is it. In chapter seven, Katheleen Solomon goes into one of the Smithsonian storage buildings. Is it as cool as going into the Capitol Visitors’ Center? You BET it is.

Chapter eight

The one thing HSRL has failed to notice as he has been remembering and running is that there is absolutely no one around. So when he winds up on a stage facing absolutely no one—just a dark, empty room—you start to think that maybe Stupid Harvard is where he belongs.

Or so suggests the person who calls him on the phone at that moment and cackles that he has gotten HSRL to do his evil bidding! He has summonded HSRL, tricking him into calling 202-329-5746. *crack of lightening*

Chapter nine

Chapter nine starts off . . . well, exactly where chapter eight left off. HSRL is still standing on the empty stage, holding the phone. I guess it is expected that a page and a half of that kind of excitement is all we can reasonably be expected to handle.

Anyway, this lunatic on the phone is rambling about how he has brought Robert Langdon here to do his bidding, and if he wants to save Peter Solomon’s soul, he had better comply! At first, HSRL thinks this is yet another symbology groupie, but then, there is a scream!

Chapter ten

Chapter ten gives us a wonderful word that I plan on using in conversation as much as possible: handequin. It’s a mannequin . . . of a hand! How have I never heard this word before? And why is my first thought that instead of Harlequin romances, we should have Handequin romances, which would be torrid love stories that revolve around or otherwise involve fake human hands!

Oh, and the reason this is mentioned is because there is an actual, severed human hand on the floor. It has been mounted on a stand and decorated in tattoos and it belongs to Peter Solomon.


Chapter eleven

In chapter eleven, Katherine Solomon tries to call her brother and he doesn’t pick up. Presumably, she doesn’t know that his awesome (sorry HSRL) severed hand is causing all kinds of excitement at the Capitol Building.

Also, we learn that three years ago, as a gift, Peter Solomon gave her a football field-sized, sterile, Hydrogen fuel cell-powered pod in the Smithsonian. It’s called Pod 5.

You just know that was the year she decided to just keep it simple at Christmas and just get him a tie and some books, and then he turned around gave her this thing that you can keep a fleet of planes in. I bet on one hand she was really appriciatative, and on the other, that she really just wanted to punch him in the jeans.

Chapter twelve

We meet Captiol police chief Trent Anderson, who is only slightly more functional than RL’s much-hated students back at Stupid Harvard. He manages to actually find and question the man who is responsible for the severed hand and is tricked by the “they went thataway” ploy. Meanwhile, the man escapes out the back door, takes off his wig and laughs. Can you blame him? Can you?

And we see it’s our old friend Mal’akh! Good for you, Mal’akh! You know who he reminds me of? Emperor Ming. Does that mean that HSRL is Flash Gordon, and instead of saving us by zooming in on a flying treadmill, he will come on his magic loafers? Maybe!

Chapter thirteen

HSRL has figured out that the severed hand represents The Hand of the Mysteries, which is a super-secret invitation to something super-secret. Also, you’re just supposed to DRAW it, not actually give someone a severed hand. He tries to tell someone that it is Peter Solomon’s hand, but resident incompetent Trent Anderson and his band of morons are making everyone’s life difficult, so you know we aren’t going to get anywhere for a while.

Here is a video I think will give you the basic idea of what Trent Anderson is like. For some reason, it’s in German, but I feel this actually adds to the experience. I just watched it three times.

Chapter fourteen

Mal’akh drives off in his limo, thinking about his own superiority and how he will soon rule everyone! I think I was right about this Ming thing.

Chapter fifteen

Page 55. This is not good. I should be further than this. We press on. Quick summary: Katherine is in her Pod. We find out more about her kooky, “you are the spoon” science. So concerned is DB that we get this that he even includes research quotes, book titles, and websites in her thought bubble.

We see a flashback of her talking to her brother Peter, which only serves to confirm my theories about her feelings toward him. She comes home from Yale, where she studies physics, and he makes her stand in the library and list everything she’s read, but whatever she says, it isn’t good enough. Everything she thinks is new has been done before. Entanglement theory? Well, just read the Tao Te Ching! Superstring theory? Well, that was covered in the 13th Century in Don’t Mess with the Zohan!*

Oh you think you know things, he schools her, but you know nothing! Nothing!

Ho, ho, say I. Where are you now, Mr. Peter Solomon? You’re a hand on a stand!

Chapter sixteen

Speaking of hands, Captiol police chief Trent Anderson clearly couldn’t find his ass with both of his own. But that doesn’t matter, because CIA chief Inoue Sato is on the phone . . . and wants to speak to HSRL! The CIA knows he is in the building! THEY KNOW EVERYTHING!

The phone is passed over, and Sato proceeds to grill RL relentlessly until RL has to pretend that they have a bad connection because he is so flustered. But it’s no good, because during the conversation, Sato has actually SNUCK UP BEHIND HIM!

Chapter seventeen

And guess what? Sato is a woman! Bet you weren’t expecting THAT! Not just a woman, but a tiny, wizended, mustachoed woman. Aside from the mustache, she appears to be a dead ringer for Gollum.

CIA Chief Inoue Sato

Chapter eighteen

Back in The Pod, we meet Trish Dunne, Katherine’s mad genius assistant. We find out that both Trish and Kathleen share the same debilitating condition—namely, they must explain everything they are thinking, out loud, to people who clearly know these things already.** They both have a terrible attack of this condition, with Kathleen explaining the entire nature of her work, and Trish explaining in excruciating detail the process by which she will create a search program called a delegator. It is a sad and lonely world in which they live.

