Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Part Forty-Eight, Chapter Four - Weddings Episode

Gris is still pretty shellshocked, which is problematic when he's supposed to be narrating this story.  He ended chapter two with his head spinning and eyes wide and staring.  He starts this chapter by waking up from a series of nightmares involving Voltarian characters like Meeley the landlady and members of the Death Battalion, who we haven't seen since Book One, or 1,854 pages ago.

But the author had a problem - he needed to update us on Heller's heartbreaking condition.  So when Gris stumbled away from getting blackmailed into marriage in Chapter Two, he just so happened to be staring at the uncovered, active viewscreen when he flopped down in his room, just when Heller happened to be looking into his missing girlfriend.  And despite Gris' mental state he was able to recall Heller's activities how many months later when he wrote the "confession" that makes up most of this book.  Even though he wasn't cogent enough to comment or react in any way to the events of Chapter Three, despite being the book's narrator. 

Unlike most of the other issues arising from the "Gris as narrator" premise, this one at least is incredibly easy to solve - simply move the chapter where Heller finds that Krak has left him a few dozen pages to a point where Gris is able to properly react to it, or at least feasibly notice it.  But no, for whatever reason the author needed it to happen concurrently with Gris getting roped into marriage.  Probably symbolism or something - the good guy loses his girl, the bad guy gets two he doesn't want.

But anyway, this chapter.  Gris gets dressed and sleepwalks through the morning all gloom and doomy - he hears the fridge door closing as gunfire giving him a "final grave salute."  A becloaked Candy and Pinchy drive him in their Datsun to Hartford, Connecticut, "Population 819,432 ½," bringing the story's "satire" down to historic new lows. They go to city hall and join a line of "frightened men and gleeful women" waiting for their marriage documents, all arranged beforehand by private detectives.

When Gris and the girls get to the front of the line, Candy and Pinch throw off their cloaks to reveal that Candy's in a wedding gown and Pinch is dressed as a bridesmaid!  Which isn't a dramatic reveal at all!  Makes you wonder why the author even bothered to conceal the outfits in the first place!

The clerk said, "DoyouCandyLicoricetakethismantobeyourawfulweddedhusband?"

"Yes," Candy said.


A sharp instrument in the hands of Pinch prodded me. "Ow!" I said.

The clerk raised a gavel and brought it down on the desk with a sharp rap. He said in his rapid slur of a voice, "BythepowersinvestedinmebytheStateofConnecticutIherebysentenceyoutomarriage. Signthebok. Paythecashier."

They do so, and Gris leaves the courthouse both legally married and feeling a vague sense of unease about that ceremony.  You see it, don't you?  Yeah, the clerk totally said "awful wedded wife!"  And then sentenced them to marriage!  Like it was a punishment!

So did Hubbard have a happy relationship with his wife?  He's presenting Earth marriage as something coercive and mechanical here, and then there's how Krak keeps going around raping minds and causing problems behind good ol' Heller's back.  Is this how the author felt about his wife's less-than-legal activities, or is this how he want us to think he felt about the crimes she committed, widely suspected to be if not directly by his orders, but at least with his consent?

Anyway, Candy and Pinch put on a show for everyone in the parking lot - except Gris, because once you're married you stop getting any from that lady - by swapping outfits in the back of the Datsun.  Then they drive to Springfield, Massachusetts ("Population 167,500"), go into the courthouse, meet an identical clerk, and go through another rapid-fire marriage.  But midway into it Gris realizes that he's signing not as Inkswitch, his identity as a Rockecenter spy, but as Sultan Bey!

Yeah, as they explain in the parking lot, Candy and Pinch overheard Gris babbling to himself "in some outlandish tongue that could be Turkish" while sleeping one night, and found his Turkish passport and birth certificate lying around.  So they nailed him with that name instead of his Fed cover identity.  Something inside of Gris snaps and he tries to introduce himself as Jettero Heller, but the girls laugh him off, teasing that next he'll be saying he's the other name he babbles in his sleep, Soltan Gris.

 "No, Sultan Bey," said Mrs. Bay nee Pinch. "Make up your mind to it. You are our lawfully wedded husband, for better or for worse, and even though you aren't much, we'll have to get used to it and so will you. Become accustomed to the fact that you are now probably the most married man on the entire eastern seaboard. The knots are irrevocably tied. Let's have some hamburgers and go home." 

It'll be two chapters before the penny drops.  Actually, that's not quite accurate, Gris will still have to have the situation explained to him.

Back to Chapters Two and Three

1 comment:

  1. This doesn't appear to be about Mary Sue (whose bio you link to) so much as about his first two marriages, which overlapped (he didn't bother divorcing before remarrying). In a famous interview, after L. Ron says he is happily married to his third wife, he is asked "What about your second wife?" -- "I never had a second wife."