So of course he instantly forgets about it and goes back to his schoolwork. As Bang-Bang veers through the streets of New York, Heller reaches the end of a textbook on Marketing, where a paragraph suggests that the student do a project to prove his mastery of the subject. He asks the nearest consumer, Bang-Bang, what he would want to consume the most of, and gets "girls" as an answer. You'd think a name like Bang-Bang might refer to a lunatic's love of explosives, but no, he actually earned it in his early teens thanks to his libido.
A fifth into book three and we finally learned why Bang-Bang is Bang-Bang.
Bang-Bang and Heller arrive at their offices at the Empire State Building to meet Izzy, who is upset that they just can't seem to break half a million on the ruble exchange in Italy.
"Well, we're paying the rent," said Heller.
"Oh, we're not just here to pay rent," said Izzy. "If corporations are to take over governments, we ought to be thinking in acceptable sums like trillions."
Um, maybe I missed something? Somewhere along the line we went from "protecting Heller's funds from the Big Bad But Ineffectual Villains" to "accumulate more money than God" to "take over the planet." This is book three, though, and I don't think I've skipped a chapter by accident.
The real reason for their visit is art. The offices, bustling with harried-looking student workers, are nearly finished, but Izzy wants their opinion on some more decorating. He's setting up a company called Wonderful Oil in the African country of Maysabongo, which is both fictional and vaguely insulting. "Long live Dictator Ahmed Allah!" Yeah, I'm pretty sure incorporating the name of God into your surname is a bit heretical.
Anyway, the problem is that company's deputy delegate insists on a portrait of Harlotta - who'd have guessed she'd reappear in the story? - in the office, which is fine, except that the painters Izzy found are a bunch of anti-establishment nonconformists who refuse to do things like ride a tricycle over a line of paint tubes and call the results art.
"They won't prostitute their art by working for advertising companies, so they are starving and have no place to go."
"Prostitute their art," said Heller. "Hmm. Well, what's this art style that's so bad?'
"It's called 'neorealism.' When they paint a sailboat, it looks like a sailboat. It's pretty revolutionary! And very daring, very much into the teeth of all modern trends. Their people look like people!"
Most people, when faced with a global conspiracy headed by a cabal of deluded physicians, might concentrate all their energy on combating it instead of getting distracted by, say, art criticism. Most people aren't L. Ron Hubbard.
Incidentally, all Wikipedia has to say about "neorealism" is that it was founded as far back as World War One by some painters, but nowadays it seems to be a cinematic style. And also a model of international relations. And a school of philosophy. Not to insinuate that Hubbard doesn't know what he's ranting about, of course...
Heller decides that the paintings are quite good, thinks for a while, and then reaches his decision. He's going to jam eight passengers and their associated equipment into Bang-Bang's cab so he can take these renegade artists a-marketing.
"Oh, the book I got you," said Izzy. "What are we going to market?"
"The survey said 'girls.'"
"But that's illegal!" said Izzy.
"You have to do the assignment honestly," said Heller. "And that's what the survey said. So, wouldn't it be illegal to try to get an illegal pass on a subject?"
"That's very true," said Izzy. "You have no choice! If the survey said girls, it will have to be girls."
And with that anti-logic agreed upon, they load up in the clown car and careen through the city while Looney Tunes music blares. All we need is for the screen to Iris Out on the car as it drives away to the accompaniment of xylophones.
Back to Chapter One