Chapter nineteen

It is impossible for me to express just how much Sato hates HSRL. She oozes disgust. She cuts him off at every opportunity. She doesn’t even want to hear his lecture on Ancient Mysteries. She is small and full of rage.

Chapter twenty

Is again the same scene, with Sato hating RL even more because he will just not shut up about his Ancient Mysteries. He tries to lure her in by telling her that the Capitol is based on the Temple of Vesta in Rome, but she just doesn’t care. He finally gets her, however, when he tells her there is a painting of George Washington being depicted as a god . . . and, he points, it is RIGHT OVER HER HEAD!***

Chapter twenty-one

Even mustache-faced Sato can’t resist the lure of HSRL’s pointy ways.

We find out that the Founding Fathers were massively crazy and did all kinds of cool stuff that no one ever tells us about. Like, for instance, paint 4,664 square foot frescos of George Washington turning into a god on the ceiling of the Capitol. HSRL explains that whoever has done this dasterly deed believes that this painting somehow leads to a magical portal.

In his one moment of usefulness, Capitol police chief Trent Anderson says that there is an actual, secret door up there that pretty much no one knows about . . . but everyone just ignores him because HSRL has revealed that there used to be a statue of a half-naked George Washington standing RIGHT HERE, pointing at the ceiling in the SAME EXACT WAY, but they took it away because it was too freaky. He is so smug about this knowledge that he actually makes her Google it on her blackberry. Here it is:

He’s winning her over. You can feel it.

Chapter twenty-two

Katherine gets a call from Peter’s doctor. You find out that Peter was seeing a psychiatrist. The doctor invites Katherine over. It’s Mal’akh! In makeup! Oh, Mal’akh, whatever are you up to!

Chapter twenty three

HSRL is sure that Peter’s handequin has been tattooed on the palm. Sure enough, it has been! RL thinks the tattoo is a bunch of runes. You find out that his expertise “only extended to the most elementary runic alphabet—Futhark—a third-century Teutonic system.” No wonder they make him teach at Stupid Harvard. Somehow, in all of this, RL knows why he was chosen and what he must do. I do not, but I would venture a guess that we are going to be following a lot of pointy hands!


* My apologies. The text is actually The Complete Zohar.

** You may think HSRL suffers the same condition, but he does not. He suffers something similar, in which he delivers entire, unasked for lectures on the fairly obvious. But, instead of being put into a pod, this has gotten him his job at Harvard and thousands of rabid fans.

*** I feel obligated to link to this video, which claims the same thing. I warn you, it is VERY PROFANE so if you are under 35, I forbid you to click this link. But as far as I can tell at this point, this video pretty much sums up where this book is going.

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Blogger Miss Midwesterly said...

Maureen...I just read this book. I am reading these blog posts only because I am loyal to you. But why are you making me live through it all again? Why? Why?

6:33 PM  
Blogger Marjorie said...

Miss M,
I think a pointing hand told Maureen to do it. And who can gainstay a pointing hand?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Merc said...

*hearts commentary*

And I think you're right about Ming, Maureen... :D

7:44 PM  
Blogger Hughes. said...

MJ, she saves us from ourselves, she reads it, so we don't have to. My gratitude is more than mere words could express.

The Turing test just gave me the word "phexiess", maybe that word will express my gratitude? Phexiess, Maureen, phexiess.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Miss Midwesterly said...

Damn those pointing painted pointers!!!

8:26 PM  
Blogger Jessie said...

I loathe DB with a passion, to the point where I wrote a paper in art history saying nothing but how much I hated him. I got an A on it, but that's beside the point. These summaries however? Awesome.

Extra Awesome with a capitol A, just to piss RL off.

Good luck getting through the rest of the book!

9:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I read the book already, but your summaries are far more enjoyable.

Thank you!

9:25 PM  
Blogger Hollishillis said...

How do you read and review this without bashing your head into a wall, Maureen? Your super powers amaze me.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Mary said...

You know, I think there may be something wrong with me, because German Sheriff Buford made me laugh my ubergeekiest laugh. It was like some surreal, yet earnest, film school project.

I do not understand DB's popularity. But if his books give us this glorious commentary, I'm okay with the whole thing.

6:51 AM  
Blogger ADO said...

Must... buy... HANDEQUIN!!!

6:59 AM  
Blogger Logan said...

Inspired by your blog, I went out and got a copy of the book...So far, your blog is a better read...Thanks for writing!

7:40 PM  
Blogger (Helen) Kiaya said...

"And why is my first thought that instead of Harlequin romances, we should have Handequin romances, which would be torrid love stories that revolve around or otherwise involve fake human hands!"
Oh. My. God.
I am so in love with this reader's guide.

11:34 PM  
Blogger mstohl said...

Maureen. I think I am going to point my awesome finger at you and explain everything I am already thinking and everything you already know.




6:55 PM  
Anonymous Bridget said...

Maureen, we must have a handquin romance contest! It would be so fabulous.

10:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maureen, I'm not worthy. I have rarely enjoyed reading an evisceration of a novel quite so much. May I link to this?

2:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you, for i feel much better i don't have to actually read this book and am very grateful for all the suffering you are doing for us.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you are my hero.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

My dad got me to watch Flash Gordon. I've been scarred ever since.

11:56 PM  

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