The War of the Encyclopaedists: A Chapter 4 review

Hi, I’ve been reading War of the Encyclopaedists. I finished it last week but I’m attempting to blog each chapter. So far it’s link to Frank Herbert’s Dune series is pretty weak but I’m enjoying it so far. Today is Chapter 4. Jeez, there’s only like 50 more chapters to go.

Mani moves in with Montauk. It’s an interesting pairing, how she starts with Corderoy, and then ends up with Montauk. Yep, nothing to read into how she’s a medium for the transfusion of feelings too uncomfortable to voice aloud.

…–many of the enlisted men in his platoon were older than he and suspicious of having such a young and untested liutenant. He shared their suspicions.

There’s almost this perpetual imposter syndrome thing going on. No matter how much they do it never compares to their precursors.

When he’d joined the Guard, he’d done so thinking that it would set him apart, that it was a cool and overlooked option, almost retro, like owning a record player or typing his essays on an actual typewriter.

I think it’s worth noting that Montauk’s motivations were for pretty hipster ironic reasons, but when it becomes a reality he has no choice but to take it on seriously. I think this forced sincerity is what kind of helps him stay away from the problems that plague Corderoy.

Speaking of imposter syndrome, Montauk tries on his uniform:

Somehow, it lacked the grandeur, the historical seriousness, that he associated with the uniforms of his forebearers.

Montauk then thinks about his many and storied manly ancestors, which I think is possible source of the complicated relationship with Corderoy. I think Montauk feels the pressure that can only come through ancestor worship.

Montauk felt real reverence for that history, but he didn’t see it in the reflection,

Feels terrible being the unworthy scion of a long line of masculine heroes.

“Well, I don’t have to,” she [Mani] said. “But I’d follow you. If I believe in the war and all.”

“You sound just like–” Montauk caught himself before he said Hal.

Mani makes Montauk think of Hal… that might not mean anything.

Much in the same way that the Encyclopaedists have no “real” artistic talent, Montauk and his platoon feel a certain lack of legitimacy compared to a “real” soldier like Olaufsson.

He [Olauffson] was thirty-two and he’d fought in the Gulft War as a marine grunt. Montauk and pretty much everyone else in the platoon regarded him as preternaturally authoritative and competent.

It’s interesting that Montauk and Corderoy mock “real” artists, but there’s a reverence for “real” soldiers. I’m not sure if it means anything but I guess it’s interesting how even when dealing with “real” things, there’s a hierarchy of respect.

There’s a conversation about Batman so I naturally zoomed in on that.

… a dark-haired, vaguely Greek-looking kid who was holding forth at length on why the original Tim Burton movie was superior to all its sequels.

This is really quite true.

Montauk had a few opinions on the design of the Batsuit (he was fond of the old Adam West version)…

I’m not sure if he favors the Adam West version of the Batman series, or the costume. It seems to imply the costume but I’m not sure.

Montauk and his troops go to a firing range and Montauk meditates on inevitability and phyiscs. It’s actually quite an interesting read actually. It’s just another example of how Montauk is the wiser of the two simply because, I think, he’s much more aware of his powerlessness.

There’s a Fitty Cent reference. Did you know he recently filed for bankruptcy? Just an interesting piece of news.

My favorite character shows up in this chapter: Young-Bai Joh, or Sodium Joh. He’s a scrawny Korean nerd. He’s pretty great, just by his name alone.

When asked how Sodium Joh does so well shooting, Joh suggests video games. It’s an interesting moment because Montauk doesn’t really respect video games but here’s a guy who exceeded him who played video games a lot. It’s not really delved into, but I think it subtly undermines Montauk’s association between video games and weakness.

There’s more training. Montauk’s thoughts drift through history and showing how he stands in the shadow of titans:

It was hard to imagine anything more horrible than the Great War, when mustard gas had been merely one of the gears of death that undid the bodies and personalities of the young men trapped in its mill,

Like, even HIS WAR is inferior to the wars of the past.

Montauk thinks about how “soft and vulnerable” his body was to modern weaponry, which reminds me of the conversation about Batman’s armor earlier. Montauk favors the Adam West costume, which is oddly the LEAST armored version of Batman. A statement of a preference for vulnerability? Maybe.

The chapter shifts to Mani who is getting high (marijuana) and drawing a picture of President Bush (note: Corderoy was dressed as President Bush in Chapter 1). She takes a call from her mother who talks about Iran, a situation that Mani is physically and intellectually far from. She reflects that her Bush looked ghoulish. The association of ghoulishness and Corderoy is an interesting one considering future chapters.


